Reflecting on the parents of preschoolers

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on January 6, 2011

in On becoming a Professional, Parent Communication, Professional Development

This is Wy, my nephew, and his mommy. They were over at my house on New Year’s Day and while they read a book together, I stepped back and observed (with camera in hand).

The book they were reading was one that Wy’s mommy had bought for him. Each page is illustrated with wonderful textured photos that Wy loves to feel with his hands as his mommy reads aloud to him.

And as they turn the pages of the book – Wy’s mommy talks about the pictures and Wy smiles as he listens to his mommy’s voice.

As I watched Wy sit and read with his mommy, I was reminded of how important families are to young children.

Oh, they have their ups and downs as a family like we all do – but Wy needs his mommy and his daddy more than I can express.

And after they finished reading their book, it was time for Wy and his mommy to head on home.

So Wy, still in his pajamas from spending the night with me, slipped on his fun new hat and his cool cowboy boots and gave me a hug goodbye so he could go home with his mommy.

So what will they do when they get home? Oh probably take a bath, eat some lunch, run errands, play with some toys, take a nap, watch some television, and start all over again through the evening. Nothing much, nothing profound – they will do just what families do – be a family and take care of each other the best they can – just like we all do.

Reflections

One time, years ago, I had a parent of one of my preschoolers come to me and express her concern that I thought she was not a good mommy. I was so surprised that she felt this way. I did not know that somehow I was sending her a signal of disapproval. But I assured her that I slept well at night because I knew in the bottom of my heart that my students all go home to parents who love them and care for them – including her.

Another time, years ago, I had another parent come to me with great worry that every time she came to pick up her daughter, her daughter would throw a fit in the car almost the whole ride home – but once they were home, she was fine again. Mom felt like she was doing something wrong or wasn’t meeting a need. I reminded mom that adults and children all feel some level of stress when they are apart from their families all day. So when her daughter is in the car after a long day at school where she has to follow rules, share, stay on a schedule, and be with 15 or more other children all day, she is bound to need some stress relief.

For her daughter, it seemed like the best place to release that stress was in the comfort and security of mom’s car.

I came across a blog last year where a preschool teacher ranted and raved in just about every post how awful her infant room parents were. As I read her extremely poor perspective of the parents whose babies she cared for, I was disheartened. The blog has since been closed down.

The moral of this story…

I am a great preschool teacher (at least I like to think so) and I adore the children I work with. All day long, my students give me hugs and tell me they love me. All day long my students are given every advantage I can offer.

You know, it would be easy for me to get full of myself as a teacher and to to feel like somehow my students need me more than they need their parents. It would be easy to believe that somehow I am better than their parents. But I only have these children for a brief moment of their lives. That moment is special to me and I hope special to them but their parents do all the real work. It is parents who pay for the doctor bills, stay up late at night, work hard to put food on the table, buy cute clothes and school supplies, go to the park on the weekends, negotiate arguments between siblings, struggle with how to keep their children happy – And spend lots of money to put them in my care each day while they work or do whatever it is they need to do.

Yes, I am a great preschool teacher with some very special skills for helping my students have a successful classroom experience – but I am not their parent. I know that – I remember that in a healthy way – and I hope that if you are caring for or teaching the children of others, you will always remember that too.


This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Promoting excellence in early childhood education at home and in the preschool classroom!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Lisa Claxton January 6, 2011 at 7:29 am

Amen! :D

2 Alison (Itsy Bitsy Learners) January 6, 2011 at 8:23 am

A wonderful reflective post.

3 Monica January 6, 2011 at 6:59 pm

What a thoughtful post. I remember, years ago, sitting in an IEP meeting for a 9th grade student when I was 22 and a new teacher. All of us were focused and down to business, but one of the teachers took the time to talk to the student’s mother and reassure her that things were going to be okay for the student because she had a mother who really cared about her. I remember watching the mother’s face change and the whole tone of the meeting soften and become more positive. I think the mother must have gone home feeling empowered. That teacher probably had a huge impact on the student – not direct, but indirect, by impacting the student’s mother.

Now, as a mother of a preschooler, I see things even more from the parent perspective. Preschool teachers should know that parents of preschoolers need encouragement and support. (Of course, teachers do too!) But parents of preschoolers are relatively new parents who are still learning to parent. It’s a vulnerable time. I feel like I’m messing up more times than I’d like to admit. A teacher may have taught 3 year olds for 10 or 20 or more years, but the parent may have been a parent for only 3 years. The kindness that is shown to these young parents goes a long way. You can have a big, positive impact on your students by encouraging and empowering their parents.

Thanks for this (and so many of your other) posts, Deborah!

4 Deborah J. Stewart January 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Thank you Monica – your words and your reflections are so meaningful to me as well. Thank you for taking the time to leave this incredibly thoughtful comment. It is so good to hear from both a parent’s and teacher’s perspective. You are such a blessing to me – thank you.

5 CaSandra January 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Deborah, thank you so much for this reflective post.
I REALLY value parents and would never be able to do my job without all the work that they do. I hear teachers say “parents are their child’s first teacher”, as if it is some script they have been told to recite. But their actions and interactions with families say the opposite. I try to be ever-conscious of this because I want my action to show families how much I value them, that they do amazing things everyday, and that what they do with their children is the foundation of their children’s lives. I’m just one brick in the building. Very grateful to be that one brick though.

6 Deborah J. Stewart January 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Hi CaSandra – you share wonderful perspective on this topic – thank you so much for taking the time to leave your thoughts. I agree – we are just one brick in the foundation!

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