you want to be more comfortable when talking to parents about discipline?
Do you feel like parents are “undoing” what you are trying
to do with their child? Do the parents feel that you are “undoing”
their work? Have you ever wished that you and parents could work as a
team to help the child learn self-control?
rules and discipline methods in childcare settings are not the same as
what parents use at home. Although you cannot expect parents to have the
same style that you have, it is good if you are aware of each other’s
Having different beliefs about discipline at home and at childcare might
make a child’s behavior problem worse. It also can create tension
between you and the parent. There are some things you can do, though.
It helps if you remember that parents are experts on their children. Involve
them in setting discipline goals for your childcare setting. This will
help you work together to decide how to handle discipline better. It will
also build a positive team spirit between you and the parents. Most parents
who use childcare want to have opportunities to be active players in their
child’s care and discipline.
are especially important when…
A family is new to your program.
• You are struggling to find ways to manage a child’s behavior.
• A family tells you that they are having difficulty with their
• A child stops responding to discipline methods that worked before.
• You notice a child is beginning to act out in new ways.
• You feel that a parent does not support the rules of your childcare
• You feel stressed, tense, or angry before talking to a parent
about a child’s behavior.
• You feel that a parent is teaching his/her child to do things
that make life difficult in the childcare setting.
• You feel that a parent does not respect you and the work you do
with his/her child.
• You feel that a parent has different goals for his/her child than
for building partnerships
It is important that you are clear
about the problem at hand and have thought about choices. This will help
you to be calm about it and less defensive while presenting the problem
to the parents. Before you approach the parents, define for yourself exactly
what is happening. For example: What are the specific problem behaviors?
How often do they occur? What do you do and how does the child respond?
What do you want to do?
When you talk with the parents, try to use
positive words. Parents do not like to hear negative things about their
child. Rephrase what you want to say to make it positive. For example,
instead of saying, “Jen is always getting into things,” you
could say, “Jen is curious and likes to explore.” Then you
could go on to say, “That is great, but it causes problems when…”
Parents also like to know when they are doing the right thing. So, do
not tell them only what is going wrong. Point out when they are handling
their children well. For example, you might observe a parent giving his
child choices instead of demanding one behavior. You could tell the parent
that you like the way he is handling the situation. You could point out
that the approach can help avoid a power struggle.
Parents often have doubts about whether they are good parents, especially
when they are not able to manage their child. They may feel that you are
much better, because you are a professional. Don’t compare yourself
with them. Admit when you have problems with your own children. Point
out ways that they are good parents, and assure them that all parents
Show that you care
Parents are under a lot of stress, just as you are. It is
important to remember that parents may have tried different methods to
discipline their child. They are looking for support in their parenting
just as you look for better methods in childcare. Say supportive words
like “This must be hard on you;” “You must be finding
it very difficult.” When you notice them handling things well, try
to encourage them. For example, you could say, “You handled that
tantrum really well,” and “You have a nice way of dealing
Treat parents as experts on their child. They know their
children better than anyone else. Ask them for assistance in solving problems
together. Be open to their suggestions. Try not to be defensive. Explain
the problem from your perspective. Ask for their ideas.
“Maria is curious and likes to explore, but when
she explores in my kitchen she opens drawers.
Then I feel nervous, because there are so many dangerous
things there. I would like to figure
out a way to let her explore without letting her in
my kitchen drawers. How would you handle this
Respect the parent’s authority over her child. For example, if the
child asks you in front of her parent whether she needs to wear her jacket
home, tell her to ask her parent’s permission.
Work with parents
Do not expect parents to solve your problems. But ask them
for suggestions sometimes. Ask what discipline methods they use at home.
Plan together with the parents. Decide what will work best for the childcare
“Sherry loves her nap, but when naptime is over
she does not wake up easily. I feel worried,
because I don’t know if she is getting enough sleep.
I would like to make sure she is getting
enough sleep, but I can’t change my whole schedule.
What kind of nap does she take at home?
How does she wake up? What time does she go to bed
at night? Do you have any suggestions
Keep parents informed
Parents like to know what is going on and to be involved
in their child’s discipline. They want to know when their child
is not adjusting well in the childcare center and when the child is having
problems. Make sure you find some time to talk with them. When they drop
off or pick up their child might be best. Share your concerns with them.
If you need more time, ask if you could meet with them at a better time.
Then you could discuss and choose strategies to care for the child better.
Before trying a new approach, tell the parents and get their permission.
Tommy is an active boy who loves to play. But sometimes
he would rather play than eat at
lunchtime. Then I feel frustrated. I tell him at least
10 times a meal to eat his lunch, and he still
does not eat. I would like to stop nagging and make eating
his responsibility. I plan to give him
20 minutes to eat and then take away his plate. He won’t
get anything else to eat until snack
time. I will watch to see if this helps him learn to eat
his lunch. Is this all right with you?
Parents want to learn
Most parents are eager to learn better ways of handling
their children. Many parents are good observers. When you get a chance,
show parents positive ways of guiding their child.
A child might be acting out during pick-up time. If
the parent is watching, you could get down to
the child’s level. You could ask if he is upset about
leaving the childcare. Let him know that he
can come back tomorrow and continue his play. Assure him
that you will save the toys for him.
Give him a choice of either walking back to the car with
his parent or being carried back to the
When a child is misbehaving, it is hard for a parent to take the perspective
of the child. Parents are stressed. So, you could speak for the child.
You see a child start to misbehave when the parent is
speaking to you. Then you see the parent
getting upset. You could point out to the parent that the
child might be trying to get her attention.
The child has not seen the parent the whole day. Let the
parent know that it is all right to pay
attention to the child first and then talk to you afterward.