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Pulled From The Daycare Forum

Pulled From The Daycare Forum

Hunni Bee said:

“I work in a center, and we have an Infant/Young Toddler Room. There’s a about 5 kids in there…2 14 or 15-month olds, 2 just-turned-one’s, and 7 month old. (At 18 months they go to the Toddler Room).

They all cry ALL DAY LONG.

They are not neglected, the teacher attends to their every need. They are played with all day long, sang songs with. They are fed exactly when they’re hungry, allowed to nap when they get tired….If there’s more than four present, there’s automatically two teachers in there. The same two teachers everyday.

They just are never happy. They all have to be held in order to not cry, so one or two of them is crying at all times. And at 14 and 15 months, they shouldn’t need to be held all the time should they?”

This is a scenario both home child care providers and center workers come across at some point in their career.  In the last five years we have seen  a marked increase of infants and toddlers crying the majority of the day while in group care.   I believe it is primarily because there are popular parenting methods that net healthy older mobile infants (8 months to 12 months) and healthy toddlers (one to two year olds) who become reliant on minute to minute adult involvement that is markedly disproportionate to the amount of adult attention that can be given in group care. I’m speaking specifically of attachment parenting and “no cry” parenting.

I’m not making a judgment on whether or not these types of parenting models are good or bad. I’m referring only to how the babies who are the recipient of this level of adult interaction at home fare in the multi-level aged group care in a home child care with one provider or in the same aged group care with multiple providers in a center.

If the provider or center worker can provide one to one care of the older mobile infant or toddler and makes the agreement with the parent that they receive and provide attachment care then this blog won’t be for you. If you can’t reasonably provide one to one care and would like a few tried and true methods for working with infants and toddlers to tolerate group care, where they receive their equal share of the adult, this blog is for you.

In my experience most children want an adult to entertain them as much as possible. Not all kids, but most by far. Mobile infants and toddlers want to be picked up and carried around because that action on the part of the adult insures that the child get an “up” view that is constantly moving. It’s like watching movies to them. It’s constant input with zero output on their part. It’s just like us adults watching TV.

There are two methods I have used for kids like this.

The gradual desensitization : The first thing is to make a commitment that you aren’t going to pick the child up unless you are transporting her from point A to point B. Whenever she wants to be picked up, drop down to the floor and hold her on your lap. Do NOT walk around. Just sit still with her and do absolutely nothing time after time after time. Don’t try to engage her or make her happy on your lap. Just sit still and remain calm and motionless.

This will allow her to be “on” you with NO entertainment. Eventually she will become bored with just sitting there and want to get into the action. Have toys available a few feet from you but do not let her play toys while on your lap. If she wants to play she has to go to the toys herself. When she does venture away from you start backing your body up to get a bit further and further away.

When she gets used to you being a bit away from you then start standing up. Don’t walk away. Just supervise her from a standing position. If she insists on being held again drop to the floor and repeat the above. You will hold her but not walk her. You will hold her but not have play time in your lap. When she is on your lap have her face toward the toys. Do not hold her into your body. She needs to see what she is missing. Don’t rock her or entertain her in any way. Just hold her.

Once she accepts you standing over her and does not expect to be picked up then start standing with your body turned from her and your eyes diverted from her. Get her used to you not engaging her at all but you are physically still close to her. Once she accepts that then start standing further and further away.

The next phase is to start doing what you need to do but within a reasonable distance to her. Eventually she will allow you to tool around without having to be with you but it will take time. Whenever she is insisting on being held and you simply can’t do the “sit on my lap with no entertainment” gig then put her in her pack n play and do what you have to do.

The other method is more commando style: Do not sit and hold kids for long periods of time. Expect them to go play toys. That is their job in child care. Like the other method, the only time to carry them is to get them from point A to point B. When you do hold them it’s for a quick snuggle or a story but do not spend their play time holding them.

When we get a new one we do a week or so of the ease into it approach. If the child rejects it and tries to force us to hold them with constant fussing and chasing after us we just keep putting them back to their play area (our playroom is divided by age) and tell them firmly to go play toys. We put them at the furthest point in the room with their back to us as we sit them down. We then turn and walk back to what we are doing.

We cruise the room or sit at one end of the room doing what we need to do and just keep reinforcing what we want them to do… which is to play. If they continue to cry to the point where it ruins the atmosphere for the other kids and starts upsetting the group we put them in a large play yard filled with toys where we can see them but they are not in the play area of the other kids. If they can’t play quietly and nicely with the other kids we give them a lovely play yard where they can play by themselves away from the other kids. We of course supervise them constantly but we do not let them decide what we do when we do it by their crying. It’s not fair to everyone else in the house that their crying rules the house and rules what we do with and for the other kids.

When they are consistently quiet and engaged in the toys we have for them in the play yard then we move them back with their age mates with the expectation that they go play toys. It usually takes a few weeks to get the idea across that it’s more fun to play with their little friends than to play by themselves in the play yard.

We have an enormous and varied toy selection here for every age group. We have a lot of time in each day when they are doing group activities like outdoor time and meals. We have a consistent schedule and a nice flow to having adult involvement and time to play without the adult. There is no reason whatsoever for a child to need an adult to constantly interact with them here. BUT… I have found that most kids would choose to have an adult interact with them every minute than have thousands and thousands of dollars worth of toys and other children to free play with. It’s kind of like “the worst kind of riding beats the best kind of walking” deal. An adults interaction is always preferred to even the best group of kids and the best play environment.

What Hunni’s babies are doing is what every kid in my house would do if I let them. They would much rather me one to one them and carry them around than to play. The difference with this group of little one is that they are demanding it by constant screaming and getting all the adults to do it as a result of their fussing. This group isn’t special in their “wants”, they are special in what they GET with this behavior.

I don’t allow the little ones to dictate what we do by crying and I don’t try to solve crying with constant one to one interaction. I know it nets a baby that is very unhappy and never fulfilled. When you have a group of unhappy babies it makes for an unhappy caregiver and exponential chaos every day.

The best way I have found to minimize it and eventually eliminate it is to gradually get them used to venturing away from you by providing little advantage to being held.   If that doesn’t work, a firm expectation that they go off and self entertain with the other children.   If the child continues to protest then separate them from the group with a toy filled play yard or super yard.  This will give them a smaller area to be successful in and an area away from the other children so their fussing doesn’t upset the group.  Once they settle down and start self entertaining with toys then you can gradually start reintroducing them into the group.  They will still need some time throughout the day when they may become overstimulated and need to return to the smaller less stimulating play yard.  You can easily assess what they need by the amount of crying and refussal to self entertain. 

  1. Birgit09-27-11

    I think many people may consider the 2nd option harsh, and considering that EVERYONE in Hunni’s group is doing this, it could be quite a challenge! It would probably get worse before it get’s better?

    One thing you didn’t mention: Would you agree that each child should get some undivided attention each day? Caregiving activities, such as diaper changes and nap time,are a great opportunity to talk to the each child, make eye contact, and maybe a cuddle. Magda Gerber spoke about giving a child your full attention when appropriate, and thus “filling them up” for when you cannot. I think we tend to give our children half our attention all the time. Sticking them in a baby carrier when we vacuum or cook, hanging on us like sacks of potatoes.

    Just my opinion, but the the “no cry” method scares the heck out of me. When is that poor child supposed to find out the world doesn’t revolve around him or her? When do you stop that? When they are 2,3,4? Maybe I just don’t get it…

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