Why Parent Engagement is more than a buzz word

Parent engagement is a hot topic in early childhood education and for good reason. The definition of parenting is different now than it was even a few years ago and that means it is an ever-evolving issue for educators. Parent with child

One of our newest books, Parent Engagement in Early Learning, tackles the topic head on and provides educators some great strategies for working with families of all kinds.

So, why is it so important to work with families?

Sometimes we see the need to work well with parents as just one more demand on teachers. Aren’t children the most important focus of our work? Why should we dilute our efforts and focus on parents as well?

Because it’s the best thing for children. Working with families is important because, simply put, it’s the best thing for the children. Children gain the most from their early education experience when a partnership exists between teachers and families. When we, as teachers, have a positive impact on the whole family and affect how they interact with their children, we make a contribution that will last a lifetime.

Because we have a lot to offer parents. As early childhood education (ECE) professionals, we have special insight into the needs and interests of young children. When we work with parents, we can help them differentiate between issues that are related to general development and issues that are specific to their children. We can help them keep their expectations age appropriate and offer families solutions to struggles they may be having with their children.

Because parents have a lot to offer us. We need to work with families because parents know their children well— and they can help us find the strategies to best teach their children. They know their children’s preferences and abilities and are able to read their children’s feelings. Our jobs will be easier in partnership with parents.

Excerpt from Parent Engagement in Early Learning, 2nd Edition, Redleaf Press, 2016

Now that you see how important it is to work with families, are you ready? This short quiz can give you a good idea of where you are starting from.

Attitudes and beliefs play a strong role in our ability to create partnerships.

1. Most parents want what is best for their children.
• True     • Somewhat true        • Not true

2. If parents don’t agree with me, one of us does not have to be wrong.
• True       • Somewhat true        • Not true

3. Children benefit from communication and collaboration between their parents and teachers.
• True       • Somewhat true       • Not true

4. My job is more enjoyable because of my interactions with parents.
• True        • Somewhat true       • Not true

5. Parents can offer me insight about their children that will help me do a better job.
• True         • Somewhat true       • Not true

6. I can think beyond my own preferences and convenience to benefit children and  parents.
• True         • Somewhat true       • Not true

7. Parents are entitled to the final say in their children’s care and education.
• True         • Somewhat true       • Not true

8. I am willing to change routines and practices if doing so works better for children and parents.
• True          • Somewhat true      • Not true

9. I grow as a professional through interaction with parents.
• True           • Somewhat true     • Not true

How did you do? Your reactions to these questions can reveal some of your feelings that may help or hinder your relationships with parents.

If you answered “True” to most questions, you understand the value of parent- teacher partnerships and are ready to get better at them.

If you answered “Somewhat true” to most questions, you demonstrate interest in creating partnerships with parents but often keep your conflicting attitudes in mind. As you find yourself reacting negatively to parents’ actions, push yourself to think from their perspectives.

If you answered “Not true” to most questions, you may have attitudes and beliefs that will interfere with building partnerships. Viewing parents as adversaries, problems, or a waste of your time will hold you back from improving your interactions with parents. As you read the following chapters, listen to the voices of parents and see if you can shift your thinking.

Excerpt from Parent Engagement in Early Learning, 2nd Edition, Redleaf Press, 2016

Check out the new edition of Parent Engagement in Early Learning to find out how to get ready, how to work well with families, and how to get the most out of these partnerships so children thrive.

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