Three mistakes I’ve made when talking to parents

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on February 1, 2010

in Uncategorized

A guest post by Mark Lim: Early Years Childcare

When I switched careers from finance to childcare, I expected communicating with parents would be a breeze. I mean, I used to write all sorts of long boring reports and liaise with big fancy financial institutions handling tons of cash. How hard could it be talking to parents about their child’s day?

As it turned out, pretty hard!

Here are some of the mistakes I made, which you can hopefully avoid:

Talking too little

What I did: I read somewhere that relief staff shouldn’t talk to parents about their children. That’s the responsibility of full-time staff. In my first childcare setting, I was a relief staff, and so I took the approach of hanging in the background unless I was directly questioned about something.

The result: I didn’t get to share some of the many wonderful experiences of the children. Whether or not I was a full-time member of staff, I still spent a lot of time with the children, and so there were things that only I witnessed or knew about. If I didn’t open my mouth about it, the full-time staff would just read mechanically off the child’s daily sheet. On top of that, I came off as shy and lacking confidence during my appraisals. Huh!

Talking too much

What I did: At my second childcare setting, parents took a greater interest in the course I was doing, namely the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) course. I still remember how it warmed my heart the first time a parent sincerely took interest in my personal life, rather than just focusing on themselves and their children. With such an interesting new topic of discussion (ME! ME! ME!), who could help but become more engaged in prolonged conversation?

The result: Establishing rapport with parents can be a good thing, but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. The best opportunity to talk with parents is usually at the end of the day, but it’s also the most chaotic time as parents are picking up their kids. As I stood around chatting nicely about myself and the EYPS, I was effectively a non-member of staff. The chaos in the room quickly worsened, as did my colleague’s temperaments!

Parents already know EVERYTHING

What I did: Having little childcare-related experience, I assumed that everybody was an expert except for me. Therefore, it felt silly to tell the expert parents little details about their child’s day, like how many minutes she’d slept or that she’s picked the pink car or she’d coughed a total of 3 times that day. What could I tell a parent that they didn’t already know?

The result: Rushing through a child’s daily report ALWAYS led to parents slowing me down and asking for further details. Parents (first time parents anyway) are obsessively interested in their child’s day, and welcome ANY piece of additional information. If I told them their child had been staring at a blank wall, they’d ask me what colour the wall was. Besides, most parents never tire of hearing about their own children, especially when it clearly shows that a member of staff has been paying close attention to their child.

Mistakes are always obvious and easy to avoid once you know about them. Can you think of any you’ve experienced? Don’t be shy, share it out loud in the comments section!

P.S. I’d like to thank Deborah for giving me some space to rant, I very much appreciate it.

Be sure to see Mark’s latest post on his blog titled Communicating with Your baby: Baby Signs”

Thank you Mark for sharing your experiences as a new teacher in ece with us on my blog. Please come back sometime and share with us again!


This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Sharing the wonders of early learning in action!

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