The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has standards for accreditation. One standard is for Family Engagement and Support. Teachers are the staff which engage with families on a daily basis. They are the ones who need the greatest training in customer service. Many times we in the field of education do not consider ourselves in the customer service industry. However, early education is the one field where we have both clients and customers. Clients are people who depend on our knowledge and skill to help them move on to the next station of life. A customer uses services to improve or enrich their lives in some way. ECE has children as clients and parents as customers. While it is true most centers do an excellent job with our clients; we often fail miserably serving our customers. Customer service is about meeting customers needs even when sometimes they have not yet realized they have that particular need.
There are three services I believe every child care center in the nation should be providing to parents. 1) Training in child development from six weeks to eight years. 2) Training in positive guidance. And 3) a program for meaningful engagement in the center both in decision making and participation in their child(ren)'s education.
In every state early childhood professionals are required to take training hours. Having staff use the trainings they take and then offer them to parents is a great way to meet this need. In addition, there are parent education experts who work with parents on a regular basis. EC Centers can partner with these professionals to bring training to parents. One way to find professionals in your state is to visit the website for parent educators. It lists agencies by state. The website for the National Parent Educators Network is www.npen.org. If you are in the Metro Atlanta, I can support these efforts in your center. My website link is at the end of the article.
In 2011 UNICEF released a report stating the most effective parent trainings that support parent-child relationships are those which focused on positive guidance. This means building loving, respectful, and nurturing relationships with children based on their development and ability to engage in being responsible. At the time the report said only 2% of programs emphasized this concept. Early childhood practices are all about using positive guidance principles. Teachers have great opportunities to be role models for parents. Directors can share articles regarding the use of these principles. Also, this would be another opportunity for teachers to offer sessions to parents. Here is a blog post from Kars4Kids you can share with parents.
The truth of the matter is people engage in things which are meaningful to them. If early and even on higher educational systems want parents to become true members of the community it has to be worth their while. This means going beyond the fact their children attends here. Centers need to find ways where parent input is both valued and put to use in meaningful ways. Parents can become part of a parent advisory team which works directly with center staff to make programming and practical decisions.
Parents can be asked to do a center newsletter working with staff to plan pictures and articles about center happenings. Parents can also offer support by teaching children about their occupations. Centers could invite parents to come have lunch and put their child down to nap. Parents can be asked to come in long enough to read a story. Also, having family fun nights where families engage in fun activities after hours which promote parent-child interactions around fun and educational activities. One local Atlanta center has two late evening events parents can sign up for during the Christmas season.
These three areas can help centers support families as they begin the educational process. Centers can be supportive through offering education and meaningful experiences to families. It is these programs which will give families the tools they need to continue to engage in the process during their children's entire educational experience. Ir is also the tools you can use to offer excellent customer service to the families you serve!
Believe in Parenting
Want more? ptanda.org