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Childcare provider's own child is jealous

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My son is 22 months old now and when he was 15 months old I began a home daycare to stay home with him. I care for a 17 month old boy and a 2 year old boy.

My son loves to play with the 2-year old but doesn't want to include the 17 month old in anything. I'm understanding to the fact that my son has to share his mom, his attention, and all of his toys and belongings with these children, but he seems to get worse and worse with taking toys from the little boy, not letting him partake in games that he and the 2 year old are playing, pushing, hitting, etc. He wants to play with the older boy and basically wants the younger boy to stay away.

Just a couple of days ago, I let the younger boy use the older boy's plate at snacktime and my son was upset. As you mentioned, I've tried timeouts and they most definitely do not work. They make him a little upset but it seems if I discipline him with a loud, stern voice or a timeout, it just gets worse. Once he's done in timeout, he'll go over and push the other boy as if it's his fault that he was punished.

In the past couple of days I've been making sure everyone gets a turn so that the younger boy is involved in the play but my son hates it and cries. I've also tried as you mentioned to get him to feel sorry for the little boy when he's crying or to say sorry but he has no interest in that.

It's now getting to the point where it seems my son can be walking by this boy and he will make him cry for the fun of it and I'm getting worried! Dr Laura - do you have any advice for me? I think my situation is a little different given that my son has to now share his life and belongings with other children at such a young age. Thanks!


Thanks for writing. I agree that your son is in a different situation than most kids. Children whose moms take in other kids for daycare are notorious for resenting the situation, as I'm sure you know from speaking with other daycare providers. It is simply hard for them to have to share their toys, home, and most of all, their mom!

It sounds like you have done a great job of trying to help your son develop empathy. However, developmentally, he is at a stage where he is not quite ready to share. First, he needs to feel completely secure that his own needs will be met. Then he will be ready to share.

Eventually, your son will grow into a different stage and will be better able to articulate his resentments, and less apt to act them out. However, in the meantime, your son obviously cannot be allowed to act like a bully, which will become a habit, as well as being unfair to the other child.

Unfortunately, you can't change his feelings, which are completely natural. Of course, you can give him extra attention as much as possible, but most of the change will come as he matures. So if you can't change his feelings, can you change his behavior? Only if you watch him like a hawk, set consistent limits, and intervene every time he is inappropriate. But all you can really do is remove one of the kids from the situation, because as you point out, any punishment you mete out is likely to backfire with him blaming the other child. Timeouts, loud reprimands, and other punishments not only won't work, but will, I believe, be emotionally harmful to him. Making him feel guilty about his feelings will make him feel like a bad person, and kids who feel bad about themselves act badly, so that's the last thing you want. At the same time, you have to teach him that he can't act on those feelings.

Because he wants to emulate the older child (and because the older child is probably bigger!), your son will not scapegoat him. However, any younger child may well draw his wrath. In fact, you may want to question the ethics of continuing to provide care for this other child. Clearly it is not harming the older child, but I would not want my son in the position of the younger child who is being bullied, and I doubt you would.

I think if the parents of that child understood the situation they would be likely to move their child out of your home, and given that, I think it is your ethical obligation to explain the situation to them.

You may want to reconsider your choice of profession. But if you do continue to provide care -- and you sound like a lovely, thoughtful mom who would be a good child care provider -- my recommendation would be that you not take in children younger than your son for the next year, giving him time to be your baby a bit longer.

In addition, here are some suggestions from other daycare providers on how they helped their kids deal with this situation. These are from a great website, which you would probably find valuable:

* Made sure there were times in the day when he sat on my lap or got a special hug. It's easy to get busy taking care of children and forget about physical contact with your own child.

* Let him be my special helper. I let him do important jobs for me and then told him how much I appreciated the help he was able to give.

* Gave him a wink or a smile across the room when we made eye contact to let him know I was still thinking about him. * Made sure he got undivided attention in the evening and on weekends.

* Let them have toys that they did not have to share with the daycare kids. Both my children had a chest in their rooms where they could store toys they didn't want to share.

* Made it a daycare policy that if a toy of theirs that they were willing to share was broken by a daycare child, I would replace it.

* Rewarded them for sharing their toys by adding to their collection. For example, my daughter was always willing to let the daycare children play with her dolls, so I bought many accessories for her to repay her willingness to share.

* Did not let the daycare children use my children's bedding. Although the daycare children used my kid's bed at naptime, I changed the pillow and blanket. This meant a lot to my kids.

"Once I took these measures, my son was no longer the naughtiest kid in daycare. It was, however, a constant battle to prevent resentment for having so many children in the house."

I hope this helps. If you would like more consultation on this, I encourage you to sign up for one of my coaching calls. You might also find it helpful to speak about the issue with other childcare providers. I wish you luck in dealing with this situation.

--Dr. Laura

From the Child's Perpective

I thought it would help childcare providers to see this issue from the child's perspective. My assistant Theresa Dietrich grew up with a mom who was a childcare provider, and has been generous enough to share her words of wisdom with us. The answer below is from her.


Ever since I can remember my mother has run a daycare center out of our home. She opened the business just months before I was born in hopes of finding financial stability while she raised me, and after that, my three sisters. For over 23 years she has maintained a thriving business doing what she does best: providing a nurturing and inspiring environment for children of all ages. For her, a home daycare seemed to be the golden ticket – the solution to our family's financial and developmental needs. I feel so lucky that my mom chose closeness to me over everything else, but the home daycare scenario hasn't been without it fair share of hardships.

Here are some challenges, from the child's point of view:

* I think it's fundamentally difficult for kids to share their parent's time and attention with other children. It becomes such a balancing act (for the caregiver) to honor the special and exclusive connection they have with their own child while also maintaining close, vital connections with all the others. I remember feeling quite competitive with the other kids and sometimes acting out to assert my superiority when I was feeling insecure.

* Equally difficult is sharing your home and your belongings. My mom kept the daycare to the first floor of our home and we lived on the second – it was an important delineation. We always had communal daycare toys and things of our very own. I remember after holidays and birthdays always wanting to show my spoils to all of my daycare pals but never wanting to bring them down into daycare territory for fear that they would become the property of everyone, not just me.

* I think all that sharing – of mom, home, toys, etc. can leave a child feeling like they're always wanting for something. I remember hiding my favorite snacks and books around the house to avoid having to share.

* Fairness is a big concern. In conflicts I had with other children, I usually felt that my mom was harsher in disciplining me while other children would complain that I received special treatment.

And of course, some of the wonderful advantages:

* Above all, this arrangement was valuable because it allowed me to spend my formative years with my mom. During this time we were able to forge a bond that is strong to this day.

* I learned to socialize with lots of kids from different age groups and even though it was difficult, to share! It made me a very good sharer.

* It nurtured my creativity. There was always an endless amount of activities at hand because of the daycare. I remember friends from school coming over for play dates and being totally in awe of our arts and crafts supplies. There was always so much to do in my home and so many playmates to do it with. This kept me busy and always engaged my imagination.

Finally, some tips for making it work for you!

* Boundaries: I think the key to making this arrangement work is setting very clear and rigid boundaries. Having a home daycare is such a delicate blending of family and business life – its important to keep some things separate. Delineating an area of your home for family use only will allow your children to feel like they have a refuge from the communal demands of the daycare. Emotional boundaries are important too. Our daycare closed promptly at 6:00 each evening. It was just in time for us to have dinner as a family, a special time to reconnect following the sometimes chaotic rhythm of daycare.

* Balance: The most difficult, and perhaps vital, piece of this is striking a balance in regards to your child. I always wanted that special affection from my mother but also needed to be held accountable to the same rules as the other children during daycare hours.

* Passion: I think that anyone who wants to have a home daycare must be, above all, passionate about sharing their home and life with children; and totally committed to creating a safe and nurturing environment in which they can thrive!

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