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Another View on Parent Involvement
September 6, 2002

"We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts." —Madeleine L'Engle


In the August 30 issue of ExchangeEveryDay, Therese Wiley presented ideas on enhancing parent connections between parents and family child care providers. Louise Stoney of Stoney Associates in New York offered this feedback....

"I'm pleased that you wrote about parental involvement in family child care but disturbed by the following statement:

From a parents perspective, there appears to be a fine line between professional practices to support each child's development and friendship. Parents seem to mistake one for the other. Providers walk a tightrope trying to remain professional and caring without crossing the line into becoming friends with the parents.

"It assumes that if parents and providers become friends that the parent will automatically step over the line and ask favors. It implies that the only way providers can avoid this is to remain somewhat distant and professional. And it seems to suggest that family child care providers shouldn't be friends with parents or visa versa. I disagree. Some of my child's providers have become good friends to us over the years. I deeply value those friendships and I certainly did not use the friendship as an excuse to ask for special favors. What those friendships did was to deepen our partnership -- and I believe that good child care is indeed a partnership, a form of shared parenting. I learned from the provider and she learned from me. As we learned about each other--what to expect, what not to expect--we slowly began to create, in an unspoken way, a sort of of "caregiving synergy". As we became closer friends, the provider fell more in love with my child and I cared more about her as a person and was LESS likely to take advantage of her time.

"Here is the key issue, I think: providers -- especially family child care providers -- need to be clear about personal boundaries while still allowing themselve to get close to parents. This is a life skills issue. Do we want our personal friends to take advantage of us? Absolutely not. So we have to learn to tell them "no, I can't do that but I still care about you" when they ask something that we feel is unreasonable. It's very similar to being "firm but kind" with children. Assertiveness delivered with love. But suggesting that family child care providers can only do this by being "professional" is sad. True relationships aren't professional; they are messy sometimes. I, for one, chose family child care because I wanted to have a real, deep and lasting relationship with the person who took care of my child. I found that, and it has enriched my life -- and my daughter's life -- tremendously."

Now you can purchase individual back issues of Child Care Information Exchange online. Go to the "Exchange Bookstore" at www.ChildCareExchange.com.


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