Helping Parents Parent
The Marcuses’ toddler is constantly biting his baby brother. The Marcuses don’t feel comfortable asking the child’s teacher for advice; they wish to be perceived as capable parents.
Daughter Patty hits her mother to gain attention at arrival time. Staff members notice that this creates an unpleasant stress for both parent and child, but are reluctant to offer advice because it might appear they are treading on the parent’s turf.
Dilemmas like the ones descricribed at left are common in early childhood programs and illustrate the need for parent education. The Marcuses and Patty’s mother – as well as the parents who send their child to your program – can benefit from sincere advice offered in a positive, professional, and non-judgmental manner. As caregivers, you have the perfect
opportunity to do this.
It is imperative to remember that parents are the child’s first, most important, and primary caregivers. As a result, educators should treat all parents with great sensitivity and make every attempt to develop a partnership built on trust and mutual respect. Be careful not to come across as the definitive authority with all of the answers. Sometimes problems seem to stand in the way of positive two-way communication.
Parents may feel guilty about leaving their child in someone else’s care all day. Because they don’t want to be labeled as shirking their parental responsibilities, they are reluctant to share parenting problems with staff members. If you give feedback that already guilt-ridden parents perceive as negative, the parents may respond with hostility.
Also, set a positive tone. Parents should always feel welcome and comfortable at their child’s school. Your body language – your smile, eye contact, and friendly wave – conveys welcome. A positive tone is set when you greet the parents with special news items – “Michelle ate spinach today and pumped the swing by herself!”
Parents also appreciate hearing how much progress their child has made after they have followed through with the staff member’s suggestions. How you share and receive information is as important as what you say; communication needs to be two-way. When the parent raises a concern, you should be attentive and use reflective listening, restating the main idea of the conversation to clarify.
There are a number of ways to make it easy for parents to pose questions and feel comfortable asking for advice about parenting issues. Even if you must rearrange your schedule, you should be available to parents at arrival and dismissal to share comments in a relaxed manner. Space should also be available for private discussions without interruptions.Arguments or accusations should be avoided. If a parent is distressed, stay calm and nonjudgmental. Suggest to discuss the problem at another time or to talk it over with the director.