National Network for Child Care's Connections Newsletter
Nancy F. Morse, M.A.
Parkland College, Champaign, Illinois
When should we share problems and concerns about children with parents? It all depends.
Behavior that happens only once should be remembered (in case it occurs again and a pattern develops) but probably not reported.
Behavior that is normal for the child's age (e.g. grabbing the biggest tricycle, climbing on the table and jumping off pretending to be Superman) can simply be dealt with at the time. There is no real need to discuss these everyday problems with parents unless the problem is severe.
Some problems, however, have to be shared. Examples include:
– Marked changes in behavior or activity level.
– Delays you observe in a child's language, physical, or mental development.
– Behavior that endangers the child or other children.
It is hard to share problems with parents. Once you have determined that the problem needs the parents' cooperation, how do you begin?
What you've already done is important. Have you shared with the parent one good thing the child has done every day? Have you listened to the parents concerns? If the parents know you like and understand their child and respect their views, it is easier to approach a problem situation.
Choose the right time and place to discuss the problem – not in front of the child, not when either of you is rushed. A phone call in the evening may work; whether you ask the parent about calling or just call depends on how anxious the parent will become waiting to hear from you.
Don't accuse, place blame, or pass judgment. We usually don't intend to send this message. But a raised eyebrow or an accusatory voice can send the message – “What did you do to make your child this way?”
Have facts and be specific. Contrast these two statements:
“I'm worried about Sam's biting. When he was playing in the sandbox this morning he leaned over and bit Bethany's arm. It left quite a mark. And then this afternoon when the children were listening to a story, he turned around and bit Robby's hand. That bite also did not break the skin, but it left a mark.”
“Sam's turned into a terrible biter – Whenever I'm not watching him he's likely to bite anybody!”
The first simply states the facts and shows concern for the child. The second provides little information to the parent and conveys a negative view of the child.
Listen. Have the parents been aware of the problem? What are their ideas, feelings, suggestions? Remember, you cannot listen if you are talking all time.
Stress the joint problem-solving approach. For example, try to say something like “What do you think would work best with Mary?” Or, you might say “What if I tried [give a specific suggestion] here? If it happens at home, you might want to try the same thing.” These statements show respect for the parents views and encourage the parent to work with you in solving the problem. None of us like to deliver bad news. However, our responsibility to children requires that we face problems, not ignore them. Setting a positive tone, using effective communication techniques, and involving parents in the process will make the task easier.
National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service
Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce
these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only (not for profit beyond the cost of
reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Morse, N.F. (1992). When you have a problem. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 1(6), pp. 6-7. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Internet
DOCUMENT REVIEW:: Level 3 – National Peer Review
ENTRY DATE:: February 1996