Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Communication in Child Care


Communication between child care providers and parent clients is vitally important, and often lacking. The relationship between parents and providers needs to be a clear PARTNERSHIP. All good relationships are based in good communication.


You can't fix a problem you don't understand.

You can't be fully compassionate or patient when you don't understand the motivation.

I have two sets of clients that came to me complaining that the main reason they were leaving their previous provider was due to lack of communication. Both said that each day all the discussion given was a simple, "had a great day!" Then at home when the child wouldn't eat or sleep like usual, was more fussy or defiant than usual, the parents had no clue what could have caused it.

While parents may not appreciate a detailed listing of all their child's transgressions throughout the day, especially when they just got through with work and are not looking forward to the evening drill, it is important that everyone understands and focuses on the child and his/her well-being.

Open communication needs to be created by the provider. Parents do not want to anger a provider who has their child's well-being in their hands for most of each day. 

Many parents and providers simply do not have a personality that allows them to be communication instigators. But as providers, it is a requirement of our business that we learn and practice good communication skills.

Communication levels and methods need to be not only open, but negotiated. I just had a newborn start and I talked with the parents about what I needed and what the parents needed regarding information and communication. I let them know I could give them as little or as much as they needed to feel comfortably informed. Since they are former clients, and our partnership and trust is well established, they need much less from me than a brand new set of clients probably would need.

They decided to send a text when they feed before coming so I know when he'll need another feeding, and they change the infant before coming here as a given. At the end of the day I give them a quick verbal rundown to let them know if he was fussy any, had any tummy issues, how he slept, how many dirty diapers and if wet was good. 

They preferred a verbal rather than written or texted daily review. Their previous provider texted both of them throughout the day what was going on, and it was bothersome to them at work, but they didn't know how to tell her and didn't feel comfortable doing so.

A friend complained recently to me that her center teacher at pick-up time always said her child had "a great day!" But when talking to her child, it was anything but. After hearing that her child had a great day, and then finding a knot on her child's head due to being pushed, my friend went in to talk to the director. 

The pick-up time teacher was only with the children the last couple of hours, and didn't communicate or relay any information from the lead teacher. My friend never saw the lead teacher at drop-off or pick-up, so had absolutely no idea what was actually going on throughout the day. The director offered no apologies or solutions. My friend was thankful her child was old enough to talk, and was talking to me because she is looking for other care options.



Providers need to relay factual detailed incident information, not a general feeling or overreaching label. It should NEVER label a child, only the behavior. "He was a pretty bad boy today," does not tell a parent much and attacks the child's identity. "He hit a child with a dinosaur when I asked him to put it away before lunch," says what happened and gives an indication of why without making assumptions. 

It leaves open that it could have been retaliatory, he could have been hungry or tired, etc. It still wasn't appropriate behavior, but gives more information which leads to more understanding of the situational aspect of the behavior. It also identifies a short period of inappropriate behavior rather than overreaching to include the whole day.

Providers also need to not take parents' concerns as a personal attack, criticism, or complaint. It is a concern about an issue that needs to be addressed. If a discussion devolves into this type of conversation, then it needs to be re-focused on the issue and solutions, not blame or attack. Someone has to be the bigger person and keep a clear and level head.

It is your business. You can run it as you wish and those parameters need to be clear in your Policies and Procedures and your clients need to be thoroughly briefed on those before even an interview is conducted. Policy and procedure issues should have very little contention if presented properly prior to contract. 

Issues that will arise that need to be addressed should revolve around the child, the school and home environments, home schedule changes, expectations of the child and developmental issues.

Last evening, Monday, I spent over half an hour discussing behavior issues with one of my parents. The child had had a couple of rough days at both school and home and we were trying to determine the source. Behavior in young children always has a source. The first behavior we discussed was his obsessive ownership over specific toys. 

While this child has obsessive tendencies, it was unusual for him to be so invested in ownership and, at 3 1/2, throwing screaming tantrums when any other child came near him or played with the items after he abandoned interest. 

I had been thinking about it and had come to the conclusion it had to be something that happened over the weekend to spark this behavior. Mom had been thinking about it and thought it may have been that they had children over to visit over the weekend. 

As we talked, it came about that we agreed that:
  • The parents had violated the "new Corvette" rule: they had forced him to share a brand new toy that he had worked for and was extremely special to him.
  • The visiting children had been allowed to play in his room, invading his space and making him feel violated.
  • He was forced to share his toys and space without limit or discussion.
We discussed that next time children visited that:
  • Communal toys should be ones he held no possession over, ones kept just for that purpose of playdates and/or ones that he had abandoned and had little interest in or knowledge of owning.
  • Playdates should be in a public area like a living room rather than private like his bedroom. The child can invite the other children into his personal space, but it should be at his invitation with no encouragement or coercion by parents.
  • Discussion should be made about any special toys the child might want to have put away for the visit or ones he would truly like to share.
  • My solution for here at school, was simply to remove the toys he was obsessing about. One of which, was his "new Corvette" dinosaur that he had to now leave at home.
We also discussed that though the parents' personalities were very open and social, that their child's personality was NOT, to their extent, and that they needed to recognize and respect their child's personal limits and boundaries. 

I discuss things like this with parent clients ALL. THE. TIME. Once we each understand the issue, and come up with some workable solution(s), then the child benefits, as well as everyone in the child's community. The consistency in expectations, and the core value of the child's mental and physical health being forefront between provider and parents, makes the child's life much richer and happier.

Another one of the moms, who I don't see regularly, was in for pick-up last week and brought up a couple of concerns about her son. We just stood around bouncing ideas and theories off of one another for about half an hour, and afterward, we felt we had a good understanding of what was going on and what could be done at school and home to make things better.

Issues that I have discussed with parents recently: the possibility of a preschooler having an auditory processing disorder, a toddler not sleeping through the night and night terrors, a baby wetting out even though the diaper size was upped a size, defiant rule breaking at home and school, a child self-identifying as bad when he doesn't get that information from school or home, potty training prep, a child's recent balance issues, consistency between school and home of vocabulary introduction and sign language for the 11-month-old. 

The children are very comfortable with ALL the parents,
and all the parents are comfortable with all the children.
Communication from me comes regularly through emailed newsletters/notifications, texts, Facebook posts, Youtube video posts, blog posts and verbal daily discussions both mornings and evenings. Clients are welcome to hang out here at any time during school hours, but I will put them to work as teacher's helpers. Clients are also welcome to meet with me after hours to discuss skill development and discipline issues more thoroughly with both parents present without the child[ren]. 

In Reggio, we are all about community, and that is between the children, but also between the children and the other families' members, including extended families, and me. I am on Facebook with most of my current and former clients, many of the grandparents, and some of the aunts and uncles. We have regular dinners where everyone can get to know one another, and often the families get together on the weekends for playdates and outings. This sense of community, which is sorely lacking in young children's lives these days, builds a trust and security that helps them be happier children and better citizens. 

It all begins with good communication.

1 comment:

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