What Preschool Parents Can Gain From Parent-Teacher Conferences

Formal meetings can help parents learn about children's progress

Teacher talking to parents at parent teacher conference
Teacher talking to parents at parent teacher conference. Getty Images/Ariel Skelley/Blend Images

Parent-teacher conferences are becoming increasingly common for parents of infants and toddlers. It's no longer unusual for preschools and other childcare providers to schedule such conferences. That's because these meetings foster meaningful dialogues between parents and educators.

Parents enjoy learning what children do and learn in school, but many fail to adequately prepare for these meetings. This results in them missing out on key information about their child's progress.

The following tips serve as a guide to preschool parents planning to attend parent-teacher conferences.

Start With a Positive Attitude

Many parents anxiously await conferences with teachers, but these meetings should not be a source of worry. In fact, when parents are ill-at-ease during a conference, they forget to ask specific questions about their child. This leads them to miss a prime opportunity to gain insight about their children's behavior and performance in school.

Listen Carefully to the Childcare Provider

A parent-teacher conference is not the time for parents to talk about their child. Instead, it is the time for them to listen and learn. Caregivers know things about your son or daughter that most others don't. To get the most out of a meeting with a childcare provider, parents should be receptive to what a caregiver has to say. Children often act differently when their parents are not around, and caregivers typically observe how children behave in a group setting as well as individually.

Rather than bragging about their children, parents should try to work with caregivers to identify the best way to nurture their children's growth and development.

Don't Get Defensive

No youngster is perfect, and all children have strengths and room for improvement in certain areas. Rather than becoming defensive during conferences with teachers, parents should ask what they can do to reinforce the positive behaviors childcare providers try to implement at preschool or daycare.

For toddlers, common improvement areas include hitting, biting, kicking, ignoring instructions, temper tantrums and not sharing. Sometimes parents don't believe their child misbehaves in such ways. That's not a surprise, because the environment and number of children in daycare differs from a child's home environment. But a conference is not the time to justify behaviors; rather, it is the time to work to resolve them.

Don't Take Criticism Personally

Teachers report that parents sometimes take concerns they've raised about children personally. When caregivers report negative information about children, they don't so to criticize one's parenting skills. The focus of the parent-teacher conference should always be to work in partnership with the caregiver to help a child cope and grow.

Ask Questions and Request Details

Parents should prep for teacher conferences by identifying which questions they think it's important for childcare providers to answer. Also, if a teacher or caregiver simply notes that their child is doing well, parents should feel free to ask for more details. Moreover, if the caregiver raises a concern, such as the child seems to really need adult approval, ask for more context and information.

Of course, parents should never be confrontational. They should simply express interest and curiosity in their child's wellbeing.

Be Respectful

Some caregivers report that getting meaningful face time with adults is often a challenge. Surprisingly, parents will sometimes show up late, bring other children to the conference, and worst of all, answer a phone call during the middle of the meeting. Parents should be careful to avoid any disruptions or distractions during this time. Cell phones are an absolute no-no. Be sure to turn it to silent or, better yet, leave it in the car. Isn't quality time with a caregiver more important than a call?

Attend All Parent-Teacher Conferences Held

Many providers have indicated that they regularly schedule parent-teacher conferences in conjunction with open houses, book fairs, meet-the-teacher nights and curriculum reviews, only to have no parents show up. Being a parent is a time consuming and demanding job, but parent-teacher conferences give parents the support needed to help their children do their best in school.

Request Meetings With Teachers When Needed

If your childcare center or school only holds parent-teacher conference twice yearly, don't be afraid to ask for a meeting outside of that timeframe. Most teachers will welcome the opportunity to share information with you about your child or address any concerns you have. However, you should give teachers the courtesy of scheduling a conference. Ambushing teachers may interfere with other duties they have or prevent them from getting all the information needed to discuss your particular concerns.


After a parent-teacher conference, parents should review the caregiver's comments and follow up on any suggestions. For example, if the teacher comments that Alex often falls asleep during activity times, that observation is a sure sign he needs more rest. Parents should adjust bedtime to help resolve the situation.

If a teacher notes that Ashley does not respond when her name is called, perhaps her hearing should be checked. Above all, parents should rationally and logically review the information from conferences and discern which behaviors are developmentally normal and which ones might require additional intervention.

Work with your child's caregiver to resolve problems. The parent-teacher conference is a tool for fostering effective two-way communication and to create a positive learning environment for kids, parents and providers alike.