Practitioners and Families Together: Encouraging Positive Behaviour

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Families and early childhood practitioners have complementary areas of expertise that make them ideal partners in helping children develop social competence. Families bring their hopes and dreams for their children, along with the deep understandings that they have acquired through their years of childrearing. Practitioners bring their professional skills and experience as well as their observations of the children’s interactions in a group setting.

It is fun for practitioners and families to share children’s social successes. However, finding ways to work together to address challenging behaviours can be more difficult. Practitioners may hesitate to initiate a discussion they believe will be distressing to parents. Parents’ investment in their children may cause them to feel frustrated, inadequate or helpless when their child is having problems; they may respond by withdrawing or becoming defensive. There might be language and/or culture barriers that require extra effort and understanding. While there is much that parents can contribute to discussions of challenging behaviour, it is practitioners who have the professional responsibility to initiate and facilitate a collaborative strategy to address the behaviour.

Families and early childhood practitioners have complementary areas of expertise that make them ideal partners in helping children develop social competence.

Preparing for Collaboration

To support collaboration, practitioners should:

  • Build a relationship of mutual trust, respect and openness from the very beginning. Convey warmth and caring, establish regular communication and encourage information sharing.
  • Honour the knowledge, experience, goals and feelings of the parents. Actively appreciate diversity as an opportunity for learning about different ways to live in the world.

Discussing Challenging Behaviour

Communication skills such as active listening and problem-solving that practitioners use in their work with children are also important in discussions with parents.

  • Arrange a time and place for discussion that is private and where neither party feels hurried
  • Bring specific observations of the challenging behaviour.
  • Be sure to mention things they appreciate about the child.
  • Describe the behaviour and why they are concerned about it.
  • Ask parents about their experience with, and understanding of, the behaviour.
  • Listen carefully and with empathy in order to fully understand families’ expectations and viewpoints.
  • Engage parents in brainstorming possible causes and solutions.
  • Find a mutually acceptable approach that draws upon the strengths of all perspectives.
  • Develop a plan of action that shows how practitioners and the family will address the behaviour.
  • Plan for another meeting to discuss progress.

Messages from Families to Practitioners

  • We appreciate your concern for our child.
  • We value your insights and knowledge.
  • We are willing to share relevant information about our child’s life in order to better understand his/her behaviour.
  • We hope that, by working together, we can find ways to address the challenging behaviour.
  • We are willing to follow through at home

Useful Phrases for Practitioners and Families

  • “We’ve noticed that… Have you ever noticed that at home/at the centre?”
  • “How do you handle that when it happens?”
  • “We’ve noticed that… seems to help.”
  • “These are some of the things we’re doing to help (your child) learn to (make friends, talk about feelings etc.).”
  • “How can we work together to help him/her with this?”
  • “Here are some things that are happening at home/at the child care that might be influencing (the child’s) behaviour…”

Messages from Practitioners to Families

  • We know, appreciate and care about your child.
  • Behaviour challenges are an opportunity to teach social skills.
  • We respect the knowledge and insights that you bring.
  • We know some strategies for dealing with the situation.
  • Working together, we will succeed in helping your child develop positive social skills.

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Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are incredible professionals that have rewarding, important and demanding careers. They work with young children (and their families), ages 0-12, nurturing and educating them, observing and planning for their growth and development while ensuring that they are healthy. They create interactive and dynamic learning environments where children develop social skills, develop cognitive skills and foster lifelong learning. ECEs work in child care centres, classrooms, home child cares, preschool, and parent drop-in programs. You do not need a teaching degree to be an ECE, but you do need your ECE diploma.

If you’re just starting out:

  1. Get certified!
  2. Find the requirements for your province or territory
  3. Write your resume and begin your job search. We’ll provide tips on this soon. 
  4. Get your vulnerable sector check and first aid training

Join our Facebook Group and meet other ECEs who may be able to answer your questions

All licensed and regulated quality child care programs in Canada require these for the safety and security of children and families.

On our provincial and territorial map we link to child care associations in your area. Follow the link to your association and join today. The associations provide valuable information to anyone starting out in their career. Even experienced ECEs can benefit. You’ll also enjoy valuable member benefits like discounts, meet other ECEs, and become a part of the child care movement in Canada.


If you join your provincial or territorial affiliate, you’re automatically also a member of the CCCF.

With your resume and cover letter ready (we’ll provide guides for this soon), contact child care centres and introduce yourself! You can call, email, or even message them on social media. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a reply. Try again a few days later to give them your resume in person. Remember that due to safety reasons you need to call first. Tell them you live in their area, and that you’re looking for a position.

Anyone working in licensed child care has to apply for certification. You will find certification information for your province or territory on our child care certification page.