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Support competence


This practice focuses us on recognizing and celebrating the family's successes, progress, and efforts in accomplishing their goals for their child and themselves. We share in their success, encourage them to recognize their competence, and join with them as they aspire to new goals.

Sometimes because of our training, we think we know best and want to show or teach families how to do things better. We need to be careful not to interfere with their sense of competence by suggesting that we know more about their family than they do. We have expertise to share but we want to choose the right time to share our ideas and suggestions. Follow their lead. Ask if they want feedback or suggestions before jumping in with advice.

This strategy reminds us to embrace the strengths of the cultures and home languages of families. We can tailor social and educational opportunities to build on each family's individual strengths and interests. Invite parents to share their language with children, staff, and families by teaching a song or sharing a story.


  • Recognize and acknowledge family strengths.
  • Celebrate each step taken towards a goal as progress.
  • Help families identify and access personal and community resources.
  • Attribute child's progress to the parents' efforts whenever possible.
  • Build on parents' understandings with new ways to look at the child's behavior.
  • Wait until you establish a relationship with a family, or until they ask, to share your expertise and knowledge.
  • Ask them for ideas about how your program can help them achieve their goals for their family.


"You are doing a great job navigating the bus system to get Teegan to school. Would you be willing to share with other parents how you have been able to do that?"

"I noticed that while we were talking, José and Leila worked together to separate the crayons and markers into piles by color. Look, they separated them into four piles—blue, yellow, green, and red. I remember when they started at the program it was important to you that they be successful in math and science. You must have been working on sorting things with them at home."

"I noticed David gave a make-believe cupcake to another little boy today who was sad because he had fallen and scraped his knee. It reminded me of when you brought me flowers when I had been out sick. You both are so thoughtful of others."

"Last time we met you said you wanted to get your General Educational Development (GED) and we came up with some ideas for making that happen. Your husband mentioned that you seemed excited about these ideas. Is there anything I can do to support you in your progress?


Reflect on a time when you used this practice with a family. What did you say or do?

Reflect on a time when this practice would have helped you build a relationship with a family. What would you have said or done?

Topic:Family Engagement

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: March 1, 2018