The Naughtiest Kid in Daycare

I couldn't believe my own child was the naughtiest kid in daycare.

shawn reagan

I considered my son, who was two years old when I started my own daycare business, to be a very well-behaved little boy. So when I began accepting children into my daycare and he was the naughtiest kid in attendance, I was very confused. I asked myself some questions:

  • Where did I fail as a mother?
  • Why is he being so naughty?
  • Did I really have any business opening a daycare if I couldn’t even control my own child?
  • What can I do to fix this?

When I stepped back and analyzed the situation, I realized that my son didn’t just become a naughty child overnight. It was actually the only way he knew how to let me know he missed the attention he was used to getting from me.

Imagine how hard it is for your child to instantly have to share you with other children. If your business is like the average in-home childcare business, you have children coming into your home by 7:00 a.m. and staying until at least 6:00 p.m. That’s a long, long time for your child to be sharing mom.

Once I Realized Why My Son Was Acting Out...

I took measures to let him know he was still first priority with me. To let him know he still had my attention, I:

  • Made sure there were times in the day when he sat on my lap or got a special hug. It’s easy to get busy taking care of children and forget about physical contact with your own child.
  • Let him be my special helper. I let him do important jobs for me and then told him how much I appreciated the help he was able to give.  I also let him hear me tell the daycare parents at pickup time what a great helper I had so he had something to be proud of.
  • Gave him a wink or a smile across the room when we made eye contact to let him know I was still thinking about him.
  • Made sure he got undivided attention in the evening and on weekends.
  • Let him know that daycare was my job that provided me with the money I needed to take care of him and to buy him new toys or treats.

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I Did Set Up Some Ground Rules

I let him know exactly how I expected him to act when a daycare parent was picking up or dropping off a child or if I was conducting an interview with a prospective client.

To Help My Children Deal With the Invasion of Their Space, I:

  • Let them have toys that they did not have to share with the daycare kids. Both my children had a chest in their rooms where they could store toys they didn’t want to share.
  • Made it a daycare policy that if a toy of theirs that they were willing to share was broke by a daycare child, I would replace it.
  • Rewarded them for sharing their toys by adding to their collection.  For example, my daughter was always willing to let the daycare children play with her dolls, so I bought many accessories for her to repay her willingness to share.
  • Worked very hard at keeping kids in my daycare that were the same age as my son, and eventually my daughter, so that they always had a good friend to play with every day. 
  • Did not let the daycare children use my children’s bedding.  Although the daycare children used my kid’s bed at naptime, I changed the pillow and blanket. This meant a lot to my kids.

Once I took these measures, my son was no longer the naughtiest kid in daycare. It was, however, a constant battle to prevent resentment for having so many children in the house.

As My Kids Got Older

shawn and jenny reagan

When my children became teenagers, it took a different kind of effort to make sure they didn’t resent daycare in their home.

  • I made sure they had a spot in the house that they could escape to where there were no daycare children. I wish I could have made their bedrooms a "no daycare kid zone", but the size of our house did not permit that.
  • I made sure they understood the benefits of me running a daycare business rather than working outside the home.
  • I allowed them to become summer employees and make an income for their help in my daycare.

The bottom line is, if your own child is the naughtiest kid in daycare, chances are it's their way of asking for some of your attention. Find a way to give it to them.

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Marcia Reagan is the creator of DaycareAnswers and lives in Central Minnesota with her husband and two children.  She's been an in-home daycare provider for over twenty years and loves to share her experience and passion for daycare with other providers.  

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