Can’t We All Just Get Along?
If little birdies in their nests agree, little children, why can’t we?
A good question, and one that might also be asked of parents and their child care providers.
You would think, since both have the stated goal of doing what is best for the child, that there should be no reason for discord or disagreement. But, let’s be honest, we don’t always get along, and we don’t always agree!
Actually parents and teachers do not have exactly the same goal. As parents, your primary concern is for your child. You, quite naturally, put your child’s welfare, wishes, and needs first – above those of the group or anyone in the group. As a child care provider, TTLC must have an equal commitment to every child and must be more concerned about the group than about any one individual within the group. Routines and expectations are established to suit the majority. Most times children will be able to work at their own speed and make their own choices but there will also be times when they must conform to group expectations. To be happy in group care, parents must be convinced that fitting into a group is a worthwhile goal and they must accept that there will be times when the program will not exactly meet their own, or their child’s, individual needs.
Most parents who leave a center do so after 4 – 6 weeks. Coincidence? Not really! This is the length of time that it usually takes for teachers and children to bond, form an attachment, and begin showing affection. Parents, feeling a little jealous and resentful of this attachment reassert their status by being critical and making demands. Teachers don’t like having their expertise questioned and both sides try to prove (by criticizing the other) that they provide the best care.
A recent survey by “Young Children” gave additional insight into parent-center conflicts. Sixty-two percent of early educators felt that parents did not appreciate them. A strong correlation was found between this feeling and the stresses that both parents and teachers faced at work. Parents who worked long hours, lacked job autonomy, had very demanding jobs, and those who had a poor relationship with their own job supervisor, were most likely to have negative attitudes towards their child’s educator. Job stresses of teachers which negatively affected their relationship with parents included unpredictable time and schedule demands (extended work hours when children were picked up late, required evening classes and preparation time), ambiguity of job expectations, work relationships, and physical demands (lifting children, keeping the environment clean, and still providing all the nurturing and learning that children need), lack of status (comments like “anyone can watch kids” or “I can’t afford to pay the child care bill because the TV broke”) and low salaries (early childhood teachers rank in the top 10% in educational requirements and in the bottom 10 % of salaries paid).
Another factor which contributes to difficult parent – center relationships is the fact that parents and teachers meet only during the most stressful times of the day. In the morning when children arrive, parents are rushing to get to work on time, teachers are trying to organize the day’s activities, and children are demanding attention and assistance from both parents and teachers as they make the transition between home and school. In the evenings as the children depart, parents, teachers, and children have all worked hard all day and everybody is tired and hungry. Both parents and teachers know that they have an additional set of home responsibilities to fulfil before they can think about rest and relaxation.
Considering all these factors, maybe it is not that there are disagreements that is amazing but that we get along as well as we do. A little insight and understanding of each other’s viewpoint and problems might help us to resolve our conflicts