Good Child-Care Providers Evaluate Behavior

By: JUDY LYDEN

Scripps Howard News Service

Child-care providers can't escape making judgments. Nor should they.

Caring providers measure, weigh and pass judgment on many things that affect the children in their care: toys, play stations, nutrition, projects, discipline, bathroom procedures and TV shows, to name a few.

Providers judge not the child, but, it seems, everything about him: his progress, his development and his daily behavior.

Providers make judgments about a child's physical and emotional well-being and follow those judgments up with schemes about how to make changes in behavior.

When difficult problems arise, a really critical evaluation may be necessary because a child needs to develop socialization skills he isn't receiving at home.

"Well, he's not that way at home; it must be something you're doing wrong," carps an outraged mother when told her child has been hitting, spitting and kicking other children.

As an only child, of course he's not going to display that kind of behavior at home.

Criticism is not necessarily a negative thing.

But caring admonition and correction should come from the heart: We say, "I love you, but you need to do it right."

The opposite of caring admonition is disregard, which says, "It doesn't really matter, and neither do you."

The point of judgments and criticism is to teach children to play happily with others, enjoy outings and sit quietly enough to learn wonderful things.

The alternative - ignoring horrible behavior and responding only to the positive - produces children destined to suffer abuse from their peers. And children can be quite intolerant of other children's misbehavior.

Too, providers who use the "positive only" technique burn out quickly. They become exhausted pretending that cooperative children can play happily with bullies.

Parents should not fear a provider who makes demands on children and judges behaviors. Children gravitate toward providers who challenge them, make them mind and teach them real stuff. Children crave discipline and a firm set of standards because it makes life so much easier and a lot more fun, both for them and their day care community.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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