Another crazy parent/provider episode.
I'm just going to skip the narrative here, and paste in a copy of my email to the furious parents, minus identifying details. It probably speaks for itself. I only regret that I didn't mention to them the fact that their child kicked a little girl so hard in the face that he gave her a bloody nose this week. She admitted freely that it wasn't on purpose, that they were just playing, and I talked to her parents, and they were cool about it. Understood that kids hurt one another. These parents don't/can't comprehend that (and I quote) their "son would NEVER hurt another child. He is not the aggressor."
Their child "C" has been hurt twice in as many months by the child we will call "D". Who, by the way has been diagnosed as autistic. I agree with his parents that he probably isn't autistic, but he is delayed–I think I've written about him here before. He has a speech impediment that makes it very difficult for him to communicate, and sometimes he gets frustrated. Especially when another child is making fun of the way he talks, or pretending not to understand when they clearly do.
So, the first one was a bite. Serious, yes. Deserved after a morning of relentless teasing? Probably. The second was a poke in the eye. Both times C's parents called and came over here up in arms that their child had been hurt and wanted to know my "protocol" in a situation like this. Thus the following email, since I'm not good at thinking on my feet. Actually, I was sitting and they were towering over me, demanding answers. Quite intimidating actually. This time they are going to look for other childcare options, but please, don't consider yourself done caring for our child until we weigh all our options.
Dear A and B,
I think I have not been very clear about discipline procedures here at our childcare, or what has been going on with C. Main reason:
At the end of the day, when you ask if C has behaved himself, I tell you he has had a great day, because he really is growing. It has taken him a while to remember the rules–you can't climb up onto the roof. You can't throw food. You can't make paper snowballs with the pages out of the books. Normal, spontaneous four-year-old boy behavior, that he is learning to control, and has been doing a fantastic job with. The growth I have seen in C since the beginning of September is outstanding for a child his age.
C has been more respectful about other people's property and person. He asks permission before he gets into things. He remembers rules and tries so hard to remember to obey them. He has done so much better about not calling names and not making fun of D's speech impediment. He has learned to play with a child who is very different than himself, and get along. (Most of the time!)
I do not tell you about every time-out, or every lie or mistake C makes because I feel these things are between C and myself–if he feels like he pays the consequence of his behavior here, and then I turn around and tell on him, he isn't going to trust me. I firmly believe that with the exception of truly chronic or disturbing behavior, it is more important to forgive, forget and start every day with a clean slate of– I like you, I think you're a great kid, and I trust you to make better choices. I can't do that, if I can't move past the misbehavior as soon as the consequences have been dealt out. If it is safety or serious moral behavior patterns emerging, I'm going to tell you, of course. If he pulls down his pants because he wants to show G his incredibly cool spiderman underwear, I'm going to discuss this with him. If he does it again, then I'll discuss it with you.
I want him to understand that when he tells me, or another child, sorry, and tries to do better, that I have forgiven him, and he can try again.
I hope this protocol about misbehavior is something you feel comfortable with. I really hate to "tell on" C, unless his behavior here is something he isn't willing to work on here. And so far he is willing. Every day he does better. Don't we all? And doesn't God let us have another day, and another and another, and blesses us beyond measure?
I don't like to reinforce the negative. I want him to understand that I understand that he is really trying hard to make good choices. This goes for the other children as well. Obviously, if a child does something really dangerous, I have to talk to the parents, as I did with D biting.
If a child misbehaves for Marty, he will send them in saying, D needs a time out. He hurt C. And I back him up. But I don't ask for details or rehash the behavior. I trust his judgment and he trusts me to back him up, and it goes the other way too. When he sends C in, I don't ask for the details–it is between him, the child he hurt, and Marty. This is why, when you call, I don't know exactly what happened. After the time out, I will ask Marty and the hurt child if this child can come back out to play.
If the behavior is repeated, or really out of line, they stay inside and think of something really nice they can do for the other person, so that when that other child comes in, there is a picture or a snack or a sticker to share. But they still have to stay inside, all day.
Just so we understand one another completely about the consequences of behavior and what constitutes behavior I do need to talk to parents about, I thought I'd list the major points below. Feel free to comment, or raise concerns as you perceive them.
First, the children are never unsupervised. An adult is always watching them, inside and out. We are very careful about this because misbehavior is best dealt with instantly, not after so-and-so said, he said she said they did this.
When a child misbehaves, depending on the severity of his actions, his age and his understanding, he gets a second chance to behave before time-outs begin.
If your child throws toys or fights over toys, I will take the toys away until both children agree who gets the toy.
If your child hits another child out of frustration, he gets a time out, as does the child he hit. They have to mutually agree on when the time out is over and that the other can get up and play, after they apologize to one another. This works really well with C and D because they always want to do the same things. They can't bear to be in time out for very long, and then they become quite chummy.
If your child breaks or spills something, or accidentally hurts someone else, we talk about the behavior that caused the damage, and how it can be avoided in the future. If the behavior is repeated (swinging on the curtains, whipping a coat around in the air so that the zipper hits someone [classic C behavior]) they sit in time out for one minute for every year of their age, and we repeat the talk about better/safer behavior.
If your child lies about behavior, double time out and they have to stay with Kimber all day–no outside time unless she is outside, too. Not as fun as playing with Marty.
If, as occasionally happens, a child seriously hurts another child, they have to stay inside–sometimes for days or a week until they have earned trust back, as happened with D when he bit C.
If in play or anger a child leaves a mark on another child, I have him explain to the child's parent, if at all possible, what happened. This is terrifying to them–rarely do they utter a syllable, as you saw with D.
I address it with the parent of the injured child, just like I did with you when C was bitten–I told you up front what had happened because unless a parent is asking, the children often won't remember to say, hey, this is what happened to me today. I'm sorry I didn't notice the red eyes–he didn't seem to be hurt as much as upset about wanting to take D's blanket inside and D not wanting it inside, etc.
I'm not sure you understood the purpose of my call to you. It wasn't to defend D, so much as to assure you that I do know what's going on, and that it isn't one sided.
You have to realize that C has hurt other children, unintentionally and intentionally. He has never been malicious or really, intentionally dangerous, and so I have never seen a reason to bring it up with you. Kids hurt one another occasionally. [Why didn't I mention this week's bloody nose here? Maybe because I forgive, forget and MOVE ON] We are very careful with both D and C to not leave them alone near the younger children for even a moment because they play with a lot of energy and momentum. They jump off the slide and they wrestle and throw things. Sometimes they get hurt.
I guess I just want you to understand that neither child is a victim here; neither child is totally without fault. But they are four year old boys. After the bite, D wasn't allowed to play with C outside at all, until C was begging, every day–when can D come out? And they have gotten along really well for the most part these last few weeks. They have learned to share toys, and respect one another's property, and even share G [the girl they fight over], no small feat, let me tell you.
I feel like C is doing well here. He has come a long way, and he seems happy. But I don't know your son as well as you do, and there is possibly a better fit for him somewhere else. If you are uncomfortable with my procedures, policies or care, I am totally fine with you looking elsewhere–or even just trying out some other options and asking him what he likes better. I just want to be sure we understand one another.
As far as D and C in the near future, all I can offer is that we can have D not play with or around C until your son asks and receives your permission to do so.
We have many activities here, and they can paint/mold/build/slide/color/read at different times until you find alternate care if that is what you choose. It won't be much of a stretch to separate them since we usually do things in two separate groups anyway.
I really don't feel this is about D specifically as much as it is about you feeling totally comfortable about a good fit for your child in our environment–and that is a crucial thing for a childcare situation. I hope I have explained a bit better what exactly our policies are, and of course, I am open to suggestions.
I have learned to love your children and I wish them the very best, no matter where you take them.
Thanks for your time,