As early childhood educators, helping relationships develop naturally and authentically between parents, teachers, and children is what we do. Some of us do this with ease. Some of us need a little guidance. And some of us have used the strategy of building the parent relationship through the child with much success.
Parents have the inside scoop on their child; they already know what makes their little one “tick.” So, let’s tap into this parent wisdom; learn what they have already learned about their child; and begin the dialogue by focusing together on their child. By doing this, a couple of wonderful things will happen: We will know much more about the child, and be able to more quickly meet his individual needs. And we will gain the trust of the parents when we include them, their experiences, their expertise, and their thoughts, in our world.
To get at this “parent wisdom,” we can ask thoughtful and intentional questions about their child. And then, we can listen closely to the answers that will undoubtedly give us more insight into this child and this family. I’m not suggesting a questionnaire to be completed by the parents. But, rather, engaging questions that can, and should, be asked over time; asked informally, naturally, without effort, and when the appropriate moment presents itself; asked during relaxed and enjoyable casual conversation.
Getting the parents’ perspective on many topics and learning from them will build a partnership based on mutual respect and trust. The give and take of positive conversation is a plus. Each interaction moves us toward our goal.
Should a problem arise, what we learned can be pieced together to help us better meet the needs of the child and family. And, down the road, if that difficult conversation is needed, the foundation for it will already have been built.
Here, then, are a few examples. They are essentially conversation starters. They are questions that will get to the heart of the child – the answers to which will uncover a little bit more of the child’s spirit, temperament, family culture, social-emotional health, physical health, learning style, and interests.
- How did you choose your child’s name?
- What especially delights your child?
- What brings on the giggles?
- In what type of a setting is your child most likely to be quiet? more outgoing?overwhelmed?
- What does your family consider good behavior – for your child’s age?
- Are there traditional family games or songs your child enjoys?
- How does your child like to start the day?
- If overwhelmed, what are ways you and your child cope?
- What are typical signs of illness? do they come on quickly? slowly?
- What are sure signs your child is hungry? tired?
- At what times is your child most likely to be talkative?
- What does your child enjoy doing when playing alone? when playing with adults? when playing with other children?
Think what we could learn from the answers. Could we better accommodate each child and family if we had the answers?
We can learn a lot from the parents in our programs. To recognize that they have much to teach us is the first step in building the partnership. And, when we have their trust, they will share with us.