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Daycare Bullies

Daycare Bullies

By Amalah

Hi, Amalah,

I know you just answered a weird-daycare-situation question recently — it’s actually what has prompted my own query — but I could really use your and your readers’ advice on the following situation.

I have a two-year old boy in a part-time, licensed, at-home daycare. The provider is loving and wonderful, but among the children she cares for is her aggressive four-year old son. Over the last half-year, I’ve watched this child become increasingly aggressive: I’ve seen him throw a wooden block at a three-month old’s face, push my own son into a bookcase; push another child down a slide, and lay my son out flat because he wanted the crayons with which my son played. There have also been mysterious bruises or little cuts that the provider believes (and tells me very apologetically) that her son caused.

Each of these times, the provider was there, and she said something, but she is just not a discipliner/boundary-setter (and not just when it comes to her own son…). I realize as I’m typing this out how stupid it is that I haven’t really brought this up to her, but I haven’t (I mean, in the moment that the event occurs, and I’m right there, I say something to her son [I know that reprimanding other people’s children is not always appropriate, but I cannot not say something when a four-year old purposefully throws a toy at a baby’s face]) and to her.

I just don’t know if I should address this situation more seriously/more specifically, and if I should, how. First, I now pretty much (irrationally) hate her son (I know this is totally ridiculous), so I’m not sure how objective I’m being about the situation. Second, I have a hard time envisioning what I will say if I do bring it up–am I expecting her to just be aware of my concerns or to actually do something, and if the latter, what would that be? I’m a little afraid that if I do bring it up as a concern she might stop telling me when she thinks her son is responsible for my own son’s injuries.

Complicating the situation is that my provider is currently pregnant. She recognizes that her son is going to have a very difficult time adjusting to the baby (he routinely punches her in the stomach when the baby talk starts up), and I’m contemplating pulling him out of the situation when the new baby arrives because I really don’t know how the older child is going to deal with the situation. Doubly complicating the situation is that I’m pregnant, too, and my son really likes and is so comfortable at this daycare situation. I do not want to totally unnecessarily disrupt his life (although we’re currently in the process of selling our house and trying to move, so that ship has pretty much sailed) right before his own brother or sister comes and rocks his world. Basically, I’m just not sure if this is something I definitely should address with my provider (and if so, how) and/or pull out my son, OR if this kind of aggression is within the bounds of normal and really is what I will see more and more of as I continue to parent. What would you (and your readers) do?

Thank you for your help,
M

DANGER WILL INTERNETSON, YOUR ADVICE COLUMN IS RAPIDLY SPINNING OUT OF YOUR REALM OF EXPERTISE!!

Standard disclaimer here: I am not a super-experience daycare veteran. I used the infant room at a Kindercare for a few short months, and that’s it. Ever since, my sending-children-off-into-the-care-of-another experiences have all been either half-day preschools or our part-time, in-home (while-I-am-also-home) babysitter.

First though, let’s talk about irrationally hating other people’s kids. HA! We’ve all done it, or come close to it, I promise. Even if you know, logically, WHY this poor kiddo is acting this way (an overly-permissive mother he already has to “share” all day with other kids, the growing realization that he’ll now have to “share” her all the time with a new sibling), that doesn’t always override your natural reaction of “Wow, what a brat.” Trust me, been there, done that, had to have a “talk” with a super-nice neighbor lady about the marker I had to wash off my playroom walls and could Noah have the MONEY YOUR KID STOLE FROM HIM back please.

So while it’s good to not overreact in situations where you’re silently thinking “stay away from my child, Bad Seed,” you also can’t ignore the facts of this particular situation: Your two-year-old is getting regularly injured by an angry, overly-aggressive four-year-old. Again, I’ve never used a mixed-age in-home daycare setting, but let me tell you that this sort of behavior DOES NOT FLY in pretty much any other childcare/school environment on earth. You are NOT allowed to attend local preschools if you are a serial hitter/biter/toy thrower, and that no tolerance policy starts at like, age 2 or 3. I get a call from Noah’s principal if another child so much as pushes him in the recess line. I had to sign an “incident” report at the YMCA swim camp last summer because Noah accidentally whipped a kid in the legs WITH A TOWEL.

Draconian? Maybe, but at least I’m fairly confident that MOST of the bumps and bruises my kids come home with are 1) self-inflicted, or 2) accidental. And that if it did involve another child, I know that it was dealt with properly and seriously.

So…is there a reason this four-year-old kid isn’t in a “real” preschool setting by now? Besides his mom wanting to save money, or she feels qualified to homeschool him while caring for multiple younger children (including INFANTS)? Because lord, this kid really, really needs to be exposed to some outside rules and structure, otherwise he (and his mom) are in for a really rough go of it in kindergarten.

I realize none of this offers a solution to your problem. I just want to point out that I don’t think you’re overreacting because you’re pregnant and irrationally going Mama Bear on someone else’s kid. This is a pretty big safety issue — it would be bad enough if your son got accidentally seriously injured at daycare, but even worse if you kind of knew that there was regular, escalating aggression going unchecked and didn’t intervene. Throwing a block can result in stitches. A four-year-old “laying out” a much smaller toddler can result in broken bones.

The upset to your son’s routine: oh, man, I feel you there. There are a lot of big chances you’re already throwing at him so I COMPLETELY understand your hesitation to put him through another one. But! Here’s the but:

You say your son is happy and comfortable there. That’s good…except is it really a good thing for him to be all that comfortable in an environment where he’s being injured and/or bullied on a fairly regularly basis? And the adult in charge isn’t doing enough to protect him and put a stop to the aggression? Have you ever witnessed him cringe or recoil from the older boy? Is he coping by simply tossing whatever toy the kid wants and fleeing? Or is he learning to fight back? Does he ever look to his care provider to DO something or has he already processed the fact that she’s probably not paying attention to his problem?

If he’s not doing any of these things: Good. But I’d put money on him doing them soon. This kid’s behavior (and his mom’s reaction to it) has a deeper impact on your son than just the “marks and bruises.”

Ezra attends a Montessori preschool, and in a mixed-age class. It’s age three to six, basically preschool up to kindergarten. The benefits to a mixed-age class are that the younger ones naturally look up to their older peers, and will model/mimic their behavior and basically learn from them AND the teacher. So…what is your son learning from this boy? Throwing blocks at babies? Punching adults? Using his hands instead of his words? How to get away with stuff when the grown-ups are distracted?

What is he learning from this boy’s mother? That those actions don’t have consistent, serious consequences?

It’s unlikely that there’s much you can do or say to her that will deliver instant results: You probably aren’t going to convince her to change her entire parenting style. You can certainly start asking — when she super-apologetically admits that her son “probably” was the one who caused a bruise — what sort of disciplinary actions/consequences she uses to address aggression in the group (be it her son or someone else). You can express your discomfort if you are not happy with her answer, since uh, that doesn’t seem to be working out too well, you know? You can ask if she has plans to move her son to a part-time non-mom-in-charge preschool environment anytime soon.

It came up in the grandma-as-caregiver column and it’s kind of true here, too. Obviously we need to be flexible and understand that other people aren’t going to do everything the way WE would do it, and that comes to parenting and childcare. It’s good to expose our children to those differences…to a point. And personally, for me, that point is somewhere south of letting aggression go unchecked and undisciplined.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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MR
Guest
MR

OMG! Pull your son from there!! That is NOT normal aggression. Yes, 4 year olds can be a little rough. Yes, they don’t understand the consequences of their actions. They might throw a block not understanding it is going to hit the baby. BUT THAT IS WHY THE ADULT IS THERE. The adult is supposed to stop these things from happening and discipline the child appropriately. This is NOT happening here. Scrapes and bruises happen when kids play. But this kid sounds like he is running around unchecked. Your dislike shouldn’t be on him, but on his mom. It is… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Ooh, the over-protective papa bear reaction, I know it well. DH still isn’t speaking to his best friend (since middle school!) after said best friend’s son (who is 15 months older) purposefully hit our two year old in the face with a very large toy 4 months ago. Did they handle it perfectly? No, but they didn’t handle it terribly either.

Jeannie
Guest
Jeannie

I agree with the first commenter — that’s not permissible 4 year old behaviour. Is it understandable, given his situation? Sure. But I have plenty of experience with group daycare, and while that behaviour would gently be corrected in a one or two year old, in a four year old it would most definitely not be tolerated. Honestly I think the bad experiences your son is having trumps the comfort level — I had to move my son from one less than ideal situation to a better one, and he settled in very well, without much problem, and *I* felt… Read more »

Cassie
Guest
Cassie

I have to agree with MR here. This isn’t a one-time issue, it is a pattern of aggression that isn’t being dealt with. I use a licensed, in-home daycare provider, too (although she has been doing this for 30 years, her grandson is about four years old). One of the things I love about my daycare is that she is super-strict about manners and rules. There is no running when one of the infants is in the playroom – even though the infants are always either in a exersaucer or a pack-n-play. There is no throwing. There are defined consequences… Read more »

c
Guest
c

As the previous commenter said, the problem is the Mom and not the son. Sadly, the son will largely bear the consequences of her inaction at this young age. Although not exactly the same, we stopped trading off once per week childcare with a freiend who didn’t appropriately/sufficiently address her 2 year old’s aggression towards our daughter (although when he was at our house we responded quickly, and his behavior was largely fine after a while). I was concerned not only about our daughter being injured (that kid had a serious swing), but about the messages that she was recieving… Read more »

the grumbles
Guest
the grumbles

Holy bananas. We also use a home-based provider with mixed ages and where provider’s children intermingle with the paying-kids. I’ve had my share of concerns where I glare at that-one-kid setting a bad example and particular kids just not getting along very well, but nothing to this level. You need to have full confidence that she is in control. Period. It’s one thing for kids to argue or push or do typical “sibling” style behavior when they’re together all day– this is at a different level. I wouldn’t be satisfied that she’s handling it ENOUGH. Age + repeat offenses +… Read more »

Christina
Guest
Christina

To summarize: mom, not 4-year-old has the (initial) problem. Get your kid out. Don’t question your judgment so much. And do it quickly. Yuck.

SarahB
Guest
SarahB

I would pull my child from such a setting, and I would strongly consider filing a complaint with the state licensing agency.  

Jimmy
Guest

I could maybe, maybe, see working through this if the provider’s kid was a toddler.  But a four year old?!  No.  No, no, no.  Four is big enough to actually hurt the younger kids, and he does so without repercussions.  And by four, my guess is these actions are officially habitual.  He can change, but not quickly.  Yikes.  I’d pull my kid out of that daycare.  The provider isn’t doing her job.  

Maybe the kid is off to school soon, but I don’t have high hopes for the second baby turning out much better.  

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

I’d probably have one last talk with the daycare provider and tell her if this behavior doesn’t improve soon, in a couple weeks maybe, I’m finding someplace else for my son. There is just no way I would be comfortable with my child being bullied on a regular basis. Also, wow. Maybe I’ve just not had much exposure to aggressive children, but punching his mom in the stomach sounds a lot more serious than just acting out. I’m pregnant with my second and the worst my 3 yr old has done is say she’s not happy to see her (soon… Read more »

Amy
Guest

I would take my child out of that situation immediately.  If this woman is so spectacularly failing at raising her own son, why on earth would you let her help raise yours!?

If you leave him there 8-9 hours a day, there’s a good chance that he’s going to grow into a 4 year old that you hate, too.  Then what?

RUN!

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

Pull him out! YOU’re the mama bear – protect your cub!! I’ve already pulled my son from one daycare (he’s 6 months old) because we were unhappy, so it’s a little hard for me to see NOT pulling him out. You gotta do what you gotta do to make sure ALL entities are happy – not just your son. Are you going to stress over the situation if you leave him there? Are you going to work as hard as you did before these problems came up? Are you going to be able to even concentrate on work knowing you… Read more »

liz
Guest

I would take my child out as soon as I found an alternative arrangement, and I would make finding an alternate arrangement a priority. And I would tell the mom WHY you are doing so.

Hannah
Guest

Dayhome provider here, chiming in – yes, remove your child. That is totally unacceptable behaviour in a four year old, and as one other commenter said, if she can’t control her own child you can be very sure that she is not doing right by the other kids in her care, either. I had a bully here about a year ago (not my kid) and after a month of his unchecked and remorseless hitting, kicking, pushing, and toy-throwing, I told his parents he was no longer welcome. It was for the safety of the other kids in my care –… Read more »

Erin
Guest

To me the biggest issue here is that the daycare provider is not a competent disciplinarian. Aggression in toddlers and preschoolers is part of life, as are minor injuries, but it’s the fact that the mother does not seem to be able to handle these incidents appropriately that make me think she is not a good care provider for your son.  As far as transitions go, I’m currently pregnant and have a 2 year old. Advice from our pediatrician was not to make any big changes within a month of baby’s birth on either side, if possible. If you still… Read more »

KelleyD
Guest
KelleyD

I’m a SAHM so I have ZERO daycare experience to speak of and all of our baby-sitting needs are filled by my parents who live close by. We do however belong to a regular playgroup and behavior of this kind is NOT tolerated period in even that casual setting. I don’t think I would give it a week or a month or anything to pull your son out, I would give it as long as it takes to find a new provider and that is it. Period. We have our third on the way at the moment, and my oldest… Read more »

lolismum
Guest
lolismum

I agree, pull him out when you find alternative daycare and make sure the mom knows exactly why you are leaving.

Another thing to alleviate you concerns. Kids are adaptable. At your child’s age, it does not take them long to adapt to a new daycare and they don’t remember the old one. I have two kids, 5 and 7. They have been to preschools, summer camps (in two different countries, two different languages), had 3 different full/part time nannies over the years, they are fine. Find a happy and safe place and don’t fret over the transition. Good luck.

Jolene
Guest
Jolene

Whoo Boy! That daycare provider needs to get an Old Priest and a New Priest to deal with that Demon child she has got on her hands. That is NOT normal behavior for a 4 year old. At 4, they know what they are doing when they lash out physically. I have NO problem going Mama Bear on a kid that hurts mine. Sometimes Kids can be assholes just like grown up people.

tasterspoon
Guest
tasterspoon

I feel so petty wishing my daughter’s in-home daycare changed her cloth diapers more often. This is awful. As so many have said, your child is being injured and nothing is being done to stop it? Imagine instead of the boy your son (and the other clients) were being regularly bitten by your daycare provider’s dog – surely a mere apology wouldn’t cut it, you’d want that dog OUT of there. YESTERDAY. And frankly, just bringing it up and hoping your provider will change her methods is not promising. I agree with others that in addition to voicing your concerns,… Read more »

Kara
Guest
Kara

I had a similar situation when I was trading childcare with my SIL. Her son had shown some aggressive behavior that culminated in her then 4 year-old strangling my then 2 year-old. Her response was to spank him then return him immediately to playing with my son and say to both of our kids, “We need to be kind to each other.” Although my son was not physically hurt I lost it and let her know that my son would not be allowed in her care anymore as she obviously did not take her son’s behavior as seriously as I… Read more »

AmyRenee
Guest
AmyRenee

besides all the discipline issues (which are a big deal, don’t get me wrong), it seems you also have a logistics issue – what are you going to do with your kid (kids? You didn’t say who was due first) when her baby is born? I can’t imagine she’ll want to be babysitting with a 2 week old, so what will you do then? You will have to come up with an alternate plan for childcare, which would definitely be a change in routine. Given that, combined with the discipline issue, I think it is time for you to find… Read more »

Mandi
Guest
Mandi

The thing that really gets me is your having another baby – your son may be handeling this ok (which I would pull him out regardless) but he’s a toddler and can run away. Are you actually thinking about putting a defenseless baby with this little terror? Add in that she will have her OWN little baby to handle and things could get very ugly. Also, I’m curious, how many children does she watch? Because the additon of her and your new babies might push her over the 6 child limit and you would need to find a new daycare… Read more »

Therese
Guest
Therese

Most of the previous commenters have covered the issue related to the daycare strucure and the toddler’s behavior, so I won’t repeat. What I will offer is that I have experience with (an almost) 2 year old and a newborn and switching childcare. In my situation, our daycare only served children from birth through age 2 so we knew our son would have to move. Our son was 22 months old when his baby sister arrived. We kept him at his original daycare provider for the first few weeks after she was born and then kept him at home. Both… Read more »

andrea
Guest
andrea

I was in a similar daycare situation as a child.  I was in an in-home setting where one child was a bully.  He beat me up and bullied me everyday until one day I ended up in the er with a concussion.  The child was finally removed.  I know my mother up to that point had numerous conversations with the provider, but nothing changed until I had the concussion.  Don’t wait for something serious to happen.

S
Guest

No daycare experience here, but as a pregnant mom with a four year old son (who believe me is quite the handful and no angel by any means) I can tell you I would NEVER tolerate him hitting my belly! Once a kid is beyond the toddler stage and has a few years under their belt of gently absorbing the “we don’t hit” rule, that kind of stuff is completely NOT age appropriate and should not be tolerated for a second. There should be a definite consequence, not just a reprimand, for something like that. Of course kids sometimes have… Read more »

Diane
Guest
Diane

Pull him now! My daughter attended preschool with another boy at age 4.  When we arrived to pick her up with toddler son in tow (who had never encountered boy before) he was tackled and sent flying to the floor (at 15 months)! He was kicked out soon after. Fast forward to grade school and school offered summer day camp.  Great mature counsellors and loads of supervision.  Outside every day, swimming once a week etc.  Kids loved it.  The same boy was at camp and tried to DROWN my son on several occasions.  Daughter and counsellors intervened each time and… Read more »

Katie
Guest
Katie

I had a situation where I did not agree with my at home provider’s discipline.  Basically she did not discipline her own children, which was fine when mine was a baby.  Her 2 year old and 5 year old would fight over a toy and the 2 year old would shriek until she got her way.  She yelled at the older one to give it to her.  One day I had them over for a birthday party and her kids knocked over my living room chair.  she didn’t even yell at them – I had to.  It actually ended up… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

I find it interesting how quickly everyone judges the mom for the son’s behavior. There may be more here than meets the eye. I have an Aspie daughter who has had issues with aggression since she was tiny, and let me tell you, traditional parenting did NOTHING to change it for the better. It’s been a long, hard road, and the judgements of strangers haven’t made it any easier. To assume this mom is doing nothing to remedy the situation… Well, it may be true, it may not. You have no idea what goes on in that home or what… Read more »

Dmom
Guest
Dmom

Leave…now. At home daycare is a lovely alternative to daycare centers where smaller kids especially get the same love and attention that they would at home. When it is done right!!! I had a licensed daycare meaning I fulfilled regulatory requiments in our region similar to those that are required by YMCA’s and other sorts of places. I submitted to a police check on an annual basis, I had my level C CPR, I had all sorts of safety equipment in my home checked quarterly by my supervisor, I attended workshops on planning, implementing and following up with diciplinary actions,… Read more »

Jen
Guest
Jen

I am a home daycare provider. I do not have children of my own, so I am speaking strictly as a daycare provider. Just a few thoughts: 1) A child that age does NOT need to be in an organized preschool setting. Not required, and shouldn’t be something that someone uses as a mark against this mther. Not to say he couldn’t benefit from that environment and outside authority, just saying that she has every right ot keep him home if she wishes. 2) It is unfair for you to ask this mother to change her parenting to suit your… Read more »

Emily
Guest
Emily

I also have a 2 year old boy in a home daycare provider….and I’m pregnant too. If it were me, I would remove the child immediately. Your son loves the daycare – I get it. But, he’s 2–He’ll get over it. On his last day, I would explain (in person or in email) the reasoning behind the decision to leave. Not to insult her parenting skills but to give her feedback on how she operates her business and why you have decided to take your business elsewhere. I would also file a complaint with the state.