Thriving Childcare

How to tell parents about a bad day

tell parents about a bad day

How do you tell a childcare parent about a bad day? It can at least feel a little tricky to have to tell parents that their child didn’t have the best day. But read why it’s often the best thing you can do. For the parent, the provider, and the child.

Telling parents about a bad day

Getting Better

Whenever a child leaves my care, either graduating or the family moves, I ask the parents to complete a withdrawal form. At the bottom of the form are three questions where I ask what they liked about our program, what they didn’t like, and what we could do to make our program better. I started this practice early on when I started the childcare.

I remember one year in particular when I asked a parent to fill out the form. She was reluctant and asked if the information going to help me or help my business.

I assured her absolutely that I was very sincere in asking what could be done better. She said there was only one thing.  Every day on the daily notes it was said that her daughter had a great day. She said although she understood why that was said, it wasn’t really unrealistic.

It would be unrealistic for a parent to think that every day was perfect.

She said knowing her child and how she was at home, there were some days that weren’t so great. She said it would be unrealistic for a parent to think that every day was perfect.

I took her observation to heart. She was absolutely right. After all, children are little people. And just like us big people, nobody has great days every day.

In fact, this is actually a point that I now express to parents all the time.

Communicating with parents

As providers, it is common to feel a bit uncomfortable communicating less than positive information about the children we care for.  We want to assure the parents that we care for their children in the best way. So telling them “bad” things makes us feel bad in turn.  They are our clients after all.  

But we have an important responsibility to be the early childcare professionals here.

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Empowering the parent

Ever since that parent’s observation,  I’ve made it a point to be truthful when it comes to conveying information about a child on their daily notes. Even if it’s telling a parent about a bad day.

I believe in empowering the parent.

I ask my staff to express good and difficult days on the children’s daily notes. I believe in empowering the parent and reinforcing their role in parenting their child. Equipping them with accurate information about their child’s demeanor is very important.

Bring up any developmental stages that might be leading to the behavior

After a long day away from their child, imagine a parent returning to pick up their child.  The last thing they want to hear is a bad report.  

While it may be hard for them to hear, most parents do want to know if everything is OK and when things are not OK with their child. Sometimes that comes in the form of a bad day.  

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A Bad Day in Daycare

Softening the blow

And yes, it can be tricky and a bit uncomfortable to give parents less than positive news.  This is why whenever we can we note the information on the child’s daily note.

Often we try to soften the blow by talking with the parent at pick-up time as well. This gives us a chance to ask if there are any issues going on in the child’s life. Things that would cause them to be upset or to be acting out.

Young children go through periods where they try to test boundaries.  

Are there any recent changes at home or in the family?  I can also then bring up any developmental stages that might be leading to the behavior.

Young children go through periods where they try to test boundaries.  This is their way of seeing what power they have.  After all, they are still trying to figure out this right and wrong stuff.

The provider’s supportive role

This is also a good opportunity to establish yourself as a resource and a supportive role for the parent as well as giving credibility to your program.  

For many parents, this stage is new to them too.  They are not quite sure what to do.   It is also helpful if you can offer tips and strategies to help the child and reassure a parent.

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Ending on a positive note

We always try to end with something good.

It is also a good practice to try and end on a positive note. Simply by stating something like “everybody has a bad day now and again” or “we’ll have a better day tomorrow”, might put to rest a parent’s concerns about a possible behavioral problem.

This is our way of trying to end with something good.  Try to find something positive in the child’s day and give them praise for that as well.  Most parents will be more receptive to the not-so-good news if you are just as willing to give them the good news too.

How do you tell parents if their child had a bad day?  How is it usually received? Please tell me in a comment below.

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Adrienne Bradley Thriving Childcare

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