Childcare is a truly noble profession. Whether your goal is to become a teacher or to fill one of this country’s many nursery assistant vacancies, you are part of a great army of people, nurturing and educating the next generation so that they will grow up well-adjusted, informed and confident enough to fix all the problems our generation caused.
Of course, nobody likes to admit this, but often even the most well meaning childcare professionals face an almost insurmountable obstacle in the way of their efforts to educate and enrich children’s lives. I’m talking, of course about their parents.
Of course, the ways parents can make your job are nightmare are as numerous as the parents themselves, but broadly, here are some of the more offensive you’re likely to come across.
The Loud and Sweary
If you’ve ever been a student, or just straightforwardly unemployed, then at some point you will have seen an episode of Jeremy Kyle, where people solve their intimate personal problems by going on national television and shouting bleeped out swearwords at each other until security is forced to come and drag them away. For some reason quite a few people seem to enjoy watching this while they eat their breakfast, and many of them must lightly chuckle to themselves, wondering what it would be like if there were people like that in real life.
Well if you’re working in childcare you’re going to meet those people, who will shout and scream, swear at you and threaten you without letting you get a word in edgeways.
The way to deal with these parents is to think of them as a shaken up coke bottle, take the lid off, let them explode and eventually all that froth will reduce to a damp, fizzy trickle. Once they’ve run out of steam, tell them that you understand why they’re angry and you want to help, then ask them a simple question that will make them think, such as “How was your child at breakfast this morning?”
You can’t be angry and think at the same time. If they continue to go ballistic, ask them to come back when they’re feeling calmer. If they still don’t calm down, warn them that if they don’t calm down or leave you will have to call the police. Finally, in a loud voice from the door ask a member of the office staff to call the police. In these circumstances the parent risks being done for harassment and receiving an £80 fine.
Of course, one thing that’s worse than parents who act like they’re in an episode of Jeremy Kyle are the parents who think all the other kids’ parents are out of an episode of Jeremy Kyle. The upwardly mobile ones who believe their darling ray of sunshine could never do anything wrong, and if they did it was probably the fault of one of those working class children that you carelessly allowed to get near them. If a discussion with these parents doesn’t go exactly as they want, they’re very likely to involve their sister-in-law who’s a QC, or simply use ominous but vague phrases like “We will have to take matters further”.
If, God forbid, their child is actually misbehaving so much they can’t deny it’s happening, it’s because they’re not being challenged enough for their preternaturally intelligent child brains. In the worst possible cases, they might actually use the phrase “Indigo child.”
The first thing you need to do with this species of parent is listen very carefully to everything they say. They really hate not being listened to. Once they have finished their doubtlessly extensive rant, give them something. Find something you can apologise for, even if it’s the old stand-by “I’m sorry you feel that way…” Immediately follow this up with concrete steps that you will take right after the conversation, and arrange a future meeting to review how things are going.
The goal here is to let the parents tell themselves a story about how important they are. It will go something like “I went to see the teacher myself and told them X and now they’ve changed it so Y”. Finally, however the conversation goes, always, always remember to say something flattering about how wonderful their little sunbeam is.
Having a kid is massively scary, especially where the newspapers, TV and, dear God, the entire Internet are constantly and happily reading you a lengthy list of horrifying things that could happen to them. This is understandable. So if you’re responsible for a child’s care you will most likely, at some point, get a parent who is absolutely convinced their child has some sort of rare medical problem or special needs.
This is one of the trickiest kinds of parent to deal with, because there’s a fine line between parents who worry too much or have just read too many issues of the Daily Mail, and parents who border on being Munchausen’s by proxy. These parents may also come to you with tales of how much their child hates it in school, when you can quite see them laughing and playing and getting on with their school work just like everyone else. School anxiety is a genuine condition – but it often applies more to the parent than the child.
In these situations it’s essential that you cover yourself. These parents will go to extreme lengths to prove their case, so you’ll want to bring in outside agencies to get the child properly assessed.
Meanwhile you’ll have to spend a lot of time listening to the parents, and make sure you write absolutely everything down, and have two people present at all times to that everyone is clear about what has been said and agreed. During class, gather as much evidence as you can, including plenty of photos of the child happy and smiling and doing things the thinks they can’t do.
Essentially with these cases the parent is looking for attention, so to protect the child you have to gain the mother’s trust (it is usually the mother) and give her the attention she needs, while ensuring you do what is best for the child.
About The Author
Charles Reybreck is a writer and social activist who blogs primarily about childcare and nursery assistant vacancies.