Have you ever had a parent bring his child into your early childhood program inappropriately dressed? The parent then sighs a deep sigh. “Can you please see that she gets these clothes on? She just wouldn’t get dressed this morning.” Or, how about the child who brings in his favorite toy and the rules are “no toys except on Sharing Day.” Another deep sigh. “You can take this away, if you want. I just couldn’t get him to leave it in the car.”
And, this isn’t the first time, by any means. What were your immediate thoughts? Did they include things like:
- Why can’t these parents stand their ground?
- Why should I have to step in and do this?
- Can’t this parent act like a parent?
- Why is she making me the bad guy in all of this?
Chances are, all of these thoughts run through our heads and it is aggravating. I remember feeling this way myself, until one day, as I sat taking off a child's flimsy Halloween costume and putting on his pants and sweater so he could play outside (it was January), I replayed his mother's words in my head: "Nathan wanted to wear this today and he just wouldn't get on his clothes or even his coat. Can you make sure he does?"
It suddenly occurred to me that here was a mother who was looking to me for help...who trusted my experience and way with young children to be able to do what she was unable to do. I could now see that this was actually a compliment, if I looked at it this way. I realized that if I wanted to do the most good, I would do what she asked in her presence, so she could see how it was done... be a role model, just as I was every day without thinking for her child.
Parenting isn't easy. What had been easy was my criticism of parents who were having a tough time. Being blunt with them or seething on the inside while I begrudgingly performed the task at hand was not doing either of us any good. I reminded myself that I was a professional and as such, I would embrace the whole child, and that included his parents.