Question: Parents are complaining about a few children with challenging behaviour. How can we encourage them to be inclusive of other families’ children?
Stay empathetic and respectful
Nothing is trickier than addressing a family’s concerns about another child’s behaviour in your program. It can be easy to get defensive or feel unsure about how to advocate for each child in a way that maintains their privacy, dignity and rights.
When addressing a family’s concerns, acknowledge their complaint with sincere empathy and understanding. Their concern is for the health and safety of their child. Challenging behaviour can be very confronting to families who may not have knowledge of behaviour as a communication method or understand the typical brain and child development. Without this information, families can make judgements and have unrealistic expectations of children’s capabilities. (For example, expecting a toddler to share.)
Explaining to families that your service has a complaints policy – and following these procedures – may support them to feel their concerns are being addressed and taken seriously. Ensure you maintain the dignity and rights of each child by keeping specific information private and confidential. Let families know that you’re not able to discuss the individual needs of their child with other families, just as you’re not able to discuss the needs and behaviours of the child they’re complaining about.
Speak broadly about how individual learning plans are developed for all children and use this conversation as an opportunity to share the teaching and learning strategies that you are using across the whole program. For example, how you are teaching all children to take turns, co-regulate their emotions and build empathy. You can highlight that these are complex skills that some adults don’t even have yet!
Share how your team is responding to the needs of children to guide their behaviour. For example, perhaps you always have an extra staff member involved in children’s group games to support children to regulate their emotions and navigate social disputes.
Finally, don’t forget to get in touch with your Preschool Field Officer or Inclusion Professional for specific examples of how you can have these courageous conversations with families, as well as resources that can guide your thinking when addressing specific behaviours.
Consultant, Community Child Care Association
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