If you’re like most child care center owners and directors, you have a million fires to put out every day – and that’s a conservative estimate. Urgent calls from (and to) parents, discipline issues (both kids and teachers!), fire drills (literal and figurative)…the list goes on and on.
So why, with the precious few free minutes you have in the workday – if you’re lucky – should you spend even a second worrying about how engaged your parents are with your program? Here are 6 excellent reasons:
1. You create a bank of goodwill. At some point, you are going to let parents down – it’s inevitable in even the best programs.
A field trip gets cancelled on short notice for reasons out of your control. You blow a snow day call and wind up closing for approximately 18 fluffy flakes. Half the center gets a barfing stomach bug due to a batch of meat you couldn’t have known would be recalled mere hours after you served it for lunch.
You’re not perfect – none of us is. But here’s the thing: The more engaged your parents are with your program, the more likely they are to take a “we’re all in this together” attitude rather than blaming you. And that’s huge. You get the benefit of the doubt and then some.
2. You build trust. You are in one of the most trust-based industries there is – parents entrust you with the single most precious thing in their lives, multiple times a week, for long stretches of the day. The more engaged they are with your program, the more they’ll trust you. Which naturally leads to…
3. You get more referrals. Parents who truly love your program – rather than think it’s just okay – are the most likely to rave about you to their friends and acquaintances (who also tend to have small children who would be a perfect fit for your program; birds of a feather flock together).
4. You get better-quality parents. If your parents think of your program as nothing more than a glorified babysitting service, they’re not likely to go above and beyond for you – you’ll be lucky, in fact, if they bother to pay you even somewhat on time.
But if your parents are fully informed and engaged in all of the wonderful ways you’re helping their kids develop into terrific people, that’s an entirely different story.
Those parents will walk through fire for you – they will fundraise, volunteer, generously offer up their skills and ideas, and basically do anything they can to make your already-great program even better.
5. It makes your life more pleasant. Assuming a child is at your program 5 days a week, and the same parent is in charge of pickup and dropoff, you will see that parent approximately 500 times over the course of the year (a little scary to think of it like that, isn’t it?).
Fully engaged, raving-fan parents are infinitely more fun to see that often than parents who are just too lazy to go out and find a new place to drop off their kids every day – or, even worse, the chronic complainers who are constantly griping about one thing or another.
6. It creates a better experience for the kids at your center. There have been more academic studies than you can shake a stick at, by qualified people with many letters after their names – and the findings in this area all boil down to the same conclusion: increased parent engagement leads to better outcomes for the children, period.