How can I approach parents when I have concerns about their child's aggressive behavior?

One of the most important components of high-quality child care is positive communication between a child care provider and parents. Communication is not  easy, especially when addressing concerns about their children. Here are a few simple strategies child care providers can use to communicate concerns with parents.

  • Use “I” messages. They will help you speak honestly about your feelings without placing blame on the parent. Focus on how you are feeling and how behaviors affect you or other children. Try using statements that identify your feelings and behaviors and a possible solution to the behaviors. An example of an ”I message” is “I feel sad when I see the other children not wanting to play with your child because they are afraid he will bite them.”
  • Use examples from observations during the day. Having concrete examples will help explain your concerns to the parent. They will also help you understand the explanation behind the child’s aggressive behaviors.
  • Ask if there have been any recent changes at home.  Explain to the parents that any change, whether positive or negative, can cause aggressive behavior.  Aggressive behavior may be related to a change in the family’s routine or structure, whether it be a new sibling, a later bedtime, or even parental stress (new job, loss of job, separation/divorce, remarriage, etc.).
  • Emphasize the positive. Even when talking about difficult situations or topics, focusing on the positive will help to keep the conversation moving and will make it easier for parents to want to work with you to find a solution.

For more information on communicating with parents, see the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care article on Tips for Child Care Providers to Communicate Concerns about Children’s Development with Parents.