A child-care problem? Approach it rationally

WORKING WOMAN

March 28, 1993|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

Your previously cheerful 3-year-old suddenly seems incapabl of expressing herself in anything but a high-pitched whine. Your 2-year-old is throwing a tantrum every 15 minutes. And you just had to rush your dog to the vet because your 4-year-old bit him.

Is your pride and joy being subjected to a steady diet of bad examples and lack of supervision at his day-care center, or just proving once again that while it takes years for a child to learn from a good example, one bad one invariably makes an instant and long-lasting impression?

It's clearly time for a conference with your child's caregiver, but the meeting will almost certainly be more productive if you first take the time to check the facts -- and your own attitude.

"I always want to hear from my parents about any concerns they might have, but I also want to be treated like the professional I am, with the courtesy and respect I deserve," wrote a child-care provider from Portsmouth, N.H.

"Even my best parents are always catching me at the end of the day, when I'm too tired and/or distracted to think straight, and presenting me with questions and concerns about their child which should not be answered hurriedly or off the top of my head.

"You would do me and your readers a service if you reminded them to make appointments with their caregivers if they have concerns about their children -- and to treat us in general as equals, not servants; professional people, not 'baby-sitters'; and people who work just as hard -- and often harder -- than they."

If you need a conference with your child-care provider, here are steps you can take to improve your chances of having a constructive, informative, helpful and congenial meeting with him her:

* Keep a written record for a week or two to be sure you have a clear, objective picture of exactly what the problem is, how often it's been occurring, the circumstances and/or time of day that seem to trigger it, and what your child has to say about it.

* Call ahead and ask your caregiver for a meeting at a time when your child can be left at home or supervised by someone else. Never ask your provider to listen to your concerns without first making an appointment with her! This is not only rude and inconsiderate, but not in your child's best interests.

* Begin by mentioning some of the things you especially like about about the way your child's caregiver handles him or her. It doesn't take much time or effort to be kind, and beginning on a positive note will make it clear that you're not there to judge, criticize or accuse her.

* Be an accurate reporter, not an alarmist. Don't say, "He's turned into a liar!" if your child has told one lie. Don't say, "He's turned mean!" if what he did was bite the dog -- once. Don't say, "All he does is whine!" if he sometimes whines at the end of the day.

* Listen -- carefully! -- to what your child's caregiver has to say. No one knows your child better than you, but she can be an invaluable resource if you'll let her -- one who's more objective than you can hope to be, and has a wider range of experience with children than you'll ever have.

* If you and she agree that your child's behavior needs to be modified -- in a way that neither frightens nor shames him or her -- agree on the best methods to use, then make a firm commitment to carry through at home just as she does during the day.

* Ask for a follow-up appointment to check your child's progress, and encourage your caregiver to call you if she has concerns or questions in the meantime. Remember, you have a common goal here: your child's happiness and well-being.

Remember, too, that the people who care for our children while we work are dedicated professionals, worthy of our respect and consideration.

Their jobs are not only demanding, but the most important work of all.

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