Cheri M. Gioe, Riche', Cassandra, Martin, Lauren, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/19/2005 10:28:27 PM
Conflict is going to occur in any relationship – particularly those involving the care of children. The important thing is resolving conflicts in a healthy manner, says LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
"Conflict is simply what occurs any time there is a disagreement or opposing views on a topic," Gioe explains. "So that’s certainly going to happen in any relationship, and it’s going to happen in the child-care environment as much or more than it does anywhere else."
The LSU AgCenter expert says many people have the misconception that any conflict is bad. But she says conflict can be helpful and healthy for a relationship if it’s dealt with in a constructive manner.
"Resolving a conflict teaches people about each other and fosters tolerance and understanding," she stresses.
The first step in resolving conflicts is recognizing that a conflict exists, according to Gioe, who says that may be as simple as saying, "We disagree about this."
"The next step, which is finding time to discuss the disagreement, may be the hardest," she says, adding that it’s particularly difficult to find time to resolve conflicts that involve a child-care provider or something that happened in the child-care environment.
"Parents, caregivers and child-care administrators are pressured by the demands of home and work," she says. "It is important to make an appointment with the person with whom you disagree. Do not try to address the person in passing, such as when picking up or dropping off a child or by telephone. Schedule a meeting, allowing plenty of time to discuss the concerns with the intention of working toward a possible solution."
When trying to resolve conflicts that involve parents and child-care providers, Gioe says the same basic rules that help in other conflict situations apply.
"First, you should speak only for yourself. Do not place blame on anyone. For example, you might say, ‘I am concerned because this occurred,’" she explains. "Next, listen carefully to what the other person has to say and try to summarize his or her thoughts. A good way to begin is, ‘As I understand it, you think (or feel)…’
"Follow up by asking the person if you are correct. Then, once you both understand each other’s views, you are ready to think of ideas for solutions."
To continue resolving the conflict from that point, Gioe says to list all options and make sure the pros and cons of each option are understood. Then find one option that everyone can agree to try.
"Plan who will do what and when it will happen, and keep in mind there will need to be some compromising from all involved," Gioe cautions. "The big thing is to make sure that everyone involved in the disagreement is happy with the solution.
"The conflict will not be resolved if even one person does not agree with the solution."
The expert also says to be sure to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss how the solution is working, and she stresses you may need to try other options if the solution you picked first is not helping all parties involved.
Other things to consider when resolving conflicts that occur in a child-care setting are:
–Respect and accept the feelings of those involved.
–Stay calm and talk in a polite manner.
–Be specific. Try to explain the situation clearly.
–Invite a neutral third party to mediate between the people having a conflict if the conflict has been ongoing and severe.
–Keep all who are involved informed and updated about the problem and the progress of the solution. And don’t forget that in a child-care situation, it is always important to alert parents and caregivers if new conflicts arise.
–Remember that people have different values and personalities.
–Show appreciation for what the parent or caregiver does.
–Respect the right to confidentiality. Keep your discussions private.
–Think the problem through before confronting the parent or caregiver.
–Discuss concerns when the child is not present.
"Trying to deny or hide conflict is the worst thing parents or caregivers can do," Gioe says, stressing, "That’s much worse than dealing with the conflict.
"Regular communication between parents and caregivers helps everyone to understand each other and creates good relationships," Gioe says. "Don’t forget that effective communication is the key to problem solving."
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.