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Time Outs | The Nanny Godmother

Naughty Words Are a No-No at Daycare

The Nanny Godmother loves to hear from colleagues in the childcare profession who are readers of the blog.  Patty has recently written in with a dilemma that’s particularly challenging because of the professional setting in which it’s occurring:

I am a daycare provider for a set of 21 month old twin boys in addition to 4 other children. Within the past month they both started using foul language. I simply ignored it the first week, although some of the older children were quick to point it out to me each time they heard it.  During the second week when it occurred, I got down at their level and firmly said “No. We don’t use that word. That is not ok.”  The third week, I repeated the steps from week 2, but then put them in time out. They don’t seem to be fazed by it at all and they seem to be swearing more each day.  Mom is really no help and simply blames it on Dad.

Any suggestions that I can use as a licensed provider? (When this occurred with my own children, step three included a swat on the rear end which put a pretty quick end to foul language, but as a licensed provider I am not able to use corporal punishment.)  Thank you!

Hi Patty,

Unfortunately, as you know, we childcare professionals are limited in what we can do if we don’t have the support of the parents.

However, I do think you should talk to the mum again and explain what a big problem it is, and that you don’t want other parents to start complaining.

As long as you’re not receiving parental support, your options are going to be somewhat limited, and the best thing I can think of for you to do is to concentrate on teaching the twins that such language is not accepted by you. Try not to make too much of it when they say the words, as although I doubt they understand the meaning, they do understand that it upsets you.  Don’t even make eye contact, as they are probably just waiting for you to react.  Just take them by the hand and say “You know that Patty doesn’t accept those words” in a very low, calm voice.  Don’t interact with them any more than that, and put them in time out (away from each other, if they’re both in time out).  When time out is finished, make them look you in the eye and say “sorry” for using bad words, then carry on as normal.

This method may take some time to yield results, but due to their age I think it is about all you can do.

I hope this was of some help to you; if there are any readers who can give Patty more advice on this matter, please feel free to leave a comment or drop us a line.



When Your Little Darling Lashes Out

Reader Debbie is struggling with a toddler who is going through a defiant stage.  She writes:

My son is 2 years 10 months and he screams NO all the time, usually with a hit too, if I ask him or tell him anything.  It often coincides with being tired but can also turn on a sixpence when not tired.  He has 13 hours sleep per night.  I’ve tried talking about how sad it makes me when he shouts and hits out.  I’ve tried sending him to his room.  He does say sorry but 2 minutes later he does the same … any ideas please?

Hi Debbie,

It’s quite common for toddler to go through a phase of hitting, shouting or biting.  It can be due to a child’s lack of communication skills and the maturity to express himself correctly.  Also at this age, children try to assert their independence and to test boundaries.  I have a couple of methods for dealing with such behaviour at this age level that I can share with you, because as we know, what works for one doesn’t always work for another.

My first technique involves largely what you are already doing, with a few modifications:  when your little boy starts to hit or shout, remove him immediately from the situation.  Don’t shout back; don’t give him warnings or chances – just explain in a very calm voice that the behaviour is not acceptable.  Then put him in time out.   After a couple of minutes, go back and get him.  Once he has apologised, ask him what it was that he wanted.  When he tells you, show him how to express it in an acceptable manner, and respond positively when he repeats it to you.  Then ask him for a big hug and have it over and done with.  If you repeat this every time he acts out, he will learn that such actions have consequences.

The second technique I can recommend is ignoring him.  When he starts to shout “NO!” or hit you, walk away from him and let him see that he will get no response.  Tell him to talk properly to mummy and mummy will listen.

These techniques have proven successful for me in the past, and I hope that they will for you too.  Best of luck!



“Because I Said So”: Asserting Grown-Up Authority

January 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Discipline

I believe it is our job as adults and caregivers to set limits and boundaries for children with a little love, kindness and discipline.  I think it is totally up to the individual when you start, but I’ve learnt from experience that it is never too early to try to set ground rules.

With children under the age of 16 months it is very hard to set the boundaries, but you can try to guide them in the right direction by saying things like “If you throw that again I am taking it away,” and follow it through.  They will soon learn.  But as soon as they start walking and getting up to mischief you can use phrases like “Why don’t you colour on the paper instead of the door” or “Sweetie, please don’t put your farm animals in the DVD player” – then distract them with something more interesting and more suitable.

Try to change your tone of voice so your child can recognise and understand the meaning of your words.  Also try to make eye contact with your child, as this can sometimes distract them.  You should not start to negotiate, as this will turn into an argument and then you’ll end up having to explain yourself.  All you have to say is “because I said so.”  When children are under 18 months their short-term memory is very limited, so the process of correction can become quite repetitive; try to focus a lot on positive reinforcement so your child doesn’t think that everything he or she does upsets the grown-ups.

By about age 2½, children start to understand right from wrong, and you can start using “time outs” by putting them in their room, on the sofa or any place where they are restricted and removed from the situation.  Then encourage them to apologise.  As they get older, children may develop the habit of saying a token “sorry” just to avoid punishment, and there will be no meaning behind the words.  I have found that it is useful to have them draw a picture – or, depending on their age, have them write a letter – to say they are sorry.  In this way, they come to understand better the consequences of their actions and words.

As children get older, you will find it easier to discipline them; you can start to confiscate things and take away privileges (e.g., going to the park, video games, TV).  However, you will have more arguments and battles over authority – just remember “because I said so.”  When taking away privileges, be careful to choose something that is not going to affect you too much, and be sure you can follow it through.  If you start throwing around empty threats, you are fighting a losing battle.