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Understanding Expectations
Authors: Saraswathy Ramamoorthy with Judith A. Myers-Walls, Ph.D., CFLE

Every day you and the parents and children in your program jump among several different worlds. They leave their homes to come to your setting. The parents then go on to work. You leave your home to go to work in childcare, or maybe you change your home to a childcare setting for the day. At the end of the day everyone goes back home. The child leaves you and her friends. Parents take over responsibility for the child. In the evening the transitions go the other direction. In each world, there are different people and different rules. The different worlds can work together well, but it is important to know what to expect.

The transitions from one world to another will be much easier if you and the parents talk about what to expect from each other. For example, knowing the parents’ schedule helps you predict when they will drop off their child and pick him up from child care. It also helps you know where to contact the parents at specific times of the day if an emergency arises. Give the parents a chance to tell you what they expect from you, too. The parents need to know what will happen when you have an emergency. You should talk to parents about your rules and needs—and their rules and needs—before the child joins your childcare program.

What you can expect from parents

Parents pay you to do a job. In a way, they are your employers. In another way, they are your clients. You should expect certain things of them if they are going to be part of your program.

     • Detailed information about their child’s routines, activities, and likes and dislikes. Parents should help you  
       understand their children. It helps if you give parents a form to fill out. Ask them about habits, language,
       health, and other things that will help you care for their children.

     • Information about any changes in their child’s patterns. Ask parents about their child each day. When parents
       tell you that their child did not sleep well the night before, or is tired and hungry, this information will help
       you better understand the child’s behavior.

     • Information about their needs and routines. Parents should tell where they will be and how you can reach
them. Ask parents to tell you about any important events in their lives.

     • Information about any changes in their schedule. Ask parents to tell you as soon as they know if there
       will be any changes. Work with the parents if changes need to be made.

     • Dropping off and picking up the child on time. Tell parents why you need them to bring the child at a
       certain time. Set clear policies for picking up children late.

     • Provide supplies as needed. Ask parents to bring supplies right away when they are needed. Ask parents to tell
       you if they cannot bring the supplies for some reason. Help them find a way to help take care of their children’s

     • Early notice when the child will be leaving the childcare. Ask parents to let you know as soon as possible
       when they will be leaving the program.

     • Responsible care when the child is sick. Tell the parents about your rules related to sick children. Ask
       parents to call you as soon as they know that their child is unwell. Ask the parents what the illness is so
       that you can prevent the germs from spreading to other children.

     • Paying fees on time. Explain your rules about paying fees.

     • Respect and support. You and the parents may be very different from each other, but you all care about
       their children. Help them understand the job that you do. Treat them with respect, and they will learn to respect you.

What parents should be able to expect from you

Business arrangements:
     An open door. Let parents visit at any time. Tell them that they may come and observe in you program.
       You can tell them if you would rather they didn’t visit at naptime or some other time. If they come at a bad time,
       let them come in, though. Be a friendly place.

     • A written statement of policies. Give parents a handbook or other statement of policies. Tell them how and
       when to pay fees, what they should do when they drop off and pick up their child, what to do when their child
       is sick, the rules of your childcare, and so on. You should also explain what will happen when you are sick.

     • Detailed information about every adult who may work with the children. Tell the parents about all of the people
       who may work with their child in the childcare. Explain whether the people are trained and how you will
       oversee the other people, and help the parents learn to trust those other people.

     • An early explanation about any changes in schedule or routine. Tell parents right away if they will need to
       bring the children earlier or later. They may be able to help the children get ready for the change.

     • Information about important events such as field trips. Tell the parents where you will go, how the children
        will get there, and how they can help the children get ready for the event. Get their permission for the trip.
        Also tell parents ahead of time if you will be doing messy activities. Then they can dress their children in the
       right way.

     • Supplies and equipment. Tell parents what you will provide for the children. Tell them clearly what you expect
       them to provide.

Provider knowledge and training:
     • An understanding of child growth and development. You should know about normal patterns and differences
       in development and about unusual things to watch for. You should know how to do the right things for
       children at different levels of development.

     • Knowledge of important rules and regulations. You should know about your state and community’s rules for
       licensing and regulation. You should know whom to call if you have questions or problems.

The childcare setting:
     • A safe and healthy setting for children. You should have a clean and safe area for children to play, sleep, and eat.

     • A rich learning environment. Give children many things to do in your childcare. Children should be able to play
       safely indoors and outdoors. Provide enough toys for the number of children in your care. Give children many
       ways to learn new skills.

     • Supervision. Pay attention to the children. Know where they are and what they are doing at all times. Watch for
       children acting in unusual ways or showing signs that they are sick. Give children things to do that fit their
       ages and interests.

Support for parents:
     • Respect and support. Parenting is very difficult. You may not agree with everything that parents do, but you can
       respect their needs. Listen to them and get to know them. Help them find ways to solve their problems.

     • Feedback about their child’s day. When parents come to pick their child up, tell them about one good event of
       the day. This may be an activity that their child enjoyed, some work of art that the child created, or something
       funny that the child said or did. You don’t have to talk to them for very long. Whatever you share with them
       about their child will help them connect to the childcare setting. Remember that parents value personal feedback
       about their child.

     • Information about their child’s development. Because you spend a lot of time with their child, parents depend on
       you for information about their child’s growth and development. You should discuss and share with parents
       anything unusual or new that you notice in their child. This could be related to the child’s behavior, health or learning.

     • Advice on important issues. Some parents will ask you about issues such as toileting, eating, manners, or
       separation. You are a partner in caring for the children. Share information that you have. Look for more information
       when you do not have the complete answers.


        What to expect from your childcare provider

For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at

Please feel free to link to, print off, redistribute, or reprint
  any of these materials as long as the original credits remain intact.

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