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The Problem-Solving Parent: The Parenting Partnership
By Eleanor Reynolds

As a parent, you expect certain accommodations from your child’s caregiver. You want the best care for your child. After all, you are paying for this service. But if you perceive your child’s caregiver as an employee only, you may be missing out on one of the greatest benefits of child care: the parenting partnership.

Choosing the Right Caregiver for Your Child
When you choose a caregiver for your child, you are entering into a relationship that has the potential to enrich and enhance your family’s life. By embracing your child’s caregiver, you demonstrate to your child that he is free to form a loving bond with another human being without feeling disloyal to you. You may feel a slight twinge of guilt or defensiveness, but it is important to overcome those feelings. Your child’s self- confidence depends on your approval; he needs to know that the people he loves have his best interest at heart.
On the other hand, you are ultimately responsible for the quality of care your child receives. Your child’s teacher, for example, may not completely share your philosophy for child-rearing; her standards of cleanliness or safety may be very different from yours; and she may lack the degree of warmth and empathy you wish for your child. She is also likely to be overworked, underpaid, and caring for too many children. There are probably a variety of demands you’d like to make but worry that she’ll be offended. Walking the tightrope between trust and vigilance can be tricky, but here are a few tips to help you build a positive relationship with your child’s caregiver.

Use a problem-solving approach. Avoid criticism and present your concern as a problem to be solved by you and your child’s teacher. Ask the teacher for her ideas and offer your own. Negotiate until you find a solution on which you can both agree. Whenever possible, allow your child to participate in the negotiation process. This teaches your child to be part of the solution and motivates him to comply. Learning to negotiate is a lifelong skill you can impart to your child.

When there is a health or safety issue, do some research to be sure you are on solid ground. For example, many people still believe that children catch colds from getting cold. Actually, children catch colds from the spread of germs. The best way to avoid a cold is diligent hand washing, not requiring a coat when the child already feels comfortable. Ask the teacher if children wash their hands with soap before meals and after toileting.

If you and a teacher reach an impasse and cannot solve a problem, ask the director to facilitate. A strong director may offer ideas of her own and can help the two of you find an acceptable solution. The director can also give you insight into the feasibility of your request and whether your needs can be met in her program.

Never discuss your child’s teacher in a negative way in your child’s presence. Your child may feel confused and disloyal. Children sense when there is discord in their environment and typically react with undesirable behavior.

When making milestone decisions, consult with your child’s caregiver instead of making demands. For example, some pediatricians give all parents the same timetable for weaning, eliminating pacifiers, or beginning toilet training without considering the child care setting. Children in child care experience more stress and receive less individual attention. Your child’s teacher sees your child’s reaction; listen to her.

You may envision a specific approach to parenting, but if you are entrusting your child to an unrelated caregiver, you might have to forego some of that approach. No one will fit every standard and requirement, but that may be good. Most children learn to adjust their behavior to the expectations of various adults and your child will probably do the same.

Eleanor Reynolds is the editor of The Best of the Problem-Solver: Articles for Parents and Teachers and the author of Guiding Young Children: A Problem-Solving Approach. She can be reached by email at problem@blarg.com.