What I Like About You

I know that a lot of my blog posts are about the nitty gritty grimy things that no one wants to talk about. When I scour child care sites, it’s all about happiness and fun; bubbles and lollipops. And yes, that’s what I want child care to look like 24/7. I want to wake up everyday and rush to work and be in a state of bliss for my entire day. But jobs aren’t like that and child cares are not an exception. So in writing about the things that providers don’t want to talk about, I feel a sense of relief that someone is at least talking about it (even if it’s just me addressing it to an absent audience. Anyone out there? Hello? Echo … echo …). 

Today, however, I’m stepping away from that spiel to talk about something I do find joy doing at my child care: a game I call, What I like about you. 

How do you play: When serving your children one of their meals or snacks, tell them one thing that you like about them. 

That’s it. It’s that simple. And they love it! They love hearing what silly thing I like about them. I don’t do it every day because I don’t want the kids to get bored of it. So when I do start it up, I can see their eyes light up and the giggles begin to form deep in their throats. They’re gearing up for me to say something silly and funny and I love it, too. It brings a smile to my face to see that I’m bringing them happiness and laughter. Most of my job consists of getting things done. Paperwork. Dishes. Meals. Diapers. Clean up. School work. Something always needs to be done. Sometimes I feel like I do nothing but herd cattle from one thing to another. Sometimes I feel exhausted and I’ve accomplished nothing. Little do they know that this game is just as much for me as it is for them. 

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve said I liked about the kids in my child care in the past two weeks:

Your Elsa band aid

Your smile

Your lips (they were chapped and the child was putting chap stick on them)

Your giggles

Your eyes

Your silly dance moves

Your stories

Your heart

Your singing

Your imagination 

Your hair

Your missing tooth

Your snoring

The way you kick the ball

That you like to swing with the teachers when we’re outside

Your sand castle making skills 

Your silly smile

The way you say goodbye to your Mom and Dad at drop off
And the list goes on and on. I pick something that has happened that day so it’s fresh in everyone’s mind. I pick things that they can feel good about. I pick things that help me see the beauty inside of them, too. 

It helps me see them as precious little souls growing up into adults. One day I want to see them at the store or at a school event and I want them to remember that I took the time to tell them what it was I liked about them. That I saw them – truly saw them. Their silliness, their love, their solitude, their awkwardness. I saw it all. 

And I liked it. All of it.

 (I always will.)

Advertisements

Preschool Reinforcement

creative-desk-pens-schoolThis year we’re going to be implementing something for our preschool children that we haven’t really done before unless a parent asks. First off, an explanation of terms: because I am an in-home child care facility, I have school aged children beginning at two years old and going until five. So my assistant and I divided our children into three age groups: 2 year olds are in pre-school, three and four year olds are in pre-k, and finally older 4’s (who are turning 5 and can go to Kindergarten before the cutoff date) and five year olds (who have missed the cutoff) are in “Kindergarten”. This helps both my assistant and I funnel what they need to know for their age group while then being able to plug in more advanced lessons when they’ve shown they’re ready to move on.

Normally, we usually only give very specific feedback to parents of late three’s, four’s, and five year olds. They are the ones that will be Kindergarten bound within a year or so. Pretty much everything we tell them (where they meet the standards for their age group and where they are still struggling) is provided in the assessments that we do three times a year. Up until this time, we haven’t done it with our pre-schoolers (two year olds). There are several reasons why: first, parents of two year olds aren’t extremely concerned about their child’s academic progress until they’re ready for Kindergarten (which is understandable). Second, two year olds have short attention spans and in my honest opinion, they’re too young to be doing school work for long periods of time each day. At that age, it’s better for them to be learning through play.

My assistant and I are noticing a problem, however, that has caused me to rethink how we do things. It used to be that when we first started, parents would come to me and say, “She’s two years old and she already knows her colors and how to count to ten.” Great! But now, they don’t. Tablets have taken over and parents aren’t sitting down and spending time with their children like they used to. Children used to sit at the kitchen table and color or draw. They used to cut things with scissors or work on their fine motor skills in other ways, like putting stickers on a piece of paper. That’s not the case anymore. Now, children are watching TV or playing on a phone or tablet. That important time where they were working on the building blocks of their academic life have been taken from them. (And before I get any comments, I know that a lot of apps are educational but phone and tablets do not help them with fine motor skills. Children are struggling with holding/grasping pencils, crayons, and scissors. We have had some kids who were entering kindergarten and still struggling with their fine motor skills).

At this point, we have to reach children when they are younger because we’re seeing so much damage being done starting at a younger age. That is why I am going to start working my two year old families a lot more than I have done in the past. I will start assessing the two year olds and start asking the parents for some afterschool help. Meaning, if the child is struggling with specific colors, then I’m going to give them some play dough to take home so they can sit down with their child and talk about the color while playing with the dough. If they are struggling counting to ten, then I am going to give them some fruit to take home (like blueberries) so that they can sit down with their child and have some fun counting and eating yummy fruit.

The point being, I am going to start asking parents to take the tablet out of their child’s hands and start bringing back that special time between children and parents. I cannot do everything, contrary to belief. I once had a parent who was an elementary teacher (of all things) tell me that it was MY job to educate her children because she’s been doing that all day. Someone else can do it for her kids. No. Just, no. It takes a village, yes, but parents are also responsible for reinforcing what their child is learning at school. And if they’re struggling, a parent’s help at home is vital in making sure that their child understands and retains what they’re learning.

A child’s education doesn’t start in Kindergarten. It starts with me. It starts when they’re two years old learning their colors and counting to ten. It is imperative that parents stop saying to me, “But they’re only two …” because two becomes three and three becomes four and so on. Of course they’ll eventually learn their colors and they’ll eventually learn how to count to 100 but instead of worrying about all of that at three or four, I’m going earlier and asking parents for their help in reinforcing what we’re doing during school work time.

To clarify: No, my two year olds won’t be writing dissertations or coming up with science fair projects. Parents will be asked to reinforce what we’re teaching by playing with play dough and counting blueberries – Fun things they can easily do at home so the parents can help pitch in.

This is vital parents, I cannot stress that enough. I need parents to understand that yes, at two years old their children are still “babies” but this is the time when we are planting academic seeds. We need that reinforcement. We need parents to become active in their child’s early education. It doesn’t have to be horrible and excruciating. It can be fun – filled with giggles and squishy play dough. You can count flowers and fruit and draw things on paper while you’re going for a walk. You can sing the ABC song while you make dinner or dance silly to the song in the living room. There are so many ways to incorporate learning into a two year old’s play time.

It really does take a village and your reinforcement is significant to your child’s success! I’m not asking you to do my job because it’s not just my job … It’s our job.

Crossing that Sick Line

** Disclaimer: I noticed after publishing this that I wrote something similar a few weeks ago but both pieces involve different families and both posts are definitely worth posting and discussing. Hope you enjoy! 🙂 **

So, I realize now that I have gone in a completely opposite direction than what I intended to have this blog mean but that’s okay. I wanted to talk about the nuts and bolts of a child care business when really, what I think should be talking about is the heart of the business and the heart of my business – and what should be for any business, really – is communication. When you have a lapse in communication, you have a problem and this past week, I had a huge miscommunication with one of my (usually) good parents.

You can always tell the measure of a person when you see them under stress. Then, everything they seem to stand for ethically and morally is put to the test and you truly see the person for who they are. This week, one of my child care parents had that test and acted in ways I didn’t think she would ever do – to me or my child care facility.

Her son was sick and like every parent who works outside the home, was put in a position of “what should I do?” And this week, that parent lied to me about her son’s illness, brought him while sick and then got mad at me when I found out he had a fever and told her that he needed to be picked up. (She admitted to lying about the illness when I caught her in another lie over the phone). She was literally mad at me that her son was sick and I didn’t keep him for the day. Then, when she picked up, practically blamed me for her son being sick. 

I understand that child care facilities are a cess pool of germs just waiting to attack your children as soon as they walk in the door. So are playgrounds and shopping carts and where ever other kids roam. It’s inevitable that kids will get sick when they’re around other kids.

As a child care facility, we make it our mission to make sure kids’ hands are washed and sanitized (if our parents sign an agreement that it’s okay for us to put hand sanitizer on their child’s hands). And there is never a time when I want the kids in our care to get sick. Why? Because that would mean that I get sick and my assistants get sick. I hate being sick and I would never wish that upon a child in my care and for this parent to pretty much say to me that I wanted her child to get sick so that they would be picked up was shocking and hurtful.

What insane motive would I have to want her child sick? My day doesn’t change simply because I’m one child down. I still have the rest of the children there who need diaper changes, food, and general care. Nothing changes when I’m down one child. And before anyone speculates that maybe her child disrupts my day and that having him would make it easier, no. I’ve had students like that but this child is so easy and kind – a joy to have in my care – and so are his parents. I’ve always enjoyed seeing Mom and Dad and having wonderful conversations with them.

It was shocking to see this Mom being put under pressure. She was throwing her nasty words at me and it was ugly.  So today, I need to get my feelings off my chest and let other parents know that this type of behavior isn’t okay.

What is okay is to be mad at the situation: your child is sick. You have a job that doesn’t care and you can be fired if you’re out for a certain number of days. You have meetings and deadlines and this whole situation sucks big time. You have every right to be upset and pissed and feeling like you’re trapped in a situation you didn’t ask to be in and you have no idea how to get out of. But you don’t have permission to scream and yell at me, make wild accusations, and stomp out of my house. I am a person who loves your family. I am a person who loves taking care of your family. I cannot bend the rules for you because that would mean that every other family in my care will be looking at me like, “What the heck? You’re doing it for them, why not for me also?” And then, at that point, why do I even have rules, if they’re not going to be respected and followed? 

One thing I am often amazed at is when parents throw their fits and then stomp out of my house and not think about the consequences of the next day. I mean, are you seriously going to sit there and yell and get all kinds of nasty with your tone of voice and then be like, “Okay, see you tomorrow!” It’s amazing to me how much of a rug they think I am that they can walk all over me and not care, as if that’s my purpose in life: to be degraded and yelled at. To suffer all this verbal abuse and then act like nothing ever happened the next day.

Well, I’ve been doing this long enough that I simply won’t stand for that. In the beginning of my child care career I had no idea how to handle this type of aggression. Sadly, I would take it and then apologize to the parent as if I had anything to apologize for (which I didn’t). I would then bend over backwards to please them and give them whatever they wanted because I was afraid of losing them (and their income, if I’m going to be honest). But now, I’m not that person. I’m tired and exhausted and I don’t have any room for a parent who’s going to act like a child, throwing an adult version of a toddler temper tantrum simply because they don’t want to act like a grown up and use their words.

I have to deal with that behavior for 11 hours a day from their kids. Why should I have to deal with it from them? I don’t.

So, I called the parent in question that night. I let them know (when they didn’t answer the phone) that this was going to need to be resolved before they come back (and I knew they were going to come back. They were pissed at the situation but never said anything negative about my child care facility) and that we needed to talk ASAP and if that meant that they weren’t going to talk before dropping off their child, then they were going to need to come early to talk when they drop off so that they’re not late for work. I will not accept their child under these kind of circumstances until everything is resolved.

After the parent calmed down, she called and apologized. I explained to her how I felt and how this can’t happen again. I also explained to her what I talked about above: that’s it’s okay to be upset but to point the finger and verbally abuse me wasn’t going to fly with me.

So a message to any parents reading this: I get it. Your job is tough and when you add young kids into the mix, it’s 1,000 percent harder. But you don’t have permission to throw temper tantrums at people and verbally abuse people with your tone of voice or your words (unless, yes, you have a reason, like your child care provider or staff are doing something that is completely wrong. Then don’t go back to that facility). Child care providers are an extension of you and we’re on your side. Don’t bite the hand that is helping you and loving your children. Take as many breaths you need before you walk through that door to pick up your child. Remember we’re not the enemy. Situations happen that suck and you work through the problem. You don’t point to everyone and say, “F you, F you aaannnddd F you,” and then do a mic drop as you walk out the door and expect that these people are going to welcome you with open arms the next day. Think and calm down before you react explosively. Act professionally. It’s what you always expect from me.

A message to any child care providers: You are somebody. You are worth more than any words and behaviors being thrown at you. You don’t need to take the verbal abuse and you certainly have every right to talk to the parent after they calm down to resolve the situation. And if the situation can’t be resolved, then you have every right to let them go.  You don’t need to put up with parents who simply want to act like children because they think you’re going to put up with it and deal with it. You have more self esteem than that, don’t you? Just because they are in your care doesn’t give them an exemption to treating you like a professional. You have feelings and you have every right to protect yourself, your family, and your business from parents who simply refuse to act like adults. Had this parent not called me to resolve this situation, I was fully prepared to say goodbye, despite how much I loved them, their son, and how much income I would lose.

I would’ve lost more if we had never resolved this and she dropped off with no mention of the rant and trying to sweep it under the rug.

I am very glad that the situation got resolved between me and this parent. I would’ve hated to say goodbye to such a good family but sometimes, your self respect and self worth is worth more than your job and your income. Remember that.

The F Word

Yep. I’m going to talk about it, folks. The F word. I’m not talking about THE word, but the word every parent dreads. Fever.
I’m talking about this because this past week, we saw a lot of them – my assistant and I – and we were met with so many different responses and some of them were making me feel like I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and quit.
This past week almost every child in my child care had coughs, low grade temps (holding around 99.6), and sneezing. It’s winter, what do you expect? The problem, as I saw it, was that these kids should’ve stayed home. Even if they were just battling a cold and not something bacterial it still would’ve helped them to recoup just for at least one day.
And before any parents start taking in a deep breath so that they can give me a HUGE sentence as to why they can’t keep their child home because of a mere cold, let me just start off by saying. I KNOW — I get it. You have a job and that job has expectations. Plus you’re paying me so the age old argument also comes into play: I’m paying you while my kid is home(?).

This is a fight I’m tired of fighting. Truly.

This week I had three kids finally break the 99.6 degree temp range and go into the 100’s. Doctors in our State consider anything 100.5 or above a fever caused by an illness (and not teething). So when a temp reaches 100.5 we call the parents. I do need to add here that if that child is playing happily and has no other symptoms (runny nose, coughing, etc.) then typically I don’t call. Or, if I do, I usually wave the 24 hour rule (in my State, children have to be fever free for 24 hours before coming back to child care).
This past week, however, I had three kids with fevers. All of them had been coughing up a lung over the past few days and getting worse by the hour. One child almost puked because he was coughing so hard at lunch. I called all three parents (this didn’t happen on the same day, mind you, it was the same week) and their reactions are why I am writing this blog post.
I had one parent flatly refuse to believe that their child was sick. Yes, she has a temp. Yes, she’s coughing out her lungs but I think it’s just teething because her gums were sore this past weekend. Really??!!! Look, I’m not a doctor but your child is sick and this isn’t teething. Can she come back tomorrow? Ummm no. Not if she’s sporting a fever of 101 and has that cough. She needs to go to the doctor. (Mom went to the doctor and noted that she had no fever when she went and the doctor said that she has a cold. ** Update — two weeks after this incident, the child was diagnosed with bronchitis.**)
The second child had a temp about 100.9 and I called the parent. This parent was kind and understanding. She went to the doctor and found out that her son had a double ear infection. Another parent saw that the temp was climbing throughout the week and took the child in after she checked his temp in the morning. Pneumonia.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a parent tell me that after their child left my care they had no fever what-so-ever and was playing and acting just fine, well then ladies and gentlemen, I’d be the richest person in the world. I honestly don’t think I can count on one hand how many times parents have owned up to me that their child is still sick that night or the next day. Haha I can also tell you that I would be rich just by how many times parents have called me or texted to let me know that their going to “keep [name of child] home” because they’re not feeling well. Do they have a temp? What’s going on? What? oh, no no no no no. No temp. We’re just going to keep him home …
Parents. I get it. You hate that dreaded 24 hour rule of mine that your child has to be fever free for 24 hours before they can return to care. You have deadlines and bills to pay. We all do, and believe me, I get it. But you and your husband not only decided to start a family but also decided that you both should work (and who in our economy nowadays can afford a one income family anymore?). So I do understand that when your child is sick, you sigh and you think to yourself dear God, not NOW!
But now that you have these kids they’re your responsibility, not mine. You pay me to watch your healthy, well children not your sick ones. I have rules to keep everyone in my child care safe and healthy. I don’t want these germs spreading, just like you don’t want your well child playing with a kid who’s clearly sick because that would mean that your child would get sick.
So my rules are there to protect everyone. All the time. Even when your child is the one we’re trying to keep the healthy children away from. The last thing I need is a parent fighting me on my rules. I don’t need the eye rolls, the bargaining, the tone of voice, etc.
I don’t need the fighting.
It is the saddest thing when I see grown adults throwing a fit because their child is sick. I understand that you have important jobs and the last thing you can do is leave those important jobs to care for your sick children. But they’re your children and sometimes children get sick (often at the most inconvenient of times for you).

That’s why I *always* tell my parents to have a back up plan when your child is sick and you simply cannot take off work: A neighbor, grandparent, friend, or a member of your family.

I don’t call until I’m absolutely sure that your child is sick. I know that some child care providers aren’t like that. They’re calling every other day with some reason why your child needs to go home (and they’re not valid, meaning if your child has a fever then yes, they need to go home, but if they just have a cough – not croup – then no, they don’t need to go home). If you’re in that child care setting then I would leave. No one can have a job and go to a child care facility like that.

This week, when the parent who’s daughter had a fever/cold got pissy with me and practically gave me the middle finger with her tone of voice, I realized then that this person didn’t get it. She didn’t get my job, my rules, and my reason for having said rules. And because she didn’t understand them totally (even when they pertained to her) she couldn’t respect them. And if you can’t respect me – the very person who’s in charge of caring for your child and seeing her through these very awesome and important early years, then you don’t need to be here.

I can understand work schedules and I can understand work responsibilities but I cannot understand your lack of respect for me.

Parents, you’re going to get that call from your providers soon. They’re going to tell you that little Johnny has a fever and he needs to be picked up. You’re going to be in the middle of some important work thing. It’s going to wreak havoc on your life for those 24 – 48 hours and if you have back up care, you can avoid most obstacles. It’s going to be frustrating but it’s certainly not your child care provider’s fault that little Johnny is sick. She’s not trying to make your day/week harder than it needs to be. She’s not trying to get you fired. She’s simply doing her job. Just like you expect her to.
So when that call comes in, please give her the respect she deserves and needs. She loves your kids. She loves your family. Don’t get her to a point where she won’t want you there any more because the more you fight her on her rules, the quicker it’ll happen.

Farewell, Vacation

I’m coming off of Christmas break, where I usually take a good week off because of both Christmas and the New year being a week from each other. It’s healthy for every provider to take a break every now and then, if you can afford it. And even if you can’t, make sure your taking some time to yourself in some way, shape, or form. A burned out provider is a disaster to your business and the kids you’re watching.

For me, I try and make sure that between holidays, vacations, and personal days, I’m taking a day or two off every two months. These aren’t days that would normally be an inconvenience to my child care parents. Over the years I have watched when they were taking their days off and I simply matched them. For instance, the Fridays before Memorial and Labor day. Usually, parents were taking those two days off so when I made up my personal days for the year (I only take 4 or 5 personal days) I made sure they were usually tied with a holiday, when parents were taking days off work themselves.

Every group of parents are different but for mine, they all typically have between 3-6 weeks off each year, including personal and sick days. A lot of them don’t take vacation weeks. Even for the weeks that I’m on vacation they’ll usually either divide the week up between both parents (Mom will take Mon and Tues, Dad will take Wed and Thurs and Fri is for which ever parent wants it) or they’ll have grandparents watch the kids. For the longest time I felt so guilty taking vacation/personal days and then it hit me, why? Why should it? My child care parents take use their days and still bring their kids here (not a jab to the parents at all because EVERYONE needs that time away). They don’t seem guilty at all. In fact, they are very verbal about needing that time off and being thankful for it because helps reduce the stress they’re feeling; they simply need a breather from work and kids.

I know it’s easy for providers to feel guilty about taking that time off. For me, I hate the fact that I’m inconveniencing so many people just to simply have time to myself or with my family. In other people’s line of work, if they take off, the office still runs, the stores are still open and customers aren’t inconvenienced. But that’s not the case here and that’s enough to make one feel the guilt big time. But I also have to close my eyes and think like a business woman and a mother/wife. I need that time just as much as the parents need those days off from their work. My family needs me to have that time, too. I need to stay physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally healthy for everyone in my circle and that means taking those days off.

One thing to remember if you’re feeling that guilt is that if your child care parents were so insulted that you were taking that time off, they would leave. They’re staying with you because they know you’re good and while they might sigh or show distaste that you’re taking a day or two off every two months, deep down they understand the reason. They’ll understand when they’re off playing golf or going to the wineries with their friends on a Tuesday afternoon. They’ll understand when they’re the ones taking off because they simply need that “me” time.

The one thing I laugh about when my child care parents look at me and say, “I don’t know how you do what you do.” as they watch the chaos of sounds that ten children can bring into a room and I just think to myself, “And this is why I need those days off, parents. This is so very much why!” LOL

So remember: Don’t have guilt! Enjoy the peace and the healing on those days off! I know I did this past week. I enjoyed every stinking minute of it. I appreciated my quiet house, the sleeping in, the time and attention I could give to my family, and all the errands (and fun errands) I could do during the DAY! 😀

Enjoy them, providers! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! 😀

The Fine Line

This week I was enjoying some time with my family when they asked about work and I had to be honest with them. It’s been much easier since I let a certain family go. This family brought me a lot of stress. Which is why in my previous post I say that you need to learn as much about a family as you possibly can before taking on the child and the family.

Without getting too specific, this family (whom I have decided to call the Smith’s) were great. The Mom and Dad were charming, involved, and darling. Their son was wonderful, too. Their other child however, “Terry” was a nightmare. I have been involved in children’s lives for 20 years and NEVER have I seen a child act out like this one. I didn’t suspect anything on the parents part (meaning abuse) but I did wonder if Terry was suffering from bipolar disorder because Terry’s moods were so erratic.

The other thing I noticed was that Mom was absent more during Terry’s preschool years than her older son. She got promoted at work which meant she was working longer hours. She was getting home well after the children were in bed, leaving Dad to do everything.

Now, something like that shouldn’t spell disaster on a family environment but for Terry, it did. Terry reacted to the change in a very harsh, outspoken way. The fits were constant and as Terry grew up, the verbal tirades were wearing on me. It got to the point where I was dreading going into work. I wish I could go into detail but I want to keep this family’s struggle as non specific as I can because I love this family and the last thing I want to do is name and shame them. But, because this is a child care blog, sometimes you have to write about the harder subjects: When you have a child who is an out of control terror.

I had several conversations with both Mom and Dad and it always left Mom feeling horrible. No matter how I worded it, Mom always heard that she wasn’t good enough (what Mom wouldn’t?). But the biggest thing she shared with me was that she didn’t really want to spend time with Terry because Terry was aggressive and mean (and we’re talking mean in the ugliest ways possible). The problem was, Terry wasn’t feeling as loved because the parents were closer to the older brother, who acted “perfect”. The anger and the abandonment that Terry felt was then demonstrated on everyone, including me. And while they tried to deal with the problem, Mom typically stuck her head in the ground or let Dad be the one to handle it because she was too emotionally overwhelmed to do so.

So I worked with this family longer than I should have. Two years. During those two years, I counseled the family and offered many suggestions: have one-on-one time with Terry. Make it a weekly thing. Bring Terry to Mom’s work as a surprise. Terry needs to feel loved and special and most importantly, part of the family. Stop seeing your friends as often (because, as a family, they were spending time with friends nearly every day into the wee hours of the night instead of being alone as a family and bonding together).

The suggestions kept coming and coming and each time I was met with a loving and supportive reaction but little to no follow through; Mom was too scared to be confrontational and Dad, who was doing everything, was exhausted.

Now, as parents, they have EVERY right to NOT take my advice. They have every right to not listen to me at all. They are the parents, after all. Does that mean that every decision they make on behalf of their family is right? No. Of course not. We, as parents, aren’t perfect. But that does mean that as a child care provider, I have to step away and allow the family unit try and be the family that they were hoping to have. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a family struggling to be something they have dreamed about takes just as much time to build as it did Rome.

I have to be honest here. As much as I wanted to be apart of that family’s ultimate dream, as much as I wanted to see them through to the point where I was hugging Terry goodbye and watching those little feet step into the Kindergarten building, as much as I wanted to give my all to Terry and the Smith’s, I couldn’t. I had reached a breaking point and as a provider one of the healthiest things you can do when you realize you’re at that point is to say goodbye.

I cannot tell you that it was easy. The family was angry and embarrassed. I did it as professionally as I could. I didn’t put blame on anyone – including the child. I just simply said that it was probably best for the child to go somewhere else; possibly a center, where they have more access to better resources than I do. In the end, the family understood. They told me that they’re having a hard time dealing with Terry’s emotional outbursts and that they didn’t expect anyone else to have to deal with them. Simply put, Terry wasn’t my responsibility. Terry is theirs.

After saying goodbye to the Smith’s, it took some time for me to regroup, find my balance and center myself. It also took a while for me to feel comfortable adding anyone else into my care because, even though you can ask a million questions and fall in love with the family, you never know what is going to happen to them while in your care that is going to reek havoc onto the child’s life and whether or not you’re going to be able to handle it.

As a child care provider, you have to be prepared for this. You have to understand and accept that your suggestions might not be considered (and might not work) and you also have to accept your limits, even if the family is working with you and is supporting you.

A good thing came from this, though. First off, after the dust cleared the family and I are still in good standing (which means the world to me). Second, they took my termination of care as a wake up call. They knew that they needed to do something or else they would be in the Principle’s office all the time. Thankfully, they have a lot of time before Terry has to go to Kindergarten and they finally talked to their doctor and is getting Terry the help that’s needed – for Terry and the whole family.

I’m writing about this for two reasons. First off, as a message to the parents out there reading this. Child care providers are a lot of things to you and your family. We love everyone we care for. It is an honor to care for so many families and to be apart of their lives. We are, quite literally, and extension of you. But, we can’t handle everything, especially when things reach our limits nor should you ask us to. Meaning, please don’t assume that because you’re paying us that we have to put up with every negative thing your child throws at us. When we’ve had enough, we can simply walk away. I know that you can’t – it’s your child. But if your provider is telling you things that are concerning them, please listen and please take action. Don’t stick your head in the ground and don’t throw all the responsibility on your spouse. Look at your children. Listen to what they’re not saying and respond appropriately.

As a message to any providers reading this: Remember to know your limits. Respect them and, when you see that you’re not in a good place because of a family’s discord, sometimes the best thing you can do is to walk away. I hate saying that because I’m a completionist. I like seeing things through to the end and I also love seeing children, who are difficult at first, grow up into strapping young boys and girls and head off to school knowing you had a part in who they are when they step into that Kindergarten building. But sometimes, you have to turn down families to focus on your health and the health of your own family (and your business). You never know. Just like in my situation, you saying goodbye to a family may just be the best thing they need at that time. It’s not just the children who are growing up, it’s the parents as well and sometimes parents need to see just how serious a situation is before they understand its future consequences and do something about it.

The Interview

Whether it’s the initial phone call or you’re meeting your potential child care provider at their home facility, there are loads of questions you should ask so that you know as much about them (and if you’re a provider: so you know as much about the family) as you can.

There are the basics: What are you hours of operation, what are your discipline policies, what is your daily schedule, and there are some questions that go into more depth that should be asked – for both the parents and the provider. So I’ll start with the parents first and then I’ll move into the providers because as much as parents want to make sure their children are protected and that they’re in an environment that is safe and healthy, the provider as well wants to make sure every family they’re bringing in affords her – and the children she’s currently watching – the same courtesy.

Parents – most important questions you should be asking potential providers:

  1. Do you have a copy of an up-to-date (within the last year) background check on you, your assistant/volunteer, and any family members 18+ living in your home. (This is a must. If they decline your request to see it or they get insulted that you should even ask for such a thing, hang up. You DO NOT want to associate with a provider who will not produce this VITAL information).
  2. If the facility is unlicensed: How many exits are available to the children (in the area where the children will be staying in the home) should a fire or some other emergency occur and they need to get out quick (there should be at least two and they cannot be within 5 feet of each other)?
  3. What is your emergency protocols? Do you do fire/tornado drills (how often)? What happens if there is a fire – what is your Emergency preparedness plan? Do you have a temporary location to take the children (i.e. a neighbor’s house) should an emergency occur and the children need to leave the house immediately?
  4. What is your illness policy if our child is sick? What is the policy if you or a family member is sick?
  5. What is your philosophy about children and child care? This, to me, is very important. Your provider’s philosophy on children will show in how they teach, how they interact with children, and how they interact with you.
    A good teacher will act on their philosophy. I don’t think there is a parent in my care that doesn’t know what my assistant and my philosophy is. Not because we told them (well, we did – lol), but because they can see it in the way we treat their kids and what we do with them (crafts, school work, etc.).

Providers – most important questions you should be asking potential parents:

  1. Where is your child at academically and socially? Get to know this child. Parents talk their child up during interviews but you will be teaching this child socially and academically. There are a lot of children out there that are either too advanced for some providers and they don’t know how to teach them (sadly) or, the child is WAY behind and it will be an absolutely struggle for you to get the child where they need to be before Kindergarten starts. In either situation, are you up for the challenge? Are you equipped to handle both situations? The same goes with the child’s social skills. Are the children too mature for the children currently in your care (is a four – almost 20 year old – little girl going to be around a bunch of 2 year olds)? Do you have a parent on the phone (or at a face-to-face interview) with a child who’s socially going to be a struggle for you and your classroom? Are you prepared for the stress that can bring?
  2. Why are you leaving your current care? I know this one sounds personal but it’s really a must. I ask this (and I have no shame when asking) because I want to know if the family’s distaste (and ultimate reason for leaving) is something I’m currently doing in my care. If so, I can tell them, “Well, I’m sorry, but our rules are similar here.” It also helps me understand a family’s pickiness. If they’re leaving because the provider wouldn’t let them bring personal toys from home or go off menu and serve their child’s favorite foods, etc. then that tells me a little bit about this family’s respect for the rules that the provider has set up for all the families in their care. This also gives me an opportunity to explain certain rules/regulations so that there are no surprises later on should they sign up with me.
  3. What are your parenting styles like in the home? What are your discipline policies? Not all families discipline alike. What you are really asking when you ask this is, “are we on the same page when it comes to both of us raising your child during these formidable years?” If your child does something wrong here I want to make sure you’re going to follow up at home. If you’re not, then this child will constantly struggle with me. He will have two sets of rules to live by and will be in a constant conflict between school and home. This is something a provider hates to deal with.
  4. What is your child’s schedule at home and on the weekends? Is Mom and Dad family oriented? Or are they handing their kids over to grandma and grandpa every chance they get so that they can get some “me” time in with friends or each other. As a provider, I want to hear what life is like because chances are, if there is any hint that the family isn’t centered and focused on each other then the children will react to that here.

I know it’s hard for many parents to understand but sometimes their children don’t react well to their lifestyle and it always always always plays a huge part with me. When I take new children into my care, I am ultimately taking in the whole family – the good, bad, and ugly. Anything that can give me insight into their little world helps tremendously.
I know that many parents just think that I collect a paycheck and watch their kid for 10 hours a day but I don’t. I’m just as invested in their children as I am in my own, or my nieces and nephews. Kids are my business and they’re my business because I want them to be, not because they have to be. 🙂