Friday, December 12, 2008

Day Care Luck

I know I am not making an original observation when I say that many of the ideas about parenting that I had before Pumpkin was born have turned out to be completely wrong. I don't know why I continue to be surprised by the number of things I didn't know, but I do.

Earlier this week, I had lunch with a good friend of mine. She has a job very similar to mine, and has only recently returned to work after having her second baby. As you'd expect, we spent much of our lunch discussing the ups and downs of working motherhood. I mentioned that we are working with Pumpkin again on "no biting"- after a couple of months of no bites at day care, we have started getting bite reports again. We have no idea what has triggered this, but are back to talking to Pumpkin about biting, reading her the Teeth Are Not for Biting book, and playing out the biting scenario and consequences with her baby doll and stuffed bunny. The conversations are slightly more enlightening now, since Pumpkin has more language skills, but we still can't get her to tell us why she bites. She does tell us who she bites, and that she bit on the arm, and "no, no, bite, hurts". She also is responding better to the play scenarios. She's not biting everyday this time around, and seems to know that biting is wrong. So maybe we'll get past this phase faster this time.

However, it turns out we are lucky that our day care doesn't expel children for biting. My friend listened to my story about Pumpkin, and said she was really glad her eldest had only bit once or twice because several kids have been expelled from her day care for biting, and that the school only gives the parents a week or two to sort the biting out before they expel. Both my friend and I think this policy is unduly harsh- it is very hard for a parent to stop a toddler from biting. I could see expelling a child if the parents weren't taking the issue seriously, if there was some indication that the child needed specialist care, or if there was reason to believe the bites were causing serious harm. None of the bites Pumpkin has ever gotten at day care were bad enough to worry me. They are just little marks on the arm. Her teachers say that the bites she has dished out are similar. Expelling a child who developmentally doesn't yet have the capacity for self control for minor bites seems unfair, particularly if the parents are doing everything they can to solve the problem.

The child is not going to learn from the experience. A toddler is too young to understand why her day care arrangement has changed. But the parents will have a pretty miserable time dealing with the expulsion. Most day cares that take babies under the age of 2 have long waiting lists. The parents of the expelled child would have no option but to hire a nanny, and would probably end up taking at least a week off of work while they found a nanny.

Pumpkin landed in a day care with more lenient policies purely by chance. It did not occur to me to ask about this when we were looking at day cares, and even if I had asked, I don't think I would have realized that the answer I was looking for was the lenient one. If I ever write a book about the things you really need to know to be a working mother, this would definitely be something I'd put in the chapter on choosing day care. This, and the advice about sippy cups.


  1. I agree, the policy your referring to is harsh. Probably a consequence of living in a litigious world?

  2. Wow, that policy is totally unreasonable. Every time a biting situation has arisen at Swee'pea's daycare (either him or other kids) the teachers always make it clear that it's a pretty normal phase -- although important to make it clear that biting is not ok.

  3. I see things from the other end. I was disheartened to pick up my kid so many times after she had been bitten or scratched (once right next to her eye!). It was always the same kid, who was not expelled.

    My daughter's first birthday and Halloween pix are both marred by marks on her face from the other kid. She still has a faint scar next to her eye, 6 years later.

    Quite a few families left in frustration because they wouldn't expel the biter. Two hired one of the teachers as a shared nanny. So the daycare center's policy lost them one teacher and about 4 families.

  4. @badmomgoodmom- I don't think day cares should NEVER expel for biting, but I do think they should give parents a chance to deal with the problem. Hubby and I feel horrible when we get a bite report, and we are trying everything we can think of to fix the problem, but its hard to control what our toddler does when we aren't there. We would be practically frantic if we only had a week to solve the problem before she was expelled.

    I am surprised your day care told you who bit/scratched. We never know who the other child is, whether Pumpkin was the biter or the bitee.

    I don't know why, but biting or scratching another child's face seems more serious to me. Pumpkin has only ever come home with bites or scratches on her arm, and from what the teachers tell us, she only ever bites on the arm, usually if a child takes a toy from her or if another child gets too close to her and won't back off.

  5. I think that's a pretty harsh policy too. As with any bad behavior that comes with a developmental phase, it can take more than a week to resolve the issue. Biting and hitting are tough ones, but seem to be pretty common at certain ages.

    I agree that biting and scratching the face is worse.

    We are starting to look into daycares. Now I know a new thing to look for. Any other advice? I'm getting nervous...

  6. @Caramama- don't be nervous. Day care has mostly been a good experience for us! Well, except for the germs that go around....

    I'd look for a place that has a good outdoor play area. Pumpkin loooooves going outside at day care. When we say she's going to day care, the first thing she says is her two teachers' names and "outside".

    We went with a center closer to work than home. It sucks to sit in traffic with your kid, but it is nice to be able to get there quickly for any special events (like the Halloween parade) or if she's sick and needs to go home.

  7. The incident reports never say who the other child is. However, the marks on my kid were obvious and the parents apologized.

    I knew they were trying, and their elder kid had no behavior issues. In fact, the father is a local cop and well regarded for his even temperament. They were struggling with the kid, too.

    The biting lasted between a year and a year and a half. Our family stuck it out but many did not. The daycare center was extremely patient with the kid; she stayed there for 5.5 years.


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.