Published Date: 11/05/19
Finding the right childcare provider can be like finding a diamond in the rough. You’re leaving your precious child - the most important person in the world to you - with a virtual stranger, so it’s imperative that you trust them implicitly. You must believe they have your child’s best interest in mind, and for the most part, they do.
Once you enroll, you need to build and maintain a positive relationship with your provider so you feel confident that your child is getting the best care possible. In order to do this, it’s helpful to know where your provider is coming from.
We spoke with dozens of providers who care for children ages newborn through five years old and had them tell us what they wish you knew.
1) We’re not babysitters, we’re educators. And we’re underpaid.
Many of us have gotten Associates degrees, Bachelors degrees, and even Masters degrees in early childhood education and development. Many of us have worked in the field for years, if not decades. We create a curriculum and develop lesson plans to engage your child and provide both a social and emotional education as well as an academic education, all while getting paid very little. In fact, early childhood education has the lowest earning potential of any degreed field and many teachers make minimum wage and don't have benefits.
2) Play is learning. Worksheets and homework are not developmentally appropriate and do not prepare your child for kindergarten.
Children learn best through play. We can’t say it enough. Whether it’s free play where they’re learning critical social skills like negotiation and patience, or structured play when they might be learning math or phonics. Play is how children learn and how we’ll teach them. Children are also eager, natural learners and forcing a 4-year-old to do a worksheet and homework squelches their thirst for knowledge. And at this age, social and emotional development is more important than academic skills. Children typically struggle in kindergarten because of behavioral issues not because they can’t keep up with the work.
3) We only have two eyes and we can’t see everything all the time. Nor should we.
Just because we didn’t see the exact moment when Susie hit Jane, doesn’t mean the children are not properly supervised. We sometimes care for a dozen children at a time and it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. Also, remember those social and emotional skills we mentioned? Not having an adult hover over children every second of the day helps build them.
4) We don’t believe you when you say your child doesn’t act like that at home or you have no idea where your child learned certain language.
We know your child is perfect in your eyes, but honestly, he’s not. Children who exhibit challenging behavior at school very rarely behave like angels at home. Yes, of course, children learn behavior and language from other children at school, but 99.9% of the time, that’s not where they’re picking up the bad stuff. If you swear at home your child will swear at school. If your child is defiant at home there’s a good chance your child will be defiant at school.
5) Support at home has a huge impact on behavior and development at school.
We know which children are read to often and which children are watching TV whenever they’re not at school. We know which parents use harsh discipline techniques, even if we’ve never seen you discipline your child.
6) If we tell you we suspect a developmental delay, believe us and get your child the help he/she needs.
We’ve cared for hundreds, if not thousands, of children over our careers. We’ve seen children who hit milestones early and milestones later and we know what the range of normal is. If we speak to you about getting your child tested or getting early intervention, do it. If your child doesn’t get help early on, he or she may suffer greatly later because of it.
7) We clean thoroughly every day, but children are germ magnets and spread illnesses like wildfire. There’s nothing we can do about it.
If there’s an outbreak of something specific that can or needs to be dealt with beyond a good scrubbing, like lice, for example, we’ll notify you and take every step we can to prevent other children from contracting it. There are some viruses, like colds, Hand, Foot, & Mouth, and others, that there’s simply nothing we can do about. They’re contagious before symptoms appear. No, we can’t tell you who the first kid to come down with an illness was. We know when your child is sick, even if you tell us she’s teething or he’s got allergies. There are only so many fevers and runny noses that can be explained that way. And your child does not get sick from going outside in the rain, snow, or the cold. That’s not how germs are spread.
8) You pay for the space not for the day.
Whether or not your child comes to school, there’s rent to pay, and staff to pay, and insurance to pay, and food to pay for, and well, you get the point. You are not paying for attendance you’re paying for the spot for your child.
9) We can’t make your child eat lunch or take a nap any more than you can at home.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. If your child chooses not to eat or doesn’t fall asleep at nap time (or does fall asleep when you don’t want him to because it ruins bedtime) there’s very little we can do about it.
10) Hitting, biting, and pushing are all developmentally appropriate. There’s a good chance your child will be the hitter/biter/pusher or get hit/bit/pushed at some point.
We expect children to hit, bite, and push. Most of the time this is a short-lived phase and can be mitigated by giving children the language - both verbal and nonverbal - they need to communicate their frustrations. Occasionally, we have a child who needs a more active behavior modification plan to stop the inappropriate actions. That may be your child. If it is, we need you to reinforce the behavior modification plan at home for it to be successful. If your child is on the receiving end of continual hitting, biting, or pushing, we’re really sorry. We really don’t want your child to get hit/bit/pushed. We’ll actively come up with strategies to prevent it from happening, but can’t promise you that it will never occur.
11) Just because your child doesn’t want to come to school or cries for you at drop-off, doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong.
It’s totally normal for children to want to stay home with you all day. It’s totally normal for children to have a hard time separating, especially around certain ages. It’s totally normal for a child who previously had no trouble separating to go through a phase where he/she doesn’t want to. Most children who are upset at drop-off are fine just a few minutes after you leave. And most full-time children get into a routine within a month where they’re no longer upset when you go. Part-time children may take longer. We’ll work with you to come up with plan to make separation easier on your chid.
12) Your child is not a reliable narrator.
We don’t believe everything your child tells us about her home life and you shouldn’t believe everything she tells you about school. Three-year-olds don’t relay information accurately.
13) If your child is sick, keep them home.
We know - you have a meeting you can’t miss, or you won’t get paid if you don’t go to work. But, here’s the thing. We don’t get paid if we don’t come to work either. And when your child comes in sick, there’s a good chance that others will catch it - including teachers. It’s not fair to your child, to other children, or to the staff to send a sick kid to school. Arrange backup care or stay home. We can tell when your child has been medicated and know to check temp when meds wear off. We’re going to call you to pick your child up anyway.
14) We can’t get involved in family disputes.
We’re sorry you hate your ex. We’re sorry your ex hates you. We’re sorry you’re going through a tough divorce. Really, we feel for you. But we have to follow the law. The law says that we can dismiss a child to the custodial parent or approved caregiver and we must follow court orders in dealing with noncustodial parents. We can not deny a parent access to his or her child without a court order. We have no wiggle room - our jobs, our license, and the safety of the children we care for depend on it.
15) Your child’s clothes will get ruined and some will be lost.
We play in the dirt and we do arts and crafts. Sometimes stuff washes out, sometimes it doesn’t. Please don’t send your child to school in clothes you care about keeping clean. Also, we can’t keep track of every article of clothing, especially when they’re not labeled. We do our best, but children take off socks when we’re not looking, or pull stuff from their cubby, and trade clothes with friends and it gets misplaced.
16) We love your children. Each one takes a piece of our hearts when they move on.
We love what we do and we’re certainly not in it for fame and fortune. We have amazing memories of your children and they make us smile every day.
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