3.1 Recognising parents and carers as individuals
Children are regarded as individuals and the same approach should be adopted with their parents and carers. However, because most parents and carers are more distanced than children, generalised statements may be made about the parent body as a whole, such as ‘Our parents and carers are supportive’, ‘Our parents and carers can be difficult’ or ‘Our parents and carers are not good at fundraising’.
Carol Vincent (1996) produced a four-way classification of parental positions with regard to practitioners. She identified four basic ‘types’ of parents and carers. Click on each one for more details:
Such classifications can sometimes support or refine our thinking, but they can also serve to reduce and under-represent reality. A major difficulty for many practitioners concerns their limited contact with most parents and carers. Practitioners spend a lot of time with children but very little time with parents and carers, unless the parents or carers are involved in a setting as a volunteer or paid employee, or if they are the practitioners (as in a playgroup). In the absence of detailed knowledge, it’s easy for assumptions to be made, which give rise to inaccurate stereotypes about parents and carers. Governors, unless they are a parent governor, spend even less time with parents and carers.
Time is at a premium for many parents and carers of young children, which may explain why many appear less engaged than they might be. It is vital not to classify parents and carers as ‘bad’ if they choose not to partner closely with the setting. It’s easy to make assumptions that give rise to inaccurate stereotypes about parents and carers, or, equally, mistaken notions about practitioners. Carol Vincent’s ‘detached’ and ‘independent’ parents and carers serve as a reminder of the reasons why some parents and carers choose not to be involved.