Sunday, 4 May 2014

A Vital Partnership.

Recently the media has been stirring up what can only be described as 'hysteria' about young children not being able to build with blocks because they are too used to tablet devices & coming into school still in nappies. You can read these articles here & here
In my professional experience both these articles are based on urban myths but the most worrying part of both is that they are based on either hearsay from Headteachers or a survey of teachers.
Parenting & teaching should be a collaborative process - building upon layers of experience.
I have been teaching nursery for 14 years & I worked as a nursery assistant for 18 months before that & I have only had 1 child come into my class still in nappies NOT for a medical reason. That child was the eldest child in the family & his mum just didn't know how to go about toilet training him. Once the nursery assistant who had 3 young children of her own, talked her through the process he was out of nappies in a matter of weeks.

Most if not all of the children in my class also have daily access to some sort of tablet device & yet not one of them struggles to engage with & enjoy playing with traditional resources, like blocks, lego, sticks or mud.

I feel very strongly that parents are under more pressure than ever to get everything right with less support than ever before. More & more parents don't have an older relative to call upon for advice on parenting issues. Many are not living nearby their own families anymore or their parents are still young enough to be working full time so aren't there to give that support that previous generations enjoyed.

Many are also working full-time so their children are in daycare, I am not a parent but I know from my nieces & nephews that toilet training usually means being house bound for at least a week. Working parents who use their time off to go on a family holiday aren't going to have the luxury of more time off to remain at home to toilet train a child, it may have to be unpaid leave.

In June when I hold an information night for the new parents there are always a few who confess that their child is not yet toilet trained, this is usually told in hushed, embarrassed, apologetic tones. I hate to stereotype but it is normally boys, under our system, we can't refuse to take children who aren't yet toilet trained but would obviously prefer that they were. I normally reassure these parents that 2 months is long time in child development & that their child will probably be toilet trained by the time September rolls round. Many plan to take a week off in the summer just for this purpose, forgoing a week of holidays.

I am also always very aware that for many parents, I am the first teacher they have come into contact with since their own school days - and they may not have positive memories of this time. It is vital that we build a good relationship from the start, they have been the primary educators of their child for the past 3-4 years & it is therefore very important that we work together to ensure their child has the best possible nursery experience before embarking on their long formal schooling experience. There needs to be communication both ways if their child is going to flourish & if parents feel that as a teacher I am judging their parenting skills this will never happen. The fact that I am not a parent can be a bonus, as I explain to them that I am a teacher not a parent & so I rely on them to help me gain a full picture of their child. I need to know if they didn't sleep the night before, have a fear of balloons etc. Parents need to know that we are in a partnership.

That's why I approach articles as mentioned above with a certain scepticism, they only serve to berate parents & make them feel under attack & as anyone knows, this will then put them on the defensive.
The old proverb 'It takes a village to raise a child' is still as relevant today but sadly probably not as common, parents are more isolated than before with fewer opportunities to tap into older more experienced adults for support. 


  1. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for the parental support!

    1. Thank-you Ana, I believe it is one of the hardest jobs in the world, probably the most rewarding too but I bet most parents are rarely told what a great job they are doing.

  2. I agree - I was disappointed to read the nappy article and felt it was a biased and unhelpful approach to a very sensitive matter for parents and children.

    1. Exactly, Juliet, it was most unhelpful & only served to make parents feel like they were under attack. I am intrigued to know where the survey was actually undertaken.

  3. Anonymous10 May, 2014

    When my son started pre-school he is not yet potty trianed and this is the biggest worry of my life. Then we just started it and we were dont in a week! So we are now nappy free. But i have some help from his preschool. Them giving him stickers when he tells them he needs to wee. Really helpful for me. But one of the best thing that they did is that they didnt gave me the look when I said that my son is still not potty trained. Thats so comforting then. This is a nice post. So true about no one supports me before pre school and I really dont know what to do. =(

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment & I'm delighted you got a positive response at your school, I bet you felt happier & more relaxed about it all when you knew they understood. From what I've seen on your blog you are doing a great job as a mum, providing lots of fab memorable experiences.