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I realize that as a parent I will need to be my child's advocate at daycare and school and pursue issues that concern me.

How can I bring up issues of concern about the behavior of the staff without creating tension between me and the staff?

NOTE: My child attends a relatively small daycare and it has been my experience that the staff seems to have no trouble guessing which parents bring up which issues, so just taking things to the director doesn't avoid the issue.

EDIT: I tried to write my question to be more general and not specific to an event but since it seems I may have been too vague, here is some more background on what motivated the question. I noticed that one of the workers at my child's daycare had a cold sore and I was concerned about the risks to my child. I contacted my pediatrician with my concern and she told me that the risk was minimal as long as the worker limited close contact (e.g., kissing, hugging, etc...) and washed their hands frequently. However when I returned the next day to pick up my child I saw this worker playing in very close contact with several children and hugging and nuzzling them. When I returned home I contacted the director of the daycare and explained the situation being sure to emphasize how much I liked this particular worker but was concerned that she may not be aware of the contagion risk associated with a cold sore. The next day the worker was not working in the infant room and since then she has been very cold to me and my wife despite our having had a very warm relationship prior to this incident.

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I'm not sure that you provide enough information for a meaningful answer. Why do you anticipate tension with the staff? Were you going to criticize the staff? Anything else wouldn't seem to create concern over tension. What am I missing? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 18 '12 at 21:13
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun I added some more about what motivated the question. Hopefully this clarifies things somewhat. –  KennyPeanuts Feb 18 '12 at 21:40
    
Thank you for the clarification! I think you addressed the issue reasonably, but also check the good answers below. But now you have a new issue, the one with a worker seeming to avoid you. Approach the person and kindly ask if you are misinterpreting her behavior. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 19 '12 at 7:34
    
There is no answer to this, really. You did nothing wrong, but it's a typical outcome that some folks will just resent you for it. –  DA01 Feb 27 '12 at 5:29
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4 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You can't .. don't bother trying. I certainly would not delay bringing up concerns in order to spare the feelings of the staff. Who cares if they like you, and if they are nasty to your child you need a new provider anyway.

My advice ...

1/ Be courteous and respectful. In fact be overly so.

2/ Focus on the future, not the past. Don't say "I was bothered by ((blah))", say "I saw ((blah)) the other day. Please make sure that ((blah)) doesn't happen when my child is here."

3/ Don't start the discussion with a question. "Is it really OK that ((blah))?" is judgmental and accusative. "I expect that ((blah)) does not happen while my child is here." is not.

4/ Don't soft-pedal or water down your concern. State your piece succinctly, then be done. Don't get sucked into a discussion, just state your expectation for the future. You aren't negotiating, and you are the paying customer and the parent.

Assuming you are not overly confrontational or unreasonable, any response that does not indicate respect for your position and willingness to figure it out is a sign that you need to take your child elsewhere.

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Your points are very precise. I nearly didn't upvote because of the last paragraph though - facing and resolving that situation can be much better than going somewhere else to start over (and risk the same there) because often there are not that many institutions available. I would balance my concerns against the alternative options. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 19 '12 at 18:51
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun The problem can only be faced and resolved if the provider is willing to listen and take action. My point is that if they are not willing to do so, that unwillingness should be properly weighted. –  tomjedrz Feb 19 '12 at 22:36
    
Excellent. Truly, DQdlM should have been able to have a reasonable discussion directly with the daycare person and expect a reasonable response. More importantly, the person should have been aware of her own health issue and taken their own steps. More MORE importantly, the director should have been aware acted. And with the whole changing thing: Yes it can be difficult, but unless there are exceptions, changing daycares should always be a palatable option. If the worker is going to sulk because of this relatively trivial issue, it may lead to changing anyway. –  monsto Feb 27 '12 at 17:41
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This of course depends on the issue you want to bring up. If the issue is with another student you should first speak to the teachers. If it's with the staff you speak with a director. At issue here not whether or not others will know who brought the issue to the table it's whether or not your child has a more comfortable environment to learn in. Of course there will be tension between kids because let's face it kids be kids.

For more details you might need to tell us exactly what the issue actually is.

EDIT: Based on the additional info you have provided there are things that have likely transpired that may have brought this change in the staffer towards you.

  1. You should have talked to the staffer yourself first. Talking to a person directly often softens the situation.
  2. You may have slightly overreacted. Yes there is a risk for a child to catch a cold sore him/herself from an infected person, which in the United States constitutes about 80% of the population by most accounts, which means that it is quite likely that you or your wife had already passed the virus to your child, so yes it's a concern but not as significant as you made it out to be. I had them as far back as I can remember myself and while it's uncomfortable people are yet to die from it. There are many articles on the subject: BabyCenter, BabyZone.
  3. When you talked to the director and indicated that you had concerns you should have asked about the "policy on staff's health and hygiene requirements when working with infants" and if asked whether or not you have seen one then you can indicate that yes I have seen one staffer in the infant room with what you think might be a cold sore. This puts the necessity of explaining the policy on the director and gives you better indication what kind of a place you are dealing with.
  4. Director has definitely overreacted. And worse yet likely dropped your child's name or your name in the conversation with the staffer. In situations like this it's not just bad management, it's psychologically traumatizing for your child on the possible perception that he/she has a health freak for a parent. Instead she should have found the staffer reminded her about the personal health and hygiene policy when working with children and have her correct the situation.

So what this leaves you with is basically a lot of problems you will need to solve. Not the least of which is that you may have to pull your child from that day care and put him or her into another, which for me would be a big problem.

Now whether or not this happened and whether or not this staffer is mad at you if you feel that you did right for your child then "Damn the torpedoes!". It's for your child's safety and health and that is exactly what you are there for.

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Apart from the concrete issue in question, it depends a lot on the personality of the staff members involved, the local culture(s) (both within the organization and in the broader city / country area) and their relationship to constructive discussion and criticism, etc.

At one extreme, there are cultures and persons for whom it is very difficult or impossible to accept constructive criticism - they take it as a direct offense to their dignity, thus reacting defensively, and potentially even retaliating when they can. Needless to say, in such a culture or with a daycare staff member having such a personality, any attempt to criticism will be paid off by your kid :-(

At the other extreme, there are those persons who always take constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn something new, grow and develop themselves. Such persons are usually a pleasure to deal with, because you really can tell them what you think, and they won't take it personally.

Most of us (cultures and persons alike) are somewhere in between these two extremes. So usually it is wise to pay attention to how you communicate your problem, and how you seek / suggest solutions or alternatives, while avoiding to damage others' self-confidence and dignity. Some rules of thumb:

  • focus on the problem, not the person - don't say "you did a mistake here and there" or "you behaved stupidly yesterday", but "your behaviour offended Tim" or "I am feeling bad about what you said yesterday"
  • focus on finding a solution or improving things, rather than finding scapegoats
  • avoid being judgmental - you probably don't know the full picture, and others may have a completely different experience about the same events. So strive to only discuss facts, not your own interpretation of them, and specifically not your judgment based on this (potentially partial and biased) interpretation
  • don't try to control others, leave their freedom of choice - e.g. instead of "you should/must do this and this to solve the problem", it is better to say "in my opinion, this and this approach may help solving the problem"
  • don't worry about "winning" any argument, or having your deeds acknowledged - it is often much better to get a working solution, even if it is publicly attributed to someone else (you will know whose merit it really was, and so will all those with an impartial eye), than to be stuck in a prolonged ego conflict
  • another aspect of the idea above: lonely heroes seldom bring lasting solutions to problems - problem solving almost always requires teamwork. So you need involvement from all effected parties. It is much better to have a small share in a working and productive team, than to be the 100% owner of a disfunctional company.
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I am a former teacher.

  1. I respected any parent who cared enough about their child to come in and talk to us - it helped when they came in respectful.
  2. Many times we found out, after discussion, that the parents concerns were born from misunderstandings. if they weren't, then we shared perspective and tried to remedy the situation.
  3. If they are professional, they will understand that you are the parent and have every right to come in and advocate for your child.
  4. I would go to the director of the facility with your concerns and let them handle it.

It is tough - these are the people who watch your child for a period during the day, and you don't want there to be tension, but if you don't go to the director you will have internal struggles that will make you uneasy during the day - this will only upset you more.

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