The child with a behavioral problem at the daycare
Sometimes a child presents behavioural problems in the daycare setting. How do you react and what can you do to improve the situation?
Here are some ideas for solutions.
The main causes of behavior problems in child care
The most common behavioural problems in a daycare setting are often related to a toddler’s difficulty in controlling his or her own emotions, actions, behaviour and words.
This lack of self-control can manifest itself in behaviours such as hitting, pushing or biting others or throwing objects and destroying a friend’s building. For an older child (e.g., 4 or 5 years old), the difficulty in controlling emotions and impulses may also be reflected in the use of swear words or words that hurt, such as, “You are not my friend anymore. “
Lack of sleep, anxiety, or a major change in a child’s life (e.g., new baby, parental separation, death of a grandparent) are also situations that can cause behavioral problems at daycare. For example, a toddler may become more agitated, impulsive or aggressive because he/she is experiencing an insecure situation and does not know how to express what is bothering him/her.
A child’s language difficulties can also lead to disruptive behaviours in a child care setting. For example, a toddler who cannot make himself understood or who does not always understand others may experience frustration and express it through aggressive gestures.
Similarly, a toddler who is hypersensitive may exhibit challenging behaviors at the center, such as strong reactions to change (e.g., crying or tantrums) or aggressive actions towards others. A child with a disorder such as Opposition Defiant Disorder, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder may also have behavioral problems at the daycare.
The importance of discussing it with the teacher
When your toddler is behaving in a disruptive way at daycare, the most important thing is to discuss it quickly with your child care provider. This will prevent things from getting worse. Discussing the issue openly allows you to better understand what is bothering the teacher, to talk about your own concerns and to clarify what is expected of everyone.
Set up a time when you are comfortable talking about the situation without fear of interruption. In a child care setting, the conditions may not be ideal for discussing a sensitive issue (e.g., because of the presence of the children in the group and other parents). You may want to schedule a call at a time when the educator is available. A communication booklet is also a good way for the educator to explain a particular situation.
Find the cause of the child’s disruptive behavior
Of course, no parent likes to learn that their child is behaving in a disruptive manner. It’s normal to feel intense emotions when you talk to the educator.
Remember, however, that the goal is not to find a culprit, but to find out what is causing your child’s behavior in order to find solutions. It is important to share information in a caring, constructive and positive tone. Your cooperation will help your child effectively.
Share what you know about your child with your childcare provider. Between the two of you, you have separate pieces of the puzzle. To help you understand the cause of your child’s behavior, it may be helpful to compare the reality of home with that of the daycare. For example, a toddler who often plays alone at home may have difficulty sharing and waiting for his turn. Or, he may have trouble with a lot of noise and movement around him. You can also try to see if a new event (e.g. arrival of a baby, moving, conflict at home) can make him more anxious and have an effect on his behavior.
Working as a team with the educator
Based on your observations and those of your child’s educator, you can find ways to make your child’s behavior more positive and appropriate for life in a child care setting. Agree on how to intervene with your child at home and at the daycare to improve his/her behavior. The situation can improve in a short period of time when parents and child care staff work well together
For example, disruptive behaviors related to lack of self-control improve as the child grows and his or her brain and language develop. However, there are things you can do at home and at daycare to help reduce these behaviors by helping your child gain self-control. For example, you can teach your child to name his or her emotions, to share, to wait his or her turn and to tolerate frustration. Don’t forget to praise your toddler for his efforts and good behavior to encourage him.
It is important to agree with the educator on how to communicate together to monitor the situation. For example, you can schedule calls at times when she can be free. The communication book or the daycare logbook can also be a useful tool for sharing information.
In some situations, a case plan may be appropriate. This is a tool used in child care centers to understand and respond to the needs of a child who is experiencing difficulties, particularly with respect to behavior. The plan helps parents and caregivers work together to achieve the same goal, such as learning to ask for things instead of yelling, crying or hitting.
How do you approach the situation with your child?
Discuss with the educator how you might approach the issue with your child. When you do, explain to your child that you have talked with the teacher and together you have decided to help your child improve a behavior, such as waiting his turn and getting along better with his friends. The goal is not to reproach him, but rather to tell him that you have confidence in his abilities and that you are there to help him.
When to consult?
The support of a professional (e.g. psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist or psycho-educator) may also be necessary when solutions do not seem to help or when the situation persists, worsens or becomes more worrisome.
It is also advisable to consult a professional if the child’s behavioral problem is related to a specific condition (e.g. language difficulties, opposition disorder, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, hypersensitivity). The professional will then be able to propose solutions adapted to the child’s situation.