Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Making Daycare Work For Children

March 8, 1999

What relationship outside your marriage gives you the greatest peace of mind? For parents of preschool age children, it would have to be the confidence you have in your daycare provider and in the quality of the caregiver/child relationship. Realistically, these are the people who serve as surrogate parents and teachers for a major portion of your child's life.

This is a two-way street. Just as you want to know that there is genuine love and concern between your daycare provider and child, the daycare provider wants to work with parents who freely and without question put their child's well-being first in their lives. It is frustrating and painful to care for a child and then have to worry about the basic parenting skills and commitment the child gets at home.

Having peace of mind about the daycare experience is crucial in making employment a satisfying experience. The parents and daycare provider form a special bond to insure the child’s proper development, safety and emotional well-being.

Taking care of business first. Primarily, this is a business not a social service. The contract and policies mean something on both ends. They are designed to overcome difficulties in advance. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Here are some key elements that daycare providers look for in their business arrangement.

  • The payment is a salary, not an hourly wage. The contract covers missed days or holidays no matter whether the child is there or not. It is a guaranteed service. Because you choose not to use the service for whatever reasons, this doesn't affect the payment.
  • The daycare provider needs to have regular hours like any other business. Early drop-offs and late pick-ups infringe on personal time. Most contracts require special payments, sometimes payable in cash, to call attention to the hardship caused by late pick-ups. Time means something to the daycare provider, just as it does to any other businessperson.
  • Daycare is not a place for sick children. They expose other children and staff to infectious diseases. Parents need to have a backup plan for how their child will be cared for when they are sick. When health concerns surface at daycare, parents need to be able to drop everything and take responsibility for their care.
  • The daycare provider should be following the acceptable ratios and codes for quality daycare. They keep up-to-date with professional practices, child development knowledge and inservice training. There shouldn't be any doubt about the genuine interest, love and willingness of the provider to meet the needs of your child. Licensed daycare means something. Parents have to be very selective. "Word of mouth" references are the best.
  • Providers also spell out their special days off, holidays, and vacation time several months in advance. They also spell out their policy when sickness or other major problems interfere with their ability to provide daycare service.

Difficult problems. Here are some common frustrations daycare providers observe that may affect your child or other children in their care:

  • Children are sometimes tired and irritable because of late hours and a poor sleep schedule. The daycare provider deserves to have a well rested child so the interactions and daycare experiences go well.
  • Too much exposure to Nintendo, videos, TV and TV violence have a negative effect on a child’s behavior in the daycare setting. Daycare providers can tell the difference in the social skills of children where there is too much passive entertainment in the home.
  • Parental aggression in the form of spankings shows up as child aggression at daycare.

    Parental divorce has a big effect on a child’s behavior. The daycare provider should be informed of major changes in the home.
  • Toilet training is an issue to be coordinated. As one provider stated, "Sometimes parents expect more from us than they expect of themselves."

Establishing a good working relationship. The respect parents show to the daycare provider by the way they handle business sets the stage for a good working relationship. On a personal level, what things make a quality relationship between the parents and the daycare provider?

As with any relationship, communication is paramount. Parents and daycare providers need the freedom to bring up concerns in a nondefensive manner. It is important for the daycare provider to know what is happening in the child's life at home and for the parent to know what significant things are happening, both good or bad, in daycare.

You become partners in a professional relationship on child development - your child's development. The daycare provider, interacting with a child for 8 to10 hours a day, really gets to know a child well. You need to gain each other's trust and talk about the stress in your child's life, either at home or at daycare.

It is easy to take daycare for granted. Daycare providers want respect, recognition, interest and appreciation for the work they do. Some simple "thank you's" go a long way. They take pride in their business. They are trying to be the best. Do your children deserve anything less?