How Do You Motivate Parental Involvement?

A Teacher of Three Year Olds Asks: How do I motivate parents to cooperate?

I have just recently gotten a new preschool class. I have implemented some new activities in which the parents have to be involved. How do I motivate the parents to cooperate?

I have started all about me/student of the week posters which are sent home every week. So far the first one has not had a chance to come back but I also started daily folders and very few of those came back.

I want the parents to understand that I am trying to run my classroom like a school. It is in a child care facility but that does not mean that I am not a real teacher and will run my classroom accordingly.
Do you have any ideas?

Miss Cheryl says:

First, congratulations on your new class! A new class and a new school year are always exciting times! All About Me and Student of the Week are fun and can be wonderful ways for the children (and families) and staff to get to know each other better!

I’d like to talk about your last statement first. Yes, we all in early childhood education, are “real” teachers. What we teach is different than what children are taught in elementary school. What we teach helps them to grow and develop in the areas they will need to be successful in elementary school, such as fine/gross motor, language and the all-important social & problem solving skills!

You will have parents who understand this and others who do not.

You will have parents who see preschool as childcare or “babysitting” and others who do not.

You will have parents who will look at daily folders, newsletters and calendars and you will have parents who do not.

Your comment of running your classroom accordingly tells me how frustrated you are at the lack of involvement from families. I do understand this frustration.

We all plan and consider how to start our new year throughout the summer. We become so excited, knowing how much we can help our students grow and develop.

It is therefore so very disappointing when they do not respond to our plans in the way that we anticipated.

What I’ve learned over the years is that we need to consider and learn more about what our preschool families have much going on as well.

Here are some things I’ve come to learn about families:

1. This is their child’s first year in a large group. Many parents see this as childcare, more of a “babysitting” situation while they are at work or fulfilling other obligations. They do not realize all that their children learn and the ways in which they grow and develop at this age.

2. Many parents have other children in older grades who have hours of homework, projects, events and activities. They are not expecting to have weekly projects to do for their preschool aged children.

3. Many parents will NEVER look at the calendar and newsletter we worked so hard on. In addition, we will hear from them “Oh, I didn’t know today was “Wear red day”!

4. Many times, items in the children’s backpacks or mailboxes remain there……for a very long time.

Here is what I’ve learned on how to involve parents more.

1. Take time at the beginning of the year to build team relationships with families. Take time to get to know parents personally. Just talk with them at drop off or pick up time in general conversations-not giving instructions as to what needs to get done. This helps them to see us as a partner with them through this exciting year with their child.

As the old saying goes, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care".

2. Take time to find out what their expectations of the program are. Why did they sign their child up for the program? Is this childcare for them while they work? Is this a program they’ve heard a lot about and want their children to be with other children for social skills?

3. Do not overwhelm families with paperwork in the beginning. There are many forms that need to be completed at the beginning of the year: Child development (getting to know you) forms, immunization records and more as required by childcare licensing. It can be overwhelming for families. If there ARE daily/weekly expectations of families, make this clear during the tour before they enroll their children.

4. Educate parents throughout the year about the importance of early childhood education and how it relates to their child. There are many ways to reach out to parents in short, bite-sized pieces. A certificate that goes home that says “I can sort and classify!” with a short note or a picture of their child sorting/classifying the dinosaurs in the math center. On the back, a paragraph about this math concept and how it develops a foundation for later math learning.

Most parents do not realize all that children learn, how much they develop and how this learning and development builds a foundation for success in the older grades. We have a wonderful opportunity to teach families about this throughout the year!

Remember the old saying (one of my Grandma’s favorites) that is very true for us as early childhood professionals:

“We catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.

So, yes, our classrooms are our classrooms and we have certain activities and programs we want families to be involved in.

We have goals for these parental involvement activities and know the positive outcomes that can come of their participation.

However, we cannot force them to be involved or participate. When they are not, we must find other ways to involve them that will result in the same positive outcomes that we are seeking.

What we CAN do is get to know them, build a relationship that shows we are teaming with them for their child’s growth and development and then, share our knowledge with them.

Many times, this will draw parents in to participate in the program.

Perhaps other teachers have had experience or success in ways to involve parents. Please add your suggestions below!

Comments for How Do You Motivate Parental Involvement?

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Apr 15, 2015
Best help for students
by: Ronald K. Bishop

I really wish more people wrote about it. I really appreciate the post.

Jan 05, 2015
you are amazing
by: nicolle gayla krienkie

Thank you for this lovely advice. Its a new year, can not wait to do and try this approach. Keep up the amazing job.

Oct 01, 2014
So well put!
by: Yvonne

Your response was excellent, I as the owner spend my day answering the door, speaking to parents and carers, gaining their trust and building their confidence if they are new to parenting, and the rest of the time with the children and staff supporting them. I do feel that many new moms are lacking in confidence these days, or just facing too much pressure, whatever the reason a 'teacher' who gives off vibes that she/he is disaproving or even annoyed is not going to help engage them. I have had to shelve or revise many a well devised and time consuming activity/theme plan, flexibility is key, sometimes the children are just not going to want to do it, forcing them defeats the whole objective. And, as a divorced Mum of 3, years ago now, paperwork was bottom of the day's agenda.Enjoy the children.

Sep 28, 2014
Wonderful response!
by: Sally

Great things here in this response! If I may, I would like to add that we all serve children best when we adapt our curricular plans to the true client; the children! Any activity, regardless of your obvious good intent or the potential meaning it may have to the child, can cause great disappointment and hardship when a parent may not share seeing your plan as their priority. May I suggest, as does Cheryl, to pace the parent-participation activities and homework to later in the school year, when you have established a relationship with your families well enough to know how many will struggle to fulfill your out-of-classroom expectations. Then, choose your family-dependent projects according to what will bring the children joy, pride and interest. If that means arresting some of those projects, so be it! You are surely a wonderful teacher with lots of resources for meeting the same desired outcomes You will lose families who feel the wrath of a teacher (whether stated or implied) who feels they are not supporting their child. Planning for student success also means knowing how to adapt your outcomes so everyone feels inclusive.

Sep 28, 2014
Great Advice
by: Nancy Kovacs

This is the perfect answer! Although there is not a magic solution, it all begins with relationship building and "deposits into the trust bank."

Sep 28, 2014
Excellent advice!
by: Leah Davies

You did a wonderful job answering the question!

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