Working with 2-year-olds has increased my understanding of babbling and toddler gibberish. It has also exponentially grown my patience — with toddlers and their parents.
I’m both a parent and a child care worker, so I’ve seen two sides of the day care equation.
As a parent whose child regularly attends day care, I understand the concerns of the parents who drop their kids off in my care every day.
When my son was an infant, his father and I grew frustrated with his teachers because he was only drinking 1 to 2 ounces of each bottle while he drank 3 to 4 ounces at home. I didn’t think about the differences in environment or varying levels of comfort for my son. Instead, I was quick to create assumptions about the teachers.
Yet, as a child care worker for the past 8 years, I’ve realized that there’s more than a handful of parenting styles. Each adds something to the classroom.
I’m fortunate to understand some things that my son’s teachers do in the classroom because of my own experience in the industry. However, I realize many parents don’t have the same child care background. As a result, misunderstandings may lead to confusion and conflict between parents and day care providers.
Almost certainly, there are a few things your day care provider wants you to know about how your kid handles the day when you’re not there. If you’ve wondered why your child care provider does something seemingly unnecessarily, let me share.
Don’t get me wrong — pacifiers are not the enemy.
Most experts agree that there is little harm done by giving children a pacifier before they are 2 years old. After that, the risks outweigh the benefits. Pacifier use past the age of 4 is of concern regarding speech development and dental problems. Still, lots of parents have a hard time weaning their kids off the paci.
There are a handful of reasons why a toddler wants a pacifier, but there’s also a number of reasons why a parent wants their toddler to have a pacifier. Sometimes these reasons don’t align, and sometimes they oppose each other.
A pacifier is a beneficial self-soothing tool for toddlers. Eventually, children grow out of their pacifier use as they learn other tools to aid in self-soothing and emotional regulation.
Parents develop a habit of using the pacifier, too, which they may not outgrow on the same timeline as their child. For parents, pacifiers are used to quickly calm (and quiet) a child when emotions run high. Parents may have also convinced themselves that the pacifier is just “easier” when it comes to nap times and bedtimes.
As a parent myself, I completely understand these tendencies to hastily calm a crying child and find the easiest route to achieve a snoring child. I’m sure my son’s teachers have some choice words to say to me about my parenting choices.
But we must acknowledge the child’s needs over the parent’s.
I teach 2-year-olds, and most of my class is younger than 2 1/2. Going off of my own experience, once the pacifier is in a backpack or their cubby, the toddler doesn’t give it a second thought.
They don’t mention their pacifier until mom or dad comes for pick up and immediately hands it to them.
The phrases “children need structure” or “children need routine” are thrown around often in the world of parenting. The
In order to build structure that is essential for toddlers, you must first set rules to follow. Without the rules, there is nothing to be consistent about. Your children can’t predict what will happen. And you cannot follow through with a consequence for breaking the rules.
Children need boundaries as much as they need routine.
Routine helps children know what to expect. Boundaries teach children what they can and cannot do. The two together are basically a roadmap for daily life.
Our toddlers are learning the environment around them. They’re learning how to function in their small pocket of society. It’s necessary that we provide that roadmap and set those boundaries in order to help them succeed.
As a day care provider, I can typically tell the leeway parents from the strict parents. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those parenting styles! But each does come with its own set of challenges.
Allowing your child to sleep in is a small example of the reality behind not setting a routine. Regularly letting them sleep in causes different drop-in times for them. They never know what their peers will be doing when they enter the room, whether that be eating, playing, or lining up. This will cause unneeded stress for them, even if it’s a little amount.
Similarly, they need boundaries in how to act. A painless they’ll learn when they’re older approach to discipline doesn’t work with toddlers and causes additional problems in the classroom. For instance, if they’re not being told that physically pushing against their parents is wrong, they’ll think pushing their friends at day care is allowed, too.
Without a doubt, I understand this desire.
When your kid has a low fever, you may think: “If I give them Tylenol, they’ll get by just enough at school that I won’t have to call out of work.” Or maybe your thought process is more like: “I have so much work to do today. I can’t stay home and fall behind.”
Either way, I understand! There’s only 8 hours in a work day and it feels as though it’s never enough.
That being said, it’s important to remember how your sick child might be spending those 8 hours you leave them in our care.
As their friends play, they may sit and stare off into space. I used to have a toddler in my class who would lie down the entire day and watch his peers run around him. Whether it be free play in the classroom, recess time outside, or the planned curriculum activity, he would simply lie down on the ground and watch.
I’ve also had kids fall asleep at the lunch table or plead to skip eating in order to nap.
Tylenol doesn’t change how they feel. It simply takes away the fever, so that, by policy, we can’t call and tell you to bring them home.
They still feel awful, so keep them home for their sake, not ours.
To add onto that, please don’t try to hide that you’ve given them Tylenol. We typically know from the moment you enter the classroom and we see their behavior. We love your kids, we know your kids, and we can tell when something is off.
Trust me, it backfires.
Every parent, every teacher, and every how-to source claims a different method as the “best”and “most effective” method for successful potty training. In a world full of information, it leaves parents feeling overwhelmed and engulfed in how-to’s and what-to-do’s.
So how can so many “best”methods exist for toilet training? The answer is simple. Every toddler is different.
Each child has a unique personality of likes, dislikes, ways of persuasion, and feelings of reluctance. For example, your first child might have loved cucumbers while your fourth child lives on mac and cheese and jellybeans. We, as parents, change the food we offer our kids based on their likes and dislikes. It’s important to recognize the need to change the method of potty training based on their likes and dislikes.
Having said that, toddlers can’t be rushed to start using the bathroom. Child-led interest is key when it comes to toilet training! It leads to fewer accidents, less stress on the child, and less frustration on the parent.
It doesn’t matter what your book or your mother-in-law says. If your child is not interested in using the potty, they will not learn how to and they will not want to continue.
Child-led interest and other readiness signs involve asking questions about the toilet or going longer with a dry diaper. To encourage a natural growth in interest, you can read books about using the toilet or discuss the exciting change of wearing underwear.
Think about your own actions first. Do you behave differently around your co-workers than around your partner? Your family? Your best friend from high school?
The same goes for toddlers except their co-workers are tiny 1-, 2-, or 3-year-olds and a taller child care provider.
They might act more ornery or more charming when you’re around. I used to have a student who spent the majority of the day provoking their peers by consistently taking toys, pushing, and hitting. The second their mom would show up for pickup, she was hugging her friends and trying to kiss their cheeks. All the while, mom praised the student for being a sweetheart.
Likewise, I know students who are the sweetest in the room all day long. Then mom or dad comes to pick up in the afternoon, and the child runs around and dumps out every toy bucket on the shelves.
Believe us when we report about your child’s day — whether it’s a positive or negative report. It’s common for children to behave differently at home than at school, and it’s also okay that these differences exist.
No, but most do.
Raising a child is hard! If it were easy, there wouldn’t be rows of books to help people tackle parenting. The phrase “it takes a village” describes raising children well, but we often neglect to seek help — or listen to it.
I’m definitely not the end-all-be-all source for day care providers, but I can provide a peek of insight. There’s a variety of child care workers, meaning our techniques, thoughts, and approach to raising children differ.
In the 6 months of having a son in day care, I’ve learned that his preschool teachers are a valuable source of information. They know the behavior of children his age more than I do. They see what he’s like when he is not in the comfort of his home.
That being said, I know my son, and I’ve known him his whole life.
When you’re wondering about how to handle the newest challenges parenting hurls at you, take in what your child care workers tell you, and then decide what’s best for you and your family. And then, fill us in.
When parents and child care providers work together as a team, we can provide the best possible environment for your kids — who we care about dearly.
Riley Morris is a mother and writer based in Wichita, Kansas. She loves learning alongside her 2-year-old students, drinking homemade almond milk lattes, and snuggling up to her son. When she’s not leisurely scrolling through Zillow, you can find her spending hours on Pinterest or writing for her website Motherhood Is A Ministry.