How to Be a Daycare Provider’s Favorite Parent

Here's how to talk to the person who takes care of your kid about as much as you do without sounding like an asshole.

The transition to daycare represents more than a predictable milestone. It represents the moment at which a parent begins to trust educators with the intellectual and social life of their child. Naturally, there’s an anxiety that goes with that. So naturally, a lot of parents have concerns about their child entering a new space — and have questions that can occasionally come off as rude, prying, assumptive and dismissive to the hard work that daycare providers do on a daily basis.

“One of the big things that we do focus on is communication,” says Elsa Leal, a family engagement specialist at Child360, an early childhood education and daycare provider service that helps form healthier communication between providers and parents. “Being able to chat with your provider is very important. Especially since you’re leaving your child there, the most special person in your life.”

Elsa has seen the struggles parents have when it comes to communicating with their providers before, and vice versa. And she has a lot of advice.

Leal explained to Fatherly what parents need to keep in mind when approaching daycare providers, why you should never make assumptions, and that providers always have your kid’s best interests at heart.

Remember that providers want parents to communicate.

Daycare providers work very hard to help your kid thrive in their classroom. And for the most part, they’d love to be able to share that with you. “Providers want parents to take the time to be there for them. A lot of times, it’s good for parents to go into the classroom. Parents don’t realize how much work the provider takes to create routines. Parents think providers do magic; but providers sometimes want parents to see what they’re working on, how they’re talking to their students, and the way that they bring up questions to the kids.”

Remember that providers advocate for children. All the children.

Providers are your child’s first advocate. But they’re also taking care of so many other kids. So you have to make sure that you speak up and don’t just wait for your daycare provider to approach you.

“It’s up to us as parents to bring up any concerns that we have,” says Elsa. “Especially because early childhood education is one of the best places where you can figure out if your kid has developmental delays or needs extra support in certain areas. Many parents may not have that village to help with things they are concerned with. Their provider can help with that.”

Remember that providers have busy schedules.

“Providers have a lot going on. They need to tend to the needs of children, of other families,” says Elsa. “Figure out what’s a good time.” Sometimes, she argues, drop-offs and pick-ups are not the best time to talk, even though they may be the most convenient for you. Providers are often assisting other kids getting picked up, and are in conversation with multiple parents, and may not have the bandwidth to have a focused conversation with you about your concerns.

Elsa’s advice? “Make an appointment. Figure out what works for them.”

Remember that providers are professionals and should be treated that way in meetings.

Being specific will help your conversation be productive in a meaningful way. “Parents should say: ‘I would like to talk to you about X,’ instead of just saying, ‘I want to talk to you.’” Why is that? “Because the provider will be more prepared if you tell them ahead of time what you want to talk about,” says Elsa. Think about it: if you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, or another child’s behavior, the provider can prepare for the meeting by providing specific instances of behavior issues. They’ll be able to bring up their records. They won’t be caught off guard.

Remember that providers are often more informed than parents.

Don’t show up with a question that sounds like you’ve already answered it for yourself, like, “Tell me about why you are being mean to my son in the classroom.” Elsa argues that it’s better to phrase concerns in this way: “My son has told me about X. Can we talk more about that?” It helps your provider feel as though you haven’t come to the meeting with conclusions — and that you’re actually looking for insight, not accusations.

Remember that assumptions make you look like an asshole.

Yes, you’re likely very naturally concerned about what’s happening in your child’s classroom. But Elsa says that if you have concerns, remember all of the things above, and that ultimately your provider only wants what is best for your kid. “One of our colleagues said: ‘if you’re going to make an assumption, make a good assumption.’” It helps keep communication lines open, and it helps any conversation be far less confrontational.