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Dealing With 'No' at Day Care

Aug 5, 2008
We all know the scenario.... toddler hears the word 'no' many times, toddler ignores the word 'no', toddler learns the word 'no', toddler thinks saying the word 'no' is absolutely hilarious, the word 'no' becomes apparently ineffective and provider is at wits end! Enunciating the word 'no' is easier than saying 'yes', add that to the fact that kids tend to hear 'no' a lot more frequently and you get a perfect recipe for this seeming negativism.

Toddlers are experimenting with their developing personalities, identities and emerging independence and tend to use this strong, simple yet popular word to demonstrate their individualism. 'No' becomes a declaration of separateness and will be directed at everything and everyone. How to counter this negativism? While rules and boundaries are necessary we should try to limit the authoritarian directives, redirect behaviors and save the 'no's for when they are absolutely essential. 'No's are vital for health and safety issues but too many can be stifling for a child and they will rebel or simply ignore all those overwhelming rules.

Avoid arbitrary rules - 'don't do that because I said so' instead offering a rationale - 'don't put your fingers in the door jam because they'll get chopped off!!'. Explaining the reasons for your rules to kids helps them to understand why they exist thus making it easier to follow them. Don't anticipate bad behavior (even though you have a fairly good idea that George is about to spill his juice), wait until it has happened before you yell 'no' otherwise you are simply filling your days with unnecessary 'no's. Try to offer positive suggestions - 'Let's paint this nice card for mom' is more likely to have a positive effect than 'Don't paint on the table'.

Offer alternatives to off limit items so that when a child reaches for the teacher's scissors you can say 'here, this curly straw is for you' or allow participation in certain things under supervision. When you say 'no' mean 'no'. You may be tired and wrung out but you must be firm and consistent - kids can spot a feeble, distracted 'no' from a mile off. Remember also, you are the adult, you are in charge, you are in control. Remain calm, don't respond with anger and never plead. A calm 'no' is the most authoritative and effective. And finally, always praise good and positive behavior. In a sea of 'no' the tiniest ripple of compliance should be acknowledged and rewarded.

I drop in on a child care providers discussion forum from time to time and make comments/suggestions if I feel I can be of help (or just want to join in on a rant!!). Recently, one of the providers had a terrible ongoing problem with a chid who was wilfully destroying her property i.e. toys, day care equipment and furniture. The parents laugh it off, ask the child to say an empty 'I'm sorry' and offer no discussion nor action for remedy. As you can imagine this poor lady is at her wits end. To date the child has deliberately destroyed over $200 worth of items. All too often day care providers can be faced with very delicate situations when handling difficult behavior in a child.

Difficult and challenging behaviors can be a tough fact of day care life. The reasons for said behaviors can be various but all need to be dealt with from the outset in a firm and consistent manner. When it becomes clear that a child is being continuously disruptive, destructive and aggresive it is time to 'meet the parents'. Dealing successfully with any challenging behavior necessitates parental cooperation. Discussion will uncover if similar behavior occurs in the home, if there is a root cause that can help all parties better understand the triggers and reasons for the behavior. Most importantly though, the parent/provider meeting will ensure that a mutual behavior plan is on the table and everyone is on the same page. It is pointless if you are being consistent and constructive in your handling of the child if the same positive actions are not dealt out at home.

Use your behavior policy (you do have one right??) as an outline for formulating an individual plan. Ensure that you put in place a time frame for implementation and a deadline for reevaluation. It is helpful also to include in your parent handbook/contract details of situations where parents will be expected to cough up for 'over the top' damages caused by their child. Insert also your 'end of tether' clause where you would be forced to ask a client to withdraw their child due to ongoing issues and lack of cooperation/communication. Don't forget, sometimes professional, outside help is required....that does not indicate failure on the part of either the provider or parent. It is simply the best way forward in some cases.
About the Author
ChildCareOnly.com is the brainchild of Fiona Lohrenz who has 10 years experience running a day care. Fiona has also produced a 'Start a Daycare Business' DVD all about the Day Care Business. Fiona can be found at her website on Daycare
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