There may be times of conflict between teachers and families. This can be for many different reasons and the need for resolving conflicts in your work with families may be inevitable. Regardless of your good intentions and how carefully you plan, conflicts might arise as you and the families you serve work to build relationships and create your communication plans and strategies. Most commonly, conflicts are the result of a lack of understanding of one (or all) of the following: background/culture; language; and/or beliefs. When conflicts arise, we need to remember two general goals:
- End the disagreement.
- Preserve the relationship.
Regardless of your goal, good communication will be a key strategy and is the best strategy for a positive outcome. Following the conflict resolution, it will be important for you, and possibly your team at the program or center to meet and review policies, rules and assumptions that have been in place. Discuss program expectations for families with your administrator and other staff, be open to assessing what is necessary, what is in place because “it’s how we’ve always done it”, what is a preferred practice or approach, and what is your own personal taste.
When rules and expectations are kept realistic and to a minimum, the opportunity for conflict is also minimized. This will lead to a more collaborative environment and allow for communication that improves and increases family engagement. Stay positive and remember that reciprocal relationships are more likely to involve co-creation of a mutually healthy vs. those in which one party tries to set the framework with extensive rules and consequences and expecting the other to go along with their plan. For example, consider involving your families in developing or updating policies. It will show families that you respect them and appreciate their presence, as well as conveying a sense of respect and belonging. This also will most likely encourage more acceptance of the policies and expectations that have been developed together.
Think about a community activity that you have been involved in and enjoyed. What prompted you to participate?
How can you apply this insight to your work and create family engagement options?