As with any profession, there are things the Early Childhood Educators at my centre wish they could say to parents but can’t for a variety of reasons. Here are the top five from my discussions with them:
1) Bites, scratches, scrapes, bumps and bruises are going to happen.
Children get hurt when their diligent and ever-watchful parent is with them. I’m not saying that facetiously, it’s the truth. It’s also true that it happens in a group care environment under the watchful eyes of the teachers and it upsets them too. No one likes it when a child experiences a painful event. Your child’s teacher feels awful when it happens, and even more awful when a parent hears about it and is upset or angry.
I’ve found that parents have negative reactions for a of couple reasons. First, the parent feels badly because they weren’t there to protect their child and prevent the injury. All parents wants to keep their children safe and free from pain. When a child is hurt outside of a parent’s care it’s natural to feel like it wouldn’t have happened if the they had been there. Unfortunately, that’s a false perception because children do get hurt when their parents are with them.
Second, injuries at the hands of another child (bites/scratches) feel both aggressive and personal. That’s because as adults, we would only do those things to another person for those reasons. But children aren’t adults and the reasons why they bite and scratch have nothing to do with how they feel about another child and everything to do with their lack of communication skills, their inability to deal with feelings like frustration or anger or, in some cases, developmental issues that have yet to be diagnosed. Eliminating the adult emotion from the behaviour is essential. Treat it more like a scraped knee, that’s how a child feels about it. It caused some pain but they don’t feel any emotional or physical threat from the cause.
2) Your child wont’ be treated differently if you talk to us about problems or concerns.
Parents often won’t discuss problems with their child’s teacher because they’re worried that it might affect the quality of care. I get it, these are people who spend a LOT of time with your little one. If you’re in a centre that you trust, I can guarantee that the teachers care very much about your child and want to make sure you’re happy. My staff want parents to feel comfortable enough to speak with them about anything. Not doing so out of fear of repercussions directed at a child is unfortunate because it means that a parent doesn’t trust the caregiver to be a mature and responsible adult.
Since I’m laying it on the line here, I’ve also had teachers come to me after a parent speaks to them in an aggressive or rude way. This is not only unacceptable but unnecessary. I’m a fierce Mama and I understand how emotions can cloud your judgement when it comes to your child. Unfortunately, like any relationship, treating someone or communicating in a way that’s disrespectful causes the trust within a relationship to suffer. You want to build a strong relationship with your child’s caregivers, how you communicate issues gives you an opportunity to do just that.
3) Label your child’s belongings. Please. Every single one of them.
I find it hard to keep track of my own kids’ belongings, and I’m the one who bought them! Imagine how hard it is when you have a large group of children with a plethora of different things from home. Labeling personal belongings helps teachers make sure your child is using the items you send with them. It also reduces the chance that your belongings will go home with someone else. It’s a simple thing but it makes a big difference.
4) Keep your child at home if they have been ill in the last 24h.
I have a confession. Before I opened my centre, I was one of those parents who tried to sneak their kids in when they weren’t 100%. Now, my husband laughs at me because I’m borderline ridiculous about keeping them home if there’s a whisper that they’re sick.
When parents bring in a child who is either not feeling well or was sick the day before, it puts teachers in very tough spot. Either the teacher has to enforce the Ill Child policy at the centre, which requires them to refuse entry to your child [ahem, *awkward*], or they allow the child in knowing that their day is going to be consumed with taking care of someone who just needs their Mommy or Daddy. More importantly, when you bring a child in who is sick it can spread to everyone else (including the teachers), which isn’t fair to anyone.
5) ECEs are educated professionals, not babysitters.
For some reason, many parents feel that Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are glorified babysitters. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A babysitter watches children and ensures their basic needs (safety, nutrition, sleep & hygiene) are met. ECEs go to school to study child development, educational practices and how to effectively manage a classroom environment. In addition to attending to a child’s needs, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into creating a high quality program in a childcare centre. Your child’s teachers care about developing educational activities and an environment where children flourish. It’s not an easy job and I have the utmost respect for those who do it.
We all know the expression ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Your childcare provider is part of your village and when you see it as an extension of your family everyone there becomes your greatest ally on this fantastic journey.