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Caregiver and Family Relationships: How do they effect the student experience?

The subject of family partnerships inevitably leads to a focus on the young child's relationship with the participating attachment figures. According to Berger (2018, p. 240), children are naturally predisposed to "apprentice (in) thinking", meaning they often look to parents and external caregivers as mentors when developing self-awareness concepts (Gonzalez- Mena & Eyer, 2015). Children at this developmental stage are expected to establish meaningful, positive relationships with caregivers (Heroman, 2010). These relationships begin in the home and correlate with the overall quality of the child's experience as they transition to a school setting (Weis, Caspe, & Lopez, 2006). Christensen (2016) refers to the mesostemic connection between home and school learning environments as a lead determining factor in the development of child perspective toward structured learning, and social etiquette. With this information, the success of students, families and early childhood programs has been defined by the home-school unit's influence. A reminder of one particular family from a 36-48 month age classroom flashes in the mind as the primary example of home to school connections and their powerful, outcome altering presence.

Our case study was a 37 month-old child we will refer to as "D". D's family microsystem (Christensen, 2016) consisted of a single mother, eight dogs, and four older siblings. The dogs were mentioned before the other family members because this was the manner in which the family was introduced. Upon arrival, D would enter the room on his hands and feet verbalizing a barking sound with a pleasant affect (eyes wide/smiling/tongue out). As his mother and external caregiver (co-teacher or myself) engaged in conversation, his demeanor changed. An aggressive tone was noticed followed by matching body language. D was exhibiting what Gonzalez-Mena and Eyer (2015, p. 102) define as "clear attachment" as evidence of separation anxiety was observed. With the goal of guiding D and his family from this delayed behavior to a developmentally appropriate level of reciprocation with both attachment entities (mother and eduction staff), we utilized currently placed parenting strategies, a developing home to school relationship based on acceptance, empathy and positive intent (Bailey, 2015) and our intentional approach to educating D's mother in the ways of effective modeling and instructional language (Weiss, Caspe, & Lopez, 2006).  Further development of our home to school bond resulted in a revelation of biased opinions towards parenting style as chosen discipline methods reared their damaging heads. 

With researchers from each end of the developmental spectrum in agreement that the parent-teacher relationship directly affects future outcomes (Edelman, 2004; Weiss, Caspe, & Lopez, 2006), personal judgment in regard to parenting strategies was the initial topic of reflection.  As the first quarter of the school year quickly passed, D's mother fluctuated between what Berger (2018) describes as authoritarian and neglectful parenting styles. Through informal conversations at arrival and departure, formal conferences and home visits, and consistent evaluation of D's behavior the positive intentions of the parent were evident. We built on the trust established through these interactions and created a learning environment for the family based on low rigidity and ample affection (Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2010; Rudasill, Rimm-Kaufmann, 2009). Results were gradual but after intense data analysis, it was revealed that D's attachment behaviors were moving from that of security needs to those of the reciprocal characteristics of designated goals (Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, 2015).  Although progress was definitely made by the family and our teaching team, it was clear that there were personal areas of growth that possibly stifled advancement. 

Unaware of the subjective comparisons levied on this family, our teaching team displayed the classic behaviors of "Caregivers as Saviors" and the subsequent stage of "Caregivers as Superiors to Parents", (Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, 2015, p. 312); although it is believed we experienced these in reverse order. Of course, we were striving for the utopian experience of genuine partnership and what transpired could possibly be defined in this context. However, with the several-times quoted and ever-present words of my first true education mentor and school-mom ringing in my ears, the thirst for growth and a higher quality experience for our deserved clients will never be quenched. "Early Childhood guidance, like the medical field, is a practice. It can never be mastered. There is always room for improvement" (personal reference, Forbes, 2005). 


Bailey, B. A. (2015). Conscious Discipline: Building Resilient Classrooms. Oviedo, FL. Loving Guidance Inc. 

Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person through childhood, (8th ed.). Worth Publishing. 

Christensen, J. (2016). A Critical Reflection on Bronfenbrenner's Development Ecology Model. Problems of Education in the 21st Century. 69.

Edleman, L. (2004). A relationship-based approach to intervention. Resources and Connections, 3(2). Retrieved from


Gonzalez-Mena, J., & Eyer, D. W., (2015). Infants, Toddlers, and Caregivers: A Curriculum of Respectful, Responsive, Relationship-Based Care and Education, (10th ed.). New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Publishing. 

Heroman, C. (2010). Teaching Strategies GOLD: Objectives for Development and Learning: Birth through Kindergarten. Washington, D.C. Teaching Strategies Inc.

Pianta, R. C., La Paro, K. M., & Hamre, B. K., (2008). Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) Manual, Prekindergarten. Brookes Publishing.

Rudasill, K., & Rimm-Kaufmann, S. (2009). Teacher-child relationship quality: The roles of child temperament and teacher-child interactions. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 24(2), 107-120. 

Weiss, H., Caspe, M., & Lopez, M. (2006). Family involvement makes a difference. Retrieved from

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