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Are You a Problem Parent at Preschool? 8 Things You Do That Annoy Your Child's Teacher

Ms. Meyers is a long-time preschool and kindergarten teacher who writes about issues in early childhood education and advocates for play.

There's a high turnover rate among teachers in early childhood education because their pay is low and some parents are disrespectful and uncooperative.

There's a high turnover rate among teachers in early childhood education because their pay is low and some parents are disrespectful and uncooperative.

Are You Guilty of These Behaviors?

1. Sending your child to class in fancy duds instead of play clothes.

2. Letting your kid got to school in crocs, slippers, sandals, and boots.

3. Expecting special treatment for your youngster.

4. Wanting preschool to be a training ground for kindergarten.

5. Arriving late for pick up with no excuse or apology.

6. Upsetting your youngster at drop off by giving a long and lingering goodbye.

7. Selecting a preschool with a philosophy and then challenging that philosophy.

8. Obsessing about other children bullying your kid.

More Responsibilities But Same Low Pay

A good preschool teacher is worth her weight in gold but, unfortunately, her compensation will never match that. Her career choice doesn't garner much respect in our society so she's often looked down upon for her low status job. As pressure mounts to prepare kids academically for kindergarten, though, she's assigned even more duties.

Today, she must regularly assess student performance, teach pre-reading skills, and supply the overall academic rigor that some parents and preschool directors now demand. All the while, she must make it light, fun, and entertaining while always keeping a smile plastered on her face. After all, moms and dads expect her to be perpetually patient and perky even when they're pushing her to the brink with their thoughtless, self-centered behaviors. As most preschool teachers will attest, their young students bring them boundless joy while their parents can bring boundless frustration.

More Responsibilities But Less Autonomy

A preschool teacher deals each day with kids who have autism, emotional and behavioral problems, ADHD, and life-threatening food allergies. She has students who come to class with colds, head lice, empty bellies, and worries about violence in their homes and neighborhoods. Behind the scenes (much to the surprise of some parents), she's responsible for upkeep at the school: vacuuming the rugs, cleaning the bathrooms, and mopping the floors. It's no wonder the average annual turnover rate for early childhood educators in the US is a whopping 30 percent.

Although greater responsibility gets put on her shoulders, she has less power than ever as the federal government intervenes in early childhood education. The last thing she needs, therefore, are moms and dads who add to her workload, make unreasonable demands, are condescending, and don't appreciate her talents and dedication. If we want to improve early learning in the US and hold on to our very best educators, we must pay them more and treat them better. With that in mind, here are 8 ways you may be annoying your child's preschool teacher and pushing her out the door.

1. Sending Your Child to Class in Fancy Duds

A talented preschool teacher facilitates hands-on experiences for her young learners. A child may spend the day doing finger-painting at the art center, building castles in the sandbox, and blending up strawberry-banana smoothies in the kitchen. After providing hours of stimulating activities, the last thing an exhausted teacher wants to hear at pick-up time is a parent whining: "My child has spots on their clothes!"

Moms and dads should always send their youngsters to preschool in play clothes that are meant to get dirty and even stained. After all, a good preschool is full of sensory experiences that can be downright messy. The only day that kids should wear fancy clothes is when class photos are taken.

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Maryanne, a dedicated preschool teacher, recently left the profession after decades of service due to this very issue. An irate and out of control mother yelled at her, threatening to give her the dry cleaning bill when her daughter got paint on her blouse at the easel. At the end of the school year, Maryanne chose to finally hang it up because of this unreasonable woman's behavior but, more so, because of the other parents who stood by silently and watched as she got verbally attacked. Not one of them spoke up to defend her and state the obvious: "This is preschool, not a fashion show. You're supposed to send your child to class in clothes that can get paint, glue, mud, dirt, clay, and food on them!"

2. Letting Your Kid Wear Improper Shoes

An experienced teacher knows playing outdoors is incredibly valuable for preschoolers as it enhances their imaginations and encourages their leadership skills. When kids organize a game of tag among themselves, use jump ropes, a tunnel, a balance beam, and hula hoops to create an obstacle course, and pretend they're astronauts while climbing on rocks, they become more powerful, confident, and independent. This free play improves their gross motor skills as they perform physical feats and promotes their self-esteem as they interact together without adult interference.

Dr. Peter Gray discusses its importance in Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. In his book, he explains where we've gone wrong in early childhood education and how we can get back on track. He advocates that kids have long periods of uninterrupted free play, especially in the great outdoors.

Tragically, some children (mostly girls) miss out on the benefits from these activities at preschool for one simple reason: impractical shoes. Crocs, sandals, slippers, and boots turn them into spectators, watching from the sidelines. Sadly, some parents believe that having their kids wear fashionable footwear to class is more important than playing outside. By ignoring the school's policy about shoes, they prevent their kids from fully participating in the day's activities and make the teacher feel frustrated and disrespected.

3. Expecting Special Treatment for Your Child

An outstanding preschool teacher is always thinking about what's best for the class as a whole. Unlike a parent, she doesn't have many opportunities to attend to the unique needs of each child because her job is to manage the group. While most moms and dads accept this reality, there are usually one or two who simply won't. Oblivious to the other children in the class, they routinely request special treatment for their own precious tyke.

One mother, for instance, asked her daughter's teacher to microwave the girl's specially-prepared snack each day. She wanted her child to enjoy a warm meal at school just like she did at home. She didn't care that this would require the teacher to leave the students unattended in the classroom while she went to the faculty lounge to use the microwave. When the teacher told her the daughter would need to eat the apple slices and string cheese just like everyone else, this mother pouted like a spoiled brat. Moments like these with a clueless parent try a teacher's patience more than anything the kids say or do.

An outstanding preschool teacher wants to expand a child's world, not narrow it with kindergarten readiness skills.

An outstanding preschool teacher wants to expand a child's world, not narrow it with kindergarten readiness skills.

4. Wanting Preschool to Be a Training Ground

Ever since the Common Core standards were implemented at our nation's elementary schools, they've had a disastrous impact on early childhood education. Because of them, kindergarten has become more academically demanding with students expected to read and write before the end of the year. As a result, some parents now want preschool to be a training ground that prepares their kids for kindergarten. They want their children to receive instruction in handwriting, phonics, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

A preschool teacher with a solid background in early childhood education, though, knows that readying little ones for kindergarten shouldn't be her mission. Instead, she appreciates that the first five years of life are truly unique and hugely consequential. As such, she doesn't see preschool as just another year in a child's long academic journey but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encourage curiosity and instill a love of learning.

She knows preschool should develop a youngster's body, mind, and soul through playing, exploring, interacting with peers, and enjoying a wide variety of new experiences. She knows, without a doubt, that the goal of preparing youngsters academically for kindergarten is way too narrow; her aim is to prepare them for life. Nonetheless, uninformed moms and dads who push for early academics can cause her undue grief and try her patience

5. Arriving Late for Pick Up

It's understandable when this happens on occasion as parents get stuck in traffic or have a family emergency. It becomes maddening to a teacher, though, when it occurs frequently with no explanation or apology. It shows disregard for her as a professional by placing her in the role of babysitter.

When she says goodbye to her students at the end of class, a teacher's responsibilities aren't over. She must clean the classroom, make phone calls to parents, develop lesson plans, and prepare for the next day. Moreover, she may desperately need a quiet moment and some downtime after being surrounded by children. She may want to use the bathroom and get something to eat. When supervising a youngster who hasn't been picked up on time, she's prevented from doing these things. Parents should know that if they're charged a late fee, it goes to the preschool owner and not the teacher.

Furthermore, a teacher in this situation may need to comfort, console, and distract the youngster. After all, some preschoolers get incredibly sad when their moms and dads are late for pick up. They feel scared and abandoned as their friends leave and they're left behind. When a parent finally breezes in and offers no apology and expresses no appreciation, they make a teacher feel angry and hasten burnout.

6. Giving Long, Lingering Goodbyes

Most experienced teachers advise moms and dads to give short, unemotional goodbyes when dropping their children off at preschool. They may suggest giving a quick kiss, saying "have fun," and then walking out the door without looking back. This creates less stress for the youngsters and sets up everyone for a successful day.

Unfortunately, though, there are always some parents who ignore these instructions and insist on giving long, lingering farewells. They do this to feed their egos, making a big show of how much their child loves them and doesn't want to be away from them. In the process, they traumatize their kid, disrupt the class, and frustrate the teacher.

Furthermore, these self-centered moms and dads set their youngster up for misery by planting frightening thoughts in their head at drop off time. They make comments such as: Don't worry, honey, it will be okay. Don't be scared and It will be over soon and then you can be with me for the rest of the day. Naturally, these remarks unsettle a child, creating fear and trepidation. As a result, they may cry or cling to their parent. This puts everyone on edge, creating a rough start to the school day that was totally preventable.

7. Challenging the Preschool's Philosophy

When parents search for a preschool, they have many choices: Montessori, Waldorf, play-based co-ops, and so on. While these places look alike in many ways, their unique philosophy is what separates one from another. It guides how the teacher instructs, how she interacts with the children, and what she values most in a preschool program. Most significantly, a philosophy stands firm and doesn't bend to the latest fads in early childhood education.

Nothing aggravates a teacher more than moms and dads who pick a preschool and then object to its very philosophy. If they want their child to be exclusively with kids who are the same age, Montessori isn't for them. If they want their little one exposed to technology, Waldorf isn't for them. If they want their youngster prepared academically for kindergarten, a play-based co-op isn't for them.

Challenging a school's philosophy is pointless and creates undue grief for the teacher. When selecting a preschool, parents should do their homework and choose carefully. If the philosophy doesn't match theirs, then they need to find a different school instead of battling with the current one.

8. Obsessing About Bullying

Children who torment others have rightfully become a concern in our country with many schools adopting anti-bullying campaigns. It's not surprising, therefore, that some parents fret about their little ones becoming targets at preschool. However, when they have little knowledge of child development and little awareness of what constitutes normal preschool behavior, their excessive worrying can exasperate a teacher. She can get frustrated when they indiscriminately slap the label of bully on a youngster who's simply learning how to interact with peers.

Four and 5-year-old children are just beginning to socialize with one another so every interaction is new and challenging. Prior to that, as 2 and 3-year-olds, they were in a stage of development characterized by “parallel play.” During that time, they played adjacent to one another but not with one another. Now, when they're older, they find joy in relating to one another. However, their vocabularies and social skills are limited, and this can lead to disagreements and frustrations.

According to noted pediatrician, Dr. Bill Sears, most children don't know how to truly share until they're 7 or 8. They may go through the motions when they're younger because their parents and teachers encourage them to do so. However, they don't appreciate why it's important for building friendships and showing good manners. Because preschoolers are highly egocentric, their unwillingness to share is normal and shouldn't be interpreted as bullying.

Bullying at school happens when one youngster is methodically picking on another. This kind of cruel and deliberate behavior, though, is not in the nature of preschoolers. When recklessly labeling a preschooler as a bully, parents demonize a child who's simply struggling with social interactions and that's wrong.

In this must-see TED Talk, Dr. Peter Gray explains what preschool parents need to understand about free play and its importance in promoting children's mental and emotional health.

Are you a PPP, problem parent at preschool?

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I better relate with parents?

Answer: This is an outstanding question because, as you know, preschool teachers need to not only successfully relate to their students but their students' parents as well. Today, tech-savvy moms and dads expect to stay connected with their children's teachers through e-mails and texts as well as in-person and on the phone. The number one complaint I hear from parents is that teachers don't reply to their messages. While this places new demands on educators, it's part of the new reality. Having a blog or website with updated information about classroom happenings is another effective way to stay connected, and it reduces the number of texts and e-mails you receive with questions about upcoming field trips, holidays, projects, and special events.

The best way to relate to parents is to behave in a professional manner and know your stuff. Preschool teachers don't get a lot of respect in our society and many moms and dads have no idea how accomplished so many of them are. If preschool teachers want to be seen as trained professionals in their field and not just babysitters, they need to effectively communicate to parents the latest research in early childhood education, brain science, and childhood psychology.

Lastly, when relating with anyone but especially parents of preschoolers, it helps to show empathy. Moms and dads of young children are often overwhelmed, exhausted, sleep-deprived, and frazzled. They need someone to show understanding and kindness. A recent study stated that 1 out of every 40 children in the United States has autism. My son was diagnosed while attending preschool. His teacher was fantastic in the classroom but never acknowledged what I was going through and never showed a drop of compassion. She never did during those three years my son attended her school, and I still remember that after all these years!

© 2018 McKenna Meyers

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