Child Behavior Problems: Coordinating With Other Caregivers
Here's what to do when you and other caregivers aren't on the same discipline page.
You want your child to behave -- but sometimes, he's got other ideas. As a parent, it's your job to teach your child how to act appropriately, make good choices and accept the consequences when his behavior is unacceptable. Discipline is hard enough, but it's even more difficult when other caregivers don't back up your decisions -- or even go over your head and change how you've already disciplined your child. Don't fume in silence: Take action to make sure that you and all other caregivers are on the same page in dealing with child behavior problems. Not only will this make your life less stressful, but knowing what's expected of him will give your child a sense of security.
- Define Your Discipline Strategies
The first step in working with other caregivers is to define your discipline strategies. You're the parent, so you get to decide what you'll discipline your child for and what that discipline will look like. You should involve older children in the process of creating the rules, suggests Amy McCready, creator of the Positive Parenting Approach and author of "If I Have to Tell You One More Time...," because it increases the odds that your child will follow them. Write down these rules, such as what time your child goes to bed, what he's allowed to eat for a snack, how much time he gets to play video games or watch television and whether he's permitted to play outside with neighborhood friends. Write down your chosen consequences, too, such as a loss of video game time for failing to do chores or loss of television time if he gets into trouble at school. Model the type of behavior you want to see from your child, as well, recommends Debbie Pincus, a licensed mental health counselor and author of "The Calm Parent" program.
To come up with your discipline plan, check out Time Out: How to Create a Discipline Plan.
- Inform All Caregivers
Give a copy of your written rules and consequences to everyone who provides care for your child. Ask each person to read the list of rules and consequences with you, and invite each of them to ask questions. Making your discipline wishes known to others who care for your child is essential, Pincus emphasizes. Be willing to take suggestions, however, because your child's other caregivers love him too, and they might have some valuable insight about additional rules or alternate consequences for child behavior problems. Effective communication is key when disciplining children, McCready notes. This doesn't mean you have to agree with your caregiver's suggestions or alter your discipline plan, but by listening, you might hear an idea that you really like.
For advice on deciding how your nanny should discipline your children, take a look at How a Nanny Should Discipline Your Kids.
- Be Flexible
You've heard the old adage that there are exceptions to every rule, and that's true in certain situations. For example, if your child is staying with grandma and grandpa on a Tuesday night and you're running late to pick him up, his grandparents might offer your child a dinner that doesn't include a green vegetable and does include a bowl of ice cream for dessert. This might break your "no dessert during the week" policy, but it doesn't really harm your child in the long run. Of course, you should speak up if the broken rule puts your child in danger -- but sometimes it's best to let something go, especially when your child is out of his routine.
- Know When to Find a New Caregiver
It's bound to be a tough decision, but sometimes you have no choice but to let a caregiver go. Putting your child in danger calls for immediate firing, of course, but what if you arrive home to once again find your child playing computer games and eating candy instead of doing homework, even though you have already let your caregiver know -- twice -- that homework must be done first and you have a no-candy rule on weekdays? When a caregiver repeatedly goes over your head and allows your child to break your rules, it's time to find a new caregiver. If your child's caregiver is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or close family friend, this can be particularly difficult -- but if you've tried talking with them and it doesn't work, you have to put your child's welfare first.
Sara Ipatenco has a bachelor's and a master's degree, both in child development and elementary education. Ipatenco writes articles about parenting, education, nutrition and green living and has been published in "Teaching Tolerance" and "Family Fun" magazines.
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