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How Should Nurseries Handle Pushy Parents?

  • How Should Nurseries Handle Pushy Parents?

It’s not only children who get stroppy. Sue Cowley offers some advice on managing those mums and dads whose behaviour leaves much to be desired…

A key aspect of our work with children is to form positive relationships with their parents or carers. Where we achieve this, we can ease the child’s transition into the setting, and we can help parents to support their child’s learning and behaviour at home.

However, just as with our children, there are many different kinds of parents. Some parents are supportive of the work that we do with their children, but others struggle to understand why we use particular approaches, or why we have certain procedures in place.

The scenario

In recent weeks, you’ve noticed an increasing amount of tension between parents and carers. At drop-off time in the morning you regularly hear sharp words being exchanged, and recently you’ve heard some swearing as well. One of the parents has come to you and insisted that you keep her child away from another child, because the two families have fallen out. The arguments between parents seem to be rubbing off on the children, and there is a feeling of tension within the setting.

You are also finding that parents have become increasingly vocal with their demands. Yesterday, a parent came to see you, raising his voice and demanding to know why his child could not yet write his name. Another parent recently shouted at you when her child got mud on a new white top. While you love every minute of working with the children, you are becoming exasperated with the attitude and behaviour of some of their parents.

The issue

The vast majority of parents are keen for early years settings to do ‘the best’ for their children, and are happy to let them do this. These parents trust the judgement of practitioners, and allow us to make decisions based on our own professional knowledge and understanding.

However, some parents are far from the best role models, and their behaviour can impact negatively on the learning and behaviour of their children. At times, you may need to try some of the behaviour strategies that you would use for the children on their parents…

Dealing with the behaviour

While early years settings are keen to work with and support parents, this does not mean that we should condone inappropriate behaviour. This is particularly important, because the children will pick up on the behaviours that adults present.

1 Have a very clear sense of your vision as a setting and communicate this to parents.

2 Use home visits for new starters, so that staff have a feel for the challenges that a child’s home background might present.

3 Where you encounter inappropriate behaviour, challenge this in the same way as you would with the children.

4 Insist politely that parents do not swear when there are children around, and ask that they take any arguments away from the vicinity of the setting.

5 If parents are potentially aggressive, ensure that there is more than one staff member present when you deal with them.

6 Where parents have questions about the approaches you use, answer these but do not feel you must adapt your practice as a result. Explain why you do what you do, but do not give in to parental demands.

Finding solutions

Find ways to open the channels of communication with parents, so that they understand how best they can support you in helping the children.

Use as many different forms of communication as you can
At our setting, we use newsletters, text messages, emails, noticeboards and a blog on our website, as well as talking to parents at drop-off and pick-up times.

Set clear boundaries for parents, just as you do for children
Let parents know that the children may get paint or mud on them during activities, and be clear about the kind of clothing that it is appropriate for children to wear.

Consider hosting a parent workshop where you explain more about the approaches that you take in your setting
For instance, you might do a workshop on early mark making, and the importance of building dexterity and eye-to-hand coordination. This will help parents understand why insisting that a child writes his or her name early is not helpful. You might also usefully consider running a workshop on the power of positive role models!

Sue Cowley is an author and teacher trainer. Her latest book is The Seven S’s of Developing Young Writers; for more information, visit www.suecowley.co.uk or follow @Sue_Cowley

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