Why We Don’t Accept All Students | Top 3 Difficult Parents & Students to deal with

Written by
Timothy Gan

Welcome to an inside look at the tuition service industry, where we navigate the complex world of teaching and learning. I’ve been a part of this field for over a decade, wearing many hats – from offering one-on-one tutoring, and working in various centres, to establishing my learning centre. This journey has given me a front-row seat to the diverse interactions with parents and students.

In this article, I aim to share some insights, particularly about Tim Gan Math’s policy on student and parent admissions. It’s a truth universally acknowledged in service industries that not all customers are easy to work with. This is especially true in the education sector, where the stakes feel personal and high. Our approach is guided by what’s known as the Pareto Principle. In simple terms, this means we strive to avoid spending the majority of our energy – say, 80% – on the small portion – about 20% – of customers who pose the most challenges.

Why We Don't Accept All Students | Top 3 Difficult Parents & Students to deal with

Why is this important? Well, in our experience, this small but demanding group often includes those who may not respect the boundaries and efforts of our administrative team. Understanding that being rude or aggressive towards our staff doesn’t solve any issues is crucial. Instead, it creates an environment that’s not conducive to learning or teaching.

In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the challenges we face and our rationale for being selective about whom we work with. Our goal at Tim Gan Math is to create a productive, respectful, and positive learning environment for all – and sometimes, that means making tough decisions for the greater good. Here are the three primary types of parents and students we typically steer clear of:

1. The Entitled Parent/Student

A particularly challenging group is what we call the “Entitled Parent/Student.” These are folks who seem to think the world revolves around their needs and schedules.

One common issue we face is parents asking us to change our class schedules to fit their child’s timetable. Imagine trying to rearrange a puzzle every time someone wants a piece to fit differently – it’s tough and often unfair to others. Then, some students don’t understand how valuable a tutor’s time is. They might cancel lessons last minute or not show up at all, not realizing that this time could have helped another student.

A particularly tricky situation involves students who want access to our online courses for free. They sign up, but then cancel their in-person lessons to avoid paying. It’s like wanting to eat a cake without buying it.

Why We Don't Accept All Students | Top 3 Difficult Parents & Students to deal with

Dealing with these entitled attitudes can be draining for our team. It takes away energy that we could use to help other students who are respectful and eager to learn. So, our approach has been to try to work with them a few times, but if the behaviour continues, we respectfully stop interacting with them. We’ve found that focusing on students and parents who value our time and resources helps us create a better learning environment for everyone.

2. The Bargainer or Cheapskate

We sometimes come across a particular group we call “the Bargainer or Cheapskate.” These are parents or students who try to negotiate the cost of tuition, which can be a big red flag for us.

Firstly, some parents ask if we can lower our tuition fees. It’s important to understand that our prices are clearly stated on our website. We’re not a marketplace where haggling is part of the process. While we do offer financial support to families in need, this doesn’t mean that our services are free. We believe in fairness and equality for all our students.

Why We Don't Accept All Students | Top 3 Difficult Parents & Students to deal with

Another issue we face is delayed payments. Some parents take months to settle their tuition fees. We try to be understanding and patient, but when this becomes a repeated problem, we have to make the tough decision to stop the student’s lessons. It’s about respecting the time and effort our tutors put into their teaching.

Lastly, there’s the request for free trial lessons though we only offer a paid trial lesson. We generally don’t offer free trial lessons, except for friends of our current students. Our experience shows that free trials often don’t lead to continued lessons. Many just take advantage of the free offer without any intention of signing up. Our teachers invest a lot of time and effort in preparing for lessons, and we want to respect and value their hard work.

In summary, dealing with bargainers or cheapskates can be challenging. We strive to maintain a fair and respectful environment for our students, admins and teachers, and sometimes this means having to say no to such requests.

3. The Know-It-All Parent

In our tuition centre, we sometimes encounter a challenging type of parent known as “the Know-It-All.” These are parents who believe they have all the answers and often question our methods and understanding of the current MOE syllabus.

One common behaviour of these parents is conducting regular “spot-checks” on our teachers or administrative staff. They closely monitor our work and frequently offer unsolicited advice about our curriculum. Now, don’t get me wrong – we appreciate constructive feedback. It helps us grow and improve. But there’s a fine line between helpful suggestions and a condescending attitude.

Some of these parents come with the mindset that they know better than us, often speaking to us in a tone that can feel belittling. While we respect their opinions, it’s essential to remember that we are professionals in this field. Trust is a crucial component of our relationship with parents. If there isn’t a basic level of trust, if a parent can’t entrust their child’s education to us, then it becomes difficult to work together effectively.

Education should be a collaboration between tutors and parents, working together for the student’s benefit. But when a parent acts like a know-it-all, it can disrupt this partnership. Parents need to have confidence in our expertise and allow us to do our job effectively. Without this mutual respect and trust, the relationship isn’t beneficial for anyone, especially the student.


To wrap up, navigating the world of tuition services is not just about teaching math or science; it’s also about building positive, respectful relationships with students and their parents. Our experience at Tim Gan Math has taught us that while most of our interactions are incredibly rewarding, we occasionally encounter challenging situations with certain types of parents and students.

From the Bargainers to the Know-It-Alls, we’ve learned that setting boundaries and maintaining our standards is crucial for a healthy learning environment. We believe in fairness, respect, and trust in all our interactions. Our priority is always to provide the best education and support to our students, and this sometimes means being selective about whom we work with.

Remember, education is a partnership. It requires cooperation, mutual respect, and trust from both tutors and parents. By working together positively, we can create a space where students feel motivated, valued, and ready to learn. At Tim Gan Math, we’re committed to fostering such an environment, one where every student has the opportunity to shine and grow.

Demanding Parents
Published: 1st February 2024
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Timothy Gan

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