A Code of Conduct for Parents (CCP) is a hot topic amongst educators in childcare centres. The CCP sets out the manners, behaviour and conduct expected of parents in their dealings with staff, students, volunteers, other parents and children at the centre.
The catalyst for CCPs has been the increasing number of educators who feel the need to be shielded from aggressive and verbally abusive parents. Examples of items some centres have included in their CCP follows.
- Communicate positively with educators (i.e. always speak in respectful tones and use positive language)
- Display respect for all people while at the centre and not use raised voices or threatening language which might intimidate or humiliate staff, children or other visitors
- Communicate positively with all children (i.e. do not discipline any child other than your own)
- Follow the grievance procedure when expressing concerns or complaints to educators
- Report any observed hazard in the building or playground that may cause injury
- Respect the centre’s property, and other people’s property, privacy and confidentiality
- Come to the centre unaffected by drugs or alcohol
- Work collaboratively with educators to resolve any behavioural issues their child may have
- Read the parent noticeboard, newsletters and flyers, and discuss relevant issues with your children when appropriate
- Follow the centre’s absence and cancellation procedures
- Be a positive role model to children at all times when at the centre
- Understand that the curriculum is play based
- Accept cultural differences, differing needs and differing personalities
- Pay accounts promptly.
In addition, some centres feel it necessary to accompany their CCP with strong statements such as: “A breach of this Code may have serious consequences including your child/ren losing their place at the centre and/ or a mandatory report to authorities”; or, “Aggressive and abusive behaviour towards staff or anyone else in the centre is unacceptable and will not be tolerated”.
Is it effective?
Personally, I question whether a CCP, even when accompanied by strong directives such as those above, will result in all parties communicating to one another with respect and understanding at all times.
The answer lies with more than a CCP alone.
As I see it, we are more likely to achieve the desired outcome if educators possess the understanding, knowledge and practices required to confidently, and competently, manage difficult conversations with difficult parents.
In addition, educators need to be able to manage these conversations while they are also:
- supervising children
- greeting parents on arrival/departure and exchanging pertinent information
- ensuring children are only collected by an approved person
- returning medications, and so on.
In all likelihood, these conversations will also occur when other parents, other adults and children are nearby.
An alternative approach
Rather than introducing a CCP, centres may like to consider a proactive approach to help their educators manage these conversations.
Some elements of this approach would be:
- Develop clear, concise policies and detailed procedures on the topics identified as contentious issues within the centre. Some issues we have all had experience with are:
- a parent demanding the centre deny access to the other parent without a court order or to act outside of a court order
- a parent disciplining a child other than their own
- a parent seemingly intoxicated or otherwise unfit to collect their child
- a parent who is told their child has been bitten by another
- an unwell child being brought to the centre
- parents arriving late to collect their child
- late or non-payment of fees.
When policies and procedures reflect best practice and comply with legislation and recognised guidelines, educators can be confident in their approach.
- Develop factsheets on the contentious topics, and store them where educators can readily access them when a parent raises any topic. The factsheets need to be empathic yet factual and consistent with the centre’s policies and procedures. Educators can refer to the pertinent factsheet during their discussion with a parent, and give the parent a copy to keep. Using a factsheet has a number of advantages because it:
- depersonalises the discussion by directing the focus onto the written word
- provides the educator with words and a structure to the response at a time when it can be difficult to think on their feet
- educates the parent about the centre’s approach and the rationale, including regulatory requirements, for that approach.
- Restructure Complaint Forms so that parents write their concern(s) first then provide their name, address and contact details at the bottom. (We all know it can be irritating to be asked for these personal details before you have had your say.)
Most of us have witnessed how a skilful recipient manages an aggrieved person who is behaving badly. No CCP, no matter how carefully and positively crafted, can achieve the same result – either in the short or the long term.
Implement a CCPP if it suits your circumstances. However, also proactively support your staff in managing difficult conversations with difficult parents no matter the circumstances.
Dr Brenda Abbey has more than 30 years’ experience in the early childhood sector and owns and operates Childcare by Design. Drop Brenda a line to find out more firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Brenda Abbey owns and operates Childcare by Design. As Principal Consultant, Brenda provides technical expertise in early education and care to: federal and state governments; city, regional and local councils; childcare peak bodies; and, national and international corporations. She also writes for a variety of sector publications, develops EYLF and NQS related resources, presents at conferences and workshops, and mentors service leaders and educators. Brenda has expertise and a special interest in collaborating with architects and clients to develop exemplar early education and care services with creative yet functional designs.