Spying On Your Child Care Provider

Came across a disturbing search on my blog recently:

can i audio tape my childcare provider in her home

Seriously. Seriously?! Wow. I find that so offensive. Whether or not you can, you shouldn’t. Just don’t. It’s wrong on so many levels.

Having been a parent and worrying about what was happening to my child at day care, I understand the concern. But it’s nothing that a chat with my provider wouldn’t clear up. And invading someone’s privacy – someone who I trust to be almost a part of my family – is certainly not the solution I would come up with.

If you don’t trust your provider, leave. There are plenty of others out there.

If you don’t trust anyone that much, either stay home with your child or get a relative to watch them, because you will never be satisfied with someone else watching them.

If you think she’s doing something seriously wrong, drop in unannounced and see what’s happening. You are allowed to do that in most states, and your provider should have informed you of this. If you witness something awful, you have the right to call the state department she works for and they will come check on her. But don’t send in a nanny cam in a teddy bear!

Out of curiosity I had to look and find out what the law says about taping people. It’s illegal in my state, thank goodness. But the scary thing is it varies widely from state to state. You actually can record people without their knowledge in a lot of places. That’s unfortunate. Remember back when our right to privacy was something we actually valued? Now we get more upset about our right to guns.

The other thing I found out is that there are an amazing number of items out there for recording care providers. Ladies and gentlemen who do this job: beware. You may be like me and already feel paranoid all the time that someone is watching and judging you (when largely they are not, but then sometimes they are, at your worst moment).

And guess what? They really could be watching you at any time. Not just audio, but video recorders disguised as alarm clocks, lamps, thermostats, even boxes of tissues.

What a scary freakin world we live in.

I’ll admit that sometimes awful things happen in child care centers. But that doesn’t mean they’re all evil, and sadly that’s what happens in this field. Every time some jackass puts Benadryl in the kids’ milk we all pay the price. You know by your own instincts and by watching your child’s behavior whether something is really wrong.

Here’s a nice alternative to this situation: ask your provider what’s going on. A lot of things happen in child care that when reported by a 2- or 3-year-old can be construed in an ugly manner. And it’s important to know that the bigger your reaction, the more the child is going to say it.

If Jenny comes home from day care and says, “Joey hit me,” of course you’re going to be upset. But if mom and dad give her a lot of attention for it, and spend the rest of the evening talking about it, and processing it, and asking her over and over about it, and asking her every day if it happened again, Jenny’s gonna keep talking about it.

I joke about this because it’s exactly what I did. It was the first question out of my mouth every day when I picked up my son. “Did Joey hit you today?” What expectation was that setting up for him?

Of course be concerned, ask the provider, talk about how to respond. But don’t make it the focal point of your life.

And here’s the key: ask your child what the provider did when Joey hit her. If Joey got a timeout or the provider hugged your child or even talked to them about what was going on, she did what she should have.

Much of the time I don’t report all behavior to parents because I believe in addressing it in the moment and not tattling. The old “Just wait until your father comes home!!” doesn’t work because it takes the power out of my hands. The child feels like I can’t handle it alone, spends the whole day worrying, and mom and dad get hit with bad news about their kid the moment they walk in the door. If a problem persists, I’ll talk to the parents about it and ask how they deal with it, and ask what insight they have into their child’s behavior that could help me.

But if I’ve worked it out and given an appropriate consequence, there’s usually no reason for me to report it. So if a child goes home and says, “Johnny kicked me!” I would hope that the parent hearing this would trust that I handled the situation. When I talked to my provider about my son being hit, she helped me feel better.

Here’s the thing: kids hit. And it’s normal at this age. That doesn’t make it any nicer, but often they don’t know another way to get what they want. They can’t talk, and they can’t negotiate, and they can’t even tell the provider what they’re thinking. If she’s a good one, she can take one look at the situation and figure it out. And she will, like I do, spend most of her time teaching them better ways of behaving.

Keep in mind that a hit from a two-year-old is not going to do permanent damage. And sometimes, I know you don’t want to hear this but, your child may have been the instigator. That doesn’t make them bad! It makes them human. Normal, human, two-year-old children with all the faults and foibles that come with the territory.

And the sad reality is that as our kids grow older, there will always be someone out there who will hit, or tease, or taunt, or otherwise assault our kids. It’s up to us to teach them how to respond.

One of my moms was asking me a lot of questions about how her daughter behaves for me. It was mostly out of concern because she was afraid that her daughter was showing me some of the beautiful behaviors that she showed mom (i.e. tantrums, stubbornness, not listening, etc). I told her that her child is a doll. And yes, she does all those things. And that’s OK, because she’s TWO YEARS OLD.

She asked, but how do you handle it when she does that? What do you do to make her cooperate?

And we went through a bunch of scenarios and tools that I use that may become another post someday, but she ended the conversation with, “I wish I could be a fly on the wall at Amy’s House.”

Now THAT’S what I want to hear. What a great idea! To be able to disappear and see how her child is interacting without being a distraction, because as long as mom is around that child is thinking about mom and nothing else (and usually acting out because it’s transition time).

So if Mom was a fly on the wall, here’s what she would see. That her child can share toys and notice when someone else is upset and ask if they’re ok. That she has awesome imaginary games where all kinds of crazy things are happening in her world. That she can get into a screaming match with other kids over who is 2 (“No I’m 2!” “No, I’M 2!” “NO! I’M TWOOOOO!” Ad infinitum, I swear to you I’m not making it up. When one of them is really 3, by the way). That sometimes she is incredibly self-sufficient, and sometimes I have to beg for her cooperation. That she and her BF made up a game where “The LIONS!!! Lions are coming!!!” and they run away screaming with glee.

And if she wanted to see what I was doing, she would see a human being working with nine kids who sometimes loses it, not a super-powered angel of mercy who never has a moment of frustration. She would see me correcting behaviors all day, chasing kids around and making sure they’re safe, asking them five times to do something and occasionally on the sixth time having to speak a little more sternly. She would probably notice that when I raise my voice, it’s because someone is hurting someone else or is in a dangerous situation. And that the kids respond to me – and actually love me, I think – because I’m predictable and trustworthy. She would even hear me laughing at silly things the kids do or see me giving them kisses and hugs and cuddles.

My child care provider friend Karen has a great response any time someone doubts their provider. She says, “My advice to all parents is this: make unannounced visits to the place you choose for your child. I would be happy to have you find us making muffins, playing play dough, or doing the Hokey Pokey.” And once in a while, instead of asking who hit them, ask who they played with and what was their favorite part of the day. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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