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Early Childhood Education 
Pacific Union Conference
Office of Education
Volume 18, No. 1
Winter, 2020

Managing a Challenging Situation
with Families

Compiled by Julie Yamada
We all go into early childhood education because we enjoy working with children. We know that there will be some days that we will need to deal with a child’s challenging behavior, but we have some tools on how to help them through it. What we do not get a lot of training in is how to manage a challenging situation with the parents of a child.
We do encourage family involvement in the classroom and see ourselves as partners with the parents to provide the best care for their child but there can be conflict at times. How we deal with that conflict can determine the relationship with them. It is important to develop positive relationships with families so that the best care can be provided for each child in the early childhood education program. 
Conflict is not something we readily seek but it is inevitable that we will encounter it.  Knowing how to deal with difficult family members should be a part of every center director’s skill-set. (Mosier and Nunamaker, 2019) It is important to understand that as a leader, the best way to approach conflict is to see it as an opportunity to work together to find the best possible solution for everyone involved.
Directors should work on creating a culture and environment where everyone understands that we do not have to agree on everything, but we should be able to work together to problem solve towards a positive outcome.
When encountering a parent who is upset or angry, it may be helpful to remember that there may things happening in their lives that have made them feel overwhelmed and they are having a rough day or week. You may be able to avoid the conflict with the parent if you approach it from their point of view and not rush to judgment or become defensive. This will help them see that you respect them and are willing to talk it through with them.
What could a conflict with an angry parent look like with some helpful conflict resolution tools to use?

  1. Make sure to meet with the parent in person. Avoid addressing a complaint or concern via email, text, or phone. Invite them to meet with you at the center because eye contact and a smile can do a lot to break the tension. Recognize that there may be a difference of opinion or a misunderstanding that needs to be addressed.
  2. Before the meeting, be sure to gather information that may help you understand what the concern could be and be willing to find out why there is a concern with this family. When meeting with the parents, make them feel welcome and allow them to bring their child if they would like too.  
  3. During the meeting, be sure to listen carefully to the parent’s concern. Do not interrupt them, listen until they are finished sharing their complaint. When they are finished, then you can ask questions and get more clarity about their concern.  Acknowledge their feelings and share what you think you hear them say how they feel.  
  4. If the parent becomes too angry then be sure to let them know that you are feeling uncomfortable and what will happen if they are not able to respectfully talk with you. Bulling should not be tolerated by anyone. Have a current copy of the ECE Parent Handbook for your program in case a review of the policy on how to handle complaints is needed.
  5. Once everyone has shared their concerns and taken a deep breath then you can begin to talk about solutions that could work for all involved.

It can take time to learn the skills on how to approach a difficult situation with families but if you have tried your best, do not take it personally if a solution is not found right away. It is also important to acknowledge that your program may not be equipped to meet the needs of their child and in this case help the families find the resources that are appropriate for their situation. Keep the dialog going and continue to work on building a positive relationship with them.
LeeKeenan, D. and Ponte I. C., (2018). From Survive to Thrive A Director’s Guide for Leading an Early Childhood Program (137-142). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Mosier, W. and Nunamaker, R. G. C., (2019, November/December). Handling Difficult Moments with Demanding Families. Exchange the Early Childhood Leaders’ Magazine, 41, 61-64.  

Make sure to meet with the parent in person. Avoid addressing a complaint or concern via email, text, or phone. Invite them to meet with you at the center because eye contact and a smile can do a lot to break the tension.
2020 California Laws and Bills to Know
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the law described below, given the potential significance to your organization:
  • Reminder re California’s 2020 minimum wage increase, which is now $13/hr. for employers with 26 or more employees and $12/hr. for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
If you have questions, contact your local conference HR department or ECE liaison. 

Be aware of:
AB 123 (Preschool for All) 
AB 125 (Subsidy State Preschool) 
For more information on these bills and others go to:

Early Edge California 

The question is, will these bills include a mixed delivery system? In other words, will private and faith based preschools that already exist be included. 
PUC ECE Policies to Review
5640. Parental Involvement
Each ECE program shall adopt policies and practices that create an effective partnership between the ECE program and parents. Policies shall include, but not be limited to, regular and emergency communication procedures, visitation protocols including custody, parent meetings and conferences, monitoring child development, conflict resolution, children’s health guidelines and procedures, etc. A program should include information for parents in a parent handbook that is distributed upon admission and updated annually. A current copy shall be sent to the local conference office of education.

PUC ECE Model Parent Handbook Template
Pacific Union College 
Summer ECE Classes and Workshops
June 29-August 10  Child, Family and Community (3 units - Online)
June 29-July 2  Nature Education Retreat: Connecting
                         Young Children to Nature  (2 units - on PUC campus)

Contact Information:
Dr. Lucas

Pacific Union College Summer Classes 

is not wielding authority - it is empowering  

-Becky Brodin
Find us on Facebook at: Pacific Union ECE Professionals
Find us on Instagram at: pacificunionearlychildhood
Copyright © *2020* *|Pacific Union Conference, Education Department*, All rights reserved.

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Pacific Union Conference ECEC Division · PO Box 5005 · Westlake Village, CA 91361 · USA

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