Resolving Problems with the Caregiver
If you do decide to secretly record, you need to check the laws of your state regarding the extent to which taping is legal. As a general rule, videotaping by hidden camera, without audio, is allowed in all states. Some states prohibit recording of sound. Be sure to seek legal advice in this area before purchasing recording equipment.
It is rare indeed for a parent/caregiver relationship to go so smoothly that there never is a difference of opinion or other difficulty between the parties. If there is an issue involving actual harm to your child, working things out is not an option you will want to pursue. On the other hand, less serious problems might be able to be resolved. This would avoid having to go through the process of finding childcare all over again. If you wish to continue the association with your childcare provider, you will want to approach the problem in a firm and direct-yet diplomatic-way. (Situations of child abuse or other harmful circumstances involving your caregiver are discussed in Harmful or Abusive Childcare Situations)
Hopefully you have found a provider who sees eye-to-eye with you in most areas of childcare. However, very few people have identical ideas about how children should be raised. When a difference in opinion as to your child's care arises, the first thing you should do is decide how significant the disagreement is. If the issue is, for example, that the caregiver allows your child to watch too much television, simply requesting a cutback may be all you need to do. On the other hand, if you feel she is placing your child in timeouts inappropriately too often, or for too long, more work may be required to resolve the problem.
If you have a complaint with the care that your child is receiving, the most important thing to remember is to remain calm and bring your concerns to the attention of the caregiver in a considerate manner. This means speaking in a courteous tone and relating your concerns without being accusatory. Listen to what the caregiver has to say. She may have a good reason for what she is doing, or there may be circumstances of which you are not aware. If possible, speak with the caregiver when there are no other parents or children around. If she is busy caring for children, she may not be able to have a productive discussion with you. If you try to talk to her when other parents are present, she may become defensive.
Even though you are the final decision-maker when it comes to your child, try to take into account the training and background your caregiver has. Some childcare workers have years of education and experience to help them in their profession. They may be trying to use techniques in caring for your child that have worked with many other children in the past. Try to keep an open mind. If you approach the situation as a partner with the caregiver, you both will be more likely to reach a solution that is in the best interest of your child.
When the Childcare Provider is Unreasonable or Unreliable
Another kind of problem can occur when the childcare provider is not willing to see your point of view, to respect your wishes with respect to the care of your child, or to show up for work in a timely fashion. These are tough situations that may prove less likely to be resolved.
When a childcare provider flatly refuses to do things your way, you need to examine the reasons why. First of all, ask her. You cannot make an informed decision about the future of your family's relationship with this caregiver if you do not know why she is taking a certain position. Then, consider your own reasons for disagreeing with her position. It is possible that this is an honest disagreement. If so, it is up to you whether it is a deal-breaker for your day care arrangement. On the other hand, it could be that your own rationale for taking a stand is not entirely defensible.
- Example: Your family day care provider has begun screening off your child's crib at naptime because he has been having trouble settling down and is causing disruption for the older children. You believe that the child should not be placed in a separate area for naps. You feel that being isolated from the caregiver and the rest of the children causes him anxiety and keeps him from napping. The day care provider refuses to keep him in the main room because of the effect on the other children. She feels it will do him no harm to become used to sleeping alone, and she takes steps to comfort him while he is in the crib in order to help him fall asleep.
In the case of a day care center, issues may be easier to resolve. There will be a director on staff who can assist in mediating disagreements between parents and caregivers. Also, there is more day care staff who may have other problem-solving suggestions. It may be possible to move a child to another area of the facility where another staff member can be the primary caregiver for the child.
Unreliability is a particularly difficult problem to overcome. It is disruptive to you and your family when the caregiver does not show up, or in the case of a family day care, the caregiver is unable or unwilling to take your child for that day. Obviously, this problem is much less likely to occur in a day care center where there are many day care workers to cover for a sick or otherwise absent coworker, or with a live-in nanny or au pair.
If you have a live-out nanny, you should have a written agreement detailing how missed days are to be handled. (Nanny employment agreements are discussed in In-Home Childcare Employment Issues.) Typically, an agreement will give the nanny a certain number of sick days and vacation days, and any missed work beyond those limits are without pay. Unfortunately, the money is only part of the problem. Far worse for many parents is that they often have to miss work when the nanny or family day care provider is unavailable.
If you have gone through a nanny agency to find your caregiver, it may be able to help you secure backup childcare. If you have found a nanny on your own or use a family day care provider, hopefully you have discussed backup care before placing your child with that provider. Otherwise, you should always have a plan in place for the unfortunate event that your childcare arrangement falls through. ( Backup Childcare discusses backup childcare.)