Building parent-teacher relationships in preschool

I participated in two discussions on the Bam Radio Show about building or understanding the parent/teacher relationship. Each conversation had a completely different spin on the topic. You can listen to each show by clicking on the photos below…

Yup! Today's Parents Are Different: What Teachers Need to Know to Survive Rae Pica with Lenore Skenazy, Suzanne Tingley & Deborah J. Stewart

(Or click here and scroll down the wall to find the title of each radio show) 

Understanding the Teacher/Parent Communications Gap Rae Pica with Jennifer Prior, Laurie Linblad & Deborah Stewart

I will let you go and take a listen to the two shows so you can draw your own conclusions on the perspectives that are shared.

Deborah’s thoughts on building parent/teacher relationships

After I went back and listened to both of these radio shows I was reminded of some of my own experiences as both a parent and as a teacher that I thought I would share with you…

As a parent

About a week before school was to start, I took my daughter to visit her new school – she was entering the first grade. We wondered around the school and found her locker, her classrooms, and the cafeteria. We didn’t dress in school clothes for the visit, instead we wore shorts and t-shirts. As we were preparing to leave the school, a teacher saw us from down the hall and called out to get our attention – there was no one else in the building. My daughter and I looked down the hallway at a teacher standing there with not-so-friendly body language. The teacher proceeded to give us a lecture on how shorts were not allowed in school and walked away.

I was left standing there and I could feel my guard shoot straight up. I didn’t like being spoken to like a child. I didn’t like having another adult think that she had the right to tell me what we could or could not do. I didn’t like feeling like someone else believed she trumped me as a parent. I didn’t like having a perfect stranger bossing me and my daughter around. I didn’t like feeling disrespected. I didn’t like not having a chance to tell her that we were aware of the rules but just taking a quick tour. As of that moment, I didn’t like the teacher and I wasn’t so sure I liked the school either.

As a teacher

When I first started teaching, I had a child in my four year old class who constantly picked on others. On one particular afternoon, this little boy threw a toy and it hit another child in the head. Needless to say, it left a nice little bump. I wrote up an incident report, put some ice on the bump, gave out hugs, gave stern looks for misbehavior, and had a long serious talk about how we must play safely with our toys. It was handled the best way possible and we all went on with our day without any further incidents.

When dad came to pick up his son (the boy with the bump) he read the incident report and then his temper went off. I had never had a parent yell at me before so I was completely caught off guard. Actually, I don’t think I have had a parent yell at me since. The father was angry about his son being hurt, angry that I let it happen, angry that I didn’t call him, angry that this little boy was allowed to continue going to school there, and the list went on. I just stood and listened to the father as he berated me for being such a failure as a teacher – I didn’t know what to say. The next day, his wife came in and apologized for father’s behavior and it made me cry. The mom said, “When he told me what he had said, I knew it must have hurt your feelings. He was just having a bad day and took it out on you.”  I was thankful for her thoughtful words and thankful that she believed I was a good teacher who cared about her son.

The parent/teacher relationship

The parent/teacher relationship can be complex, simple, unpredictable, inspiring, stressful, rewarding, delightful and painful. Entire books are written on the subject and it is often a topic of discussion – even on radio shows. This is because parent/teacher relationships are important. Both parents and teachers have to figure out how to work together and overcome obstacles that get in the way. Not every parent will understand how to do be a partner in their child’s education and not every teacher will feel confident in the process either. So my advice is to keep trying so you will grow and learn how to build the parent/teacher relationship. Don’t let one angry father make you a bitter teacher and don’t let one bossy teacher make you a bitter parent.

Building the parent/teacher relationship

In the radio show, “Understanding the Teacher/Parent Communications,” the following tips are shared…

Teacher’s can help build the parent/teacher relationship by…

  • Offering parents opportunities to get involved in the classroom experience
  • View parents as an important part of the process in educating their child
  • Have conversations with parents rather than just give reports to parents about their child
  • Don’t think you have all the answers – parents have much to contribute about their children’s lives too that may help you understand how best to teach their child.
  • Be genuine and approachable.

Parents should…

  • Understand that children have greater student achievement when parents work as partners in their child’s education.
  • Early childhood is a critical time in a child’s education and learn to understand the ages and stages of a child’s development.
  • Know what things that you can do at home to promote academic development.
  • Get connected with others – don’t isolate yourself.
  • Be supportive and get involved in your child’s learning experiences or classroom in whatever way you can.
See these wonderful tips for “How to Involve Parents in Your Class” from Educational Creativity
By |2011-07-11T06:00:31+00:00July 11th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Patricia Giménez July 11, 2011 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Deborah, wonderful post can I share it on my website? Have a nice day

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 11, 2011 at 8:47 am - Reply

      Sure you can Patricia!

  2. Matt July 11, 2011 at 8:12 am - Reply


    Thanks for this. Parent communication and relationship building is KEY in our early childhood classrooms. One thing I started a few years ago that has been a huge hit with parents is a daily email. It’s a SHORT bulleted list ofour daily activities and only takes me about 5 minutes to compose each day. It provides a critical link between school and home for parents and allows prompting for discussions about the day. An added bonus (for me) it frees me from doing the dreaded weekly newsletter with cutesy clip art. 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 11, 2011 at 8:46 am - Reply

      Oh, you know I love the cutesy clip art Matt! A simple email is a great way to keep doors of communication open – I think I will try adding this to my plans this school year – but with the cutesy clip art too.

  3. Pam July 11, 2011 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I love your examples. I had a parent yell and cuss at me once- I felt the same way you describe- I just wasn’t quite sure how to respond! I later found out a bit more about the situation and needless to say a year and a half later when her child was ready to move on to kindergarten she was my biggest fan- and went out of her way to tell others what a wonderful teacher she thought I was! What I found out was that she had had a very difficult experience with her older child in preschool and this had a great deal to do with her perception of school in general. What a wonderful post- you’ve really shown both sides so well….and as soon as my son returns the speakers for the computer, I will eagerly listen to the radio shows 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 11, 2011 at 6:39 pm - Reply

      Haha – I hope he returns them in good condition:)

  4. April July 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    Sometimes it seems that kids get over scuffles a lot quicker than grown ups do!

    I remember I had a parent cuss me out when I was doing a summer day camp when I was in college. His kid couldn’t go on the swimming field trips because he didn’t pass a swim test. He said to me, “how is he going to learn to swim if you don’t teach him to swim?” ummm….

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm - Reply


  5. Kristin Rittiman July 13, 2011 at 3:33 am - Reply

    Love this post! I have been on both sides. This is a great reminder of good communication and empathy. Thank you!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      You are welcome Kristin:)

  6. Renae August 18, 2011 at 11:20 pm - Reply

    I totally agree with this article. I am on the parent side of this equation. My son is 3 and beginning his second year of preschool. I make myself very available at my son’s school. I am a room parent and part of several comitties and make a point to get to know all the staff not only his teacher. Last year I volunteered to substitute for my child’s class when his teacher needed some time off during the day to close on a new house and her usual sub was ill.
    When I notice behavior issues with my son (as all toddlers have) I will go in early to talk with the teacher to give her a heads up. In doing so incidents are usually prevented.
    There are many parents I see that never walk into the school, drop their kids off as early as possible and pick them up as late as possible. Thus using the school as a daycare. You can see the difference in the kids that have involved parents and the ones who don’t. The ones who don’t usually are very happy to see parents like myself and others who will sit to talk, play games and give them attention but not be afraid to put their own kid in a timeout regardless if the teacher is present or not
    Many thanks to all the teachers out there. Your job is greatly appreciated.

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