Have a Question? Need Parenting Advice? Ask Michael Hawton

Holding students, parents & staff accountable for bad behaviour & breached expectations

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I’m Michael Hawton from Parentshop.

I’m sure you already know that the boss of any school has to manage difficult problems every day – not the least of which are those situations involving emotions as you’re talking with parents, staff and students. The chance of conflict is exacerbated by people’s wide-ranging backgrounds, by their expectations and sometimes even people’s sense of entitlement.

When I heard that the 2014 Principal Health & Wellbeing Survey found that principals are having a higher than average incidence of bullying, threats and violence in their jobs – compounded by the emotional investment by parents – I knew that I could help. In my own work in the Family Court, I came across lots of people who were upset with the court, with their partner, or at times – even with myself.

I’d like to show you some of the things that I learnt. In Tough Conversations™, I hope to be able to teach you how to quickly assess what is happening in high-stakes conversations, and then to make on-the-spot decisions that lead to better outcomes. I will show you how to maintain your personal power, so you don’t over react or prematurely finish a conversation if you don’t need to.

I’ll demonstrate ways in which conversations can end-up going wrong  – and how you can anticipate and manage likely issues or objections. Plus, given most people have some capacity to pull themselves together, I will also show you can help that person ‘get a grip’ and then steer the conversation towards a pre-planned and positive outcome.

Tough Conversations™ is a method-based training course that will give you a kit-bag of ideas to implement back at work. The process I will teach you can be applied to many types of problems you face with adults, or even a child who is het up.

Join me at upcoming courses near you where I’ll help you with some tried and proven skills that will help you be more equipped to manage Tough Conversations™ – and that will reduce the daily stress you might come across in your workplace.

I look forward to seeing you at the next course.

All the best,

Michael Hawton

Reducing conflict-related stress:
The urgent need for principals

The 2011–2014 Principal Health and Wellbeing Report recommended the need for practitioner learning support in effective conflict resolution, less stressfully.

Tough Conversations:
A solution based on proven techniques

Parentshop has developed Tough Conversations, a one-day professional development training course that equips school executives with essential tools to manage conflict, reduce stress and achieve positive outcomes with parents, students and colleagues. School Executives will learn:

  • New skills to manage emotional stress – both your own and other people’s.
  • Ways to negotiate solutions to problems using a scripted mediation process.
  • Strategies to progress conversations toward achieving a pre-planned outcome.
  • Practical demonstrations of how school executives can manage difficult behaviour in others. Learn what to do and say to achieve better outcomes.
  • Further reference materials.

More Tough Conversations Courses

Tough Conversations for Frontline Staff

This course is suitable for frontline staff for any industry where dealing with conflict is imperative to satisfactory outcomes.

Tough Conversations With Youth

Suitable for youth workers and those in industries where dealing with youth is part of their day to day operations.

Tough Conversations in Child Protection

Suitable for those working in the Child Protection industry, assists with effective parenting capacity conversations.

Tough Conversations with Students

Suitable for teachers, this course teaches practical skills for resolving teenagers’ behaviour problems in high schools.


Almost on a daily basis, principals and school leaders are confronted by the need to hold tough conversations. Whether with parents, students or staff we can hardly look forward to them. What we can do though is be equipped and prepared to manage these conversations and get the best possible result – without too much stress. Michael Hawton’s Tough Conversations training course provides the strategies we need.
Dennis Yarrington

President, Australian Primary Principals Association

What’s included

  • Training in how to conduct difficult conversations using a script to achieve accountability.
  • A text book and manual.
  • Lunch and refreshments.
  • A terrific opportunity to spend time with other school leaders.


 Expected learning outcomes

  • Improved knowledge of how to negotiate a solution to a problem using a scripted mediation process.
  • Greater ability to remain neutral when someone becomes frustrated or upset and to manage their emotional distress.
  • Key ideas to progress the conversation towards a pre-planned outcome.
  • Awareness of how to apply this in real-life situations; what to do and say to manage difficult behaviour.
  • Readings and literature for follow-up research.

Lesson framework

  • Why people overreact.
  • Self-control factors in adults and young people.
  • How ‘frustration tolerance’ develops in people.
  • What to tolerate: how to sort what you let go ‘through to the keeper’ and what you need to address.
  • Key principles of customer service management.
  • What people will do if you challenge them.
  • A step-by-step process to address ‘a problem’.
  • How to tame tigers – how you effectively deal with offensive behaviour.
  • A video demonstration of the concepts applied to a tough conversation between a parent and a principal.

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