Toddler hurting children at daycare

I recently withdrew my 2 year-old daughter from a daycare center she was in for the past 16 months. It was a culmination of things but the deciding factor was when my daughter was scratched on her cheek (right below the eye) by another toddler. I was enraged when they notified me at work of this incident. The reason why I was so angry was because this little boy has hurt every child in the center at least once! To me he is exhibiting violent behavior.

The administrator told me they don't take to "time-outs" at this age and said she would "shadow" him. After 2 weeks of observing no shadowing on this little boy and more incidents, I couldn't go to work without feeling anxious about her well-being all day. Do you feel the administrator did the right thing? I feel this boy is not feeling any consequences for his inappropriate actions.

Question:

Dear Karen,

The daycare center director is correct when she tells you that time outs don't work for children at the age of 2. Not until a child is 3 does he or she realize that the time out is actually connected to the action just committed. So, the punishment doesn't fit the crime, in that it doesn't teach a lesson. Time outs are extremely effective between 3 and 4 years of age. (After 4, one really needs to change again to another form of discipline, conflict resolution.)

Certainly, shadowing is the best idea for a child with such little impulse control. But the director can't just talk about it. She has to DO it. And it isn't easy. It is time-consuming and enervating for the teachers. One teacher must be with the child at all times, constantly watching everything he does. She must not take her eyes off the child for a minute. This way, the unacceptable behavior can be stopped before it begins, as children generally give some sign that they are about to hit or scratch, even if it's only a change in facial expression.

Because this is such a difficult task, the teachers in a room need to alternate at this job. Each one can spend half an hour with the child, keeping him from hurting others. This produces a better day for the child in question, as well, because he is being taught how to control his impulses.

If you didn't see this work going on - and you probably couldn't have missed it if it were happening - then you certainly did the right thing in removing your daughter from the center. Every child deserves a safe environment. If it isn't there, no learning can take place.

I'm sure you can find a better, safer place for your daughter.

Best of luck,
Patti Greenberg Wollman

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