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If you have ever wondered what the signs of a bad daycare provider are, you aren’t alone. There are plenty of parents (just like you) that feel like they are charting unfamiliar territory when it comes to daycare.
We only have in home daycare experience, but my mom worked as a preschool/daycare provider in a daycare center for over twenty years.
That means that I am well-versed in what makes a good daycare provider, as well as a bad one.
Trouble is, it’s a little different when you are amid the situation.
See, people aren’t black and white. That means there isn’t a right or a wrong (usually), but there’s certainly a lot of grey area. Daycare providers are people, so it’s the same with them.
Lots of grey.
We have had experience with five different childcare providers (we moved a couple of times, one had a baby, and one went back to work), although only two were licensed by our state.
SHOULD I CHOOSE A DAYCARE CENTER OR IN HOME DAYCARE?
There are pros and cons to both options. Personally, we chose an in home daycare because I wanted something smalatteler.
You almost definitely will see less kids in an in home daycare.
However, many in home daycare’s (at least in my state) are not licensed. The biggest reason WE wanted to go with a licensed daycare is because we wanted it to be easy come tax time.
With a licensed daycare, it’s much easier to claim the tax cut available for childcare expenses.
Licensed daycare’s are also subject to more rules and regulations–which CAN mean more structure and a better schedule for your littles.
This certainly does not make an unlicensed center WORSE than a licensed one, as licensed ones can break rules too.
You need to find the right person for your kids. Licensed or not–the type of person your childcare provider is will dictate whether it’s a good or a bad experience.
Related: How to Deal with Toddler Hitting
If you are looking for something with less children, more of an age range, and a “homey” feel–find an in-home daycare.
If you are hoping for (potentially) more structure, education, and resources among the providers–go with a daycare center.
SIGNS OF A BAD DAYCARE PROVIDER
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
Bad communication is by FAR the most important warning sign of a bad daycare provider. Being able to openly discuss ongoing issues is paramount to your child’s wellbeing.
Are they defensive?
I want to tell you about someone we are going to call Miss Jane.
Miss Jane was our most recent daycare provider, and it was by FAR the worst experience we have ever had.
She was an older “proper” woman who was from Europe.
She became increasingly defensive about everything.
When she told me that my daughter was yelling “stop hitting!” at no one, I tried to give her some context.
She’s a toddler who doesn’t know the right way to express herself yet. I have heard her yell at the blankets to stop kicking her because she wants them to stop touching her.
When I tried to explain, I was quickly interrupted by Miss Jane—who responded that she didn’t care about the reasoning, she only cared about what happened THERE.
Oh, and she informed me that SHE would tell me what the situation was.
BIG red flag.
If you can’t have a conversation about your child without the daycare provider being up in arms, that’s a sign it’s time to move on.
You don’t have to agree on everything. But you need to be able to have a conversation.
Do they sugarcoat things?
The other problematic (lack of) communication type is the ones who may not communicate if there is a problem.
One of our childcare providers was a VERY nice young mother.
I think she was probably hoping it would work out, and I am sure she didn’t want to worry me.
Regardless, we had a very quick parting when she informed me one day that it just wasn’t working out. Our kids had trouble getting along, but I didn’t realize how much of a problem it truly was until it was too late.
If it seems like there is something going on that your daycare provider isn’t telling you, that’s a sign that you need to have an open conversation, or you may need to start looking elsewhere.
Safety really is the most important aspect of your child’s daycare. The environment is going to play a big part in that.
Do they keep it clean?
Look. Kids are gross. Messes will happen. That’s why it’s super important for your daycare provider to at least try and keep things clean. Gloves, hand washing, and proper food labeling are all important.
Is it childproof?
Even if your little one is past the stage of sticking little fingers into sockets (can’t WAIT for this to be over with my youngest!), you should be thinking about other hazards.
If you are worried that you will forget to check for things like outlet covers and baby gates, download our daycare safety checklist here to take with you.
What about sleep?
We have a toddler and a baby who still nap. When my most recent childcare provider told me that she wanted to put my almost three-year-old (who is in the ninetieth percentile for her height) in a little packnplay, I thought she was crazy.
She ended up putting her in a bed in one of the bedrooms. She was shocked when the curious toddler left the bed in the window-lit room during nap time to explore.
Not only was she shocked, but she informed me that my daughter “misbehaved”.
So she bought a pen to keep her in.
Although this sounds a little strange—it was the safest option for my toddler. And probably what the daycare provider should have done in the first place.
With babies, make sure they follow general safe sleep recommendations. No blankets, stuffed animals, or loose sheets.
Either way, make sure if you are doing nap times there, they can accommodate safe sleep for your child.
In the car
Does your childcare provider have adequate space to transport your child in case of an emergency? If not, you need to discuss what their plan is.
If you find out your child was in a questionable situation, it’s ALWAYS okay to get them out.
Miss Jane thought that putting our baby on the couch ALONE was appropriate. In fact, she said all of the “experts” agree that this shouldn’t be problem.
Guess what happened? Baby rolled off of the couch and cried.
And Jane told us she couldn’t promise she wouldn’t put her on the couch by herself again.
Many children are with their daycare provider for more waking hours than they are with their own parents.
It’s a sad reality in today’s world. We all gotta work.
The last thing you want is for your child to be with someone who is cold and detached. This is another sign of a bad daycare provider.
Our most recent provider was severe, authoritarian, and rigid.
Matt and I parent totally differently. We follow authoritative parenting, as is the most recent recommendation from parenting experts. You can read more about different parenting styles here.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with differing parenting styles.
To a point.
Your child will have to get used to many different kinds of people throughout their lives. The nice thing is, you can kind of control WHO they are exposed to right now.
That means while you SHOULD start letting them experience real life stuff, you can keep it somewhat controlled. But you don’t want to be too controlling (because trying to protect them forever doesn’t work).
Make sure that the people your child is spending their days with is going to care for your child like their own.
Structure is SO important in your child’s life.
I attribute our well-adjusted children to this more than I do to (almost) anything else.
Do they have a daily schedule?
There should be a rough schedule of what your child’s day will look like in daycare.
Thing will NOT go according to plan (this happens more often than it should), but there should still be a loose outline.
What are the rules?
Rules are important. They help establish boundaries and actually help your child feel safer in an environment.
You should definitely be wary of a facility that doesn’t have some clear and established rules.
On the other hand…these shouldn’t be ridiculous.
Our latest provider felt that she was going to “teach” our 11 month old that toys shouldn’t go in her mouth by repeatedly ripping them out of her hands every time one went into her mouth.
It is utterly and completely developmentally appropriate for a baby to do this.
If you feel like the daycare provider has too strict of rules–run. This is another warning sign of a bad daycare provider.
Do you know the ratio laws in your state? If not, make sure you find out whether your daycare provider is keeping to them.
Are they educated?
Although they don’t HAVE to be educated to do a good job, it’s a good idea to understand their background.
Our VERY best experience with a daycare provider was with one who had not completed a college degree (I think), while our WORST experience was with the “most” experienced.
Are they CPR certified?
CPR is a SUPER important certification that your daycare provider shouldn’t be without. Not only is it important, but it’s incredibly easy to get as well.
Consider it a huge red flag if your provider hasn’t even taken the time to get properly CPR certified.
LACK OF STIMULATION
For us, a change of scenery was a large part of wanting to enroll our child in daycare. We try to expose our kids to new things as much as is healthy.
Does your daycare provider have different types of activities for your child?
For your baby
Even babies need good stimulation. Make sure your daycare provider has toys specifically tailored for your baby, as well as proper high-chairs and other equipment.
For your toddler
Toddlers get bored. Fast.
Your daycare provider should have plenty of toys that your toddler can rotate between. Make sure they aren’t getting too much screen time, and ask your provider if they make time for arts and crafts.
If you have read this far, you have probably gathered I am a little sore about our bad daycare provider experience Let me say–MOST daycare providers will be good with your children. People are generally good.
You aren’t dating your childcare provider, so it’s okay if you don’t really “click” at first. What’s important is that they create a supportive positive learning space for your child.
Miss Jane inspired me to write this post because it occurred to me just how difficult it can be to know whether or not you are seeing warnings signs of a bad daycare provider, or if you may just be a little “awkward”.
I want to give you a little more background behind the situation and our thinking throughout it, so hopefully you can understand my tips with a little bit of context.
Meeting Miss Jane looked really good—on the outside.
She was licensed with the state, had an education, and had a lot of structure.
When we went to meet her, she introduced us to her family and talked openly about her experience.
These were all good things—but honestly, I should have known to back out in that moment.
She parented with a MUCH different style than what we wanted for our girls. She is very much a “children should be seen and not heard” kind of parent.
The first meeting I knew that I did not necessarily agree with her parenting style (although we did not question their safety).
We were faced with a tough decision. We did not really LIKE Miss Jane, but we felt our girls were safe with her. We lilke to diversify their experiences – and Jane was certainly that.
This was our FIRST experience with a daycare provider that was problematic. In fact, we are still good friends with our first provider (who was up in arms when she heard about “Miss Jane”.)
I felt that (although it was hard) this was probably a good situation for my girls. It was good for them to get used to different kinds of people. We didn’t REALIZE that we had seen signs of a bad daycare provider.
So we tried to stick it out.
Drama soon ensued.
First was the bed incident. Apparently, my toddler was being a “naughty” child because she wanted to explore the well-lit room she was left in to nap.
She decided that my daughter was to sleep in a pen. The conversation left a bad taste in my mouth, as she did not want to listen to reason or context.
It was focused on how my child had misbehaved, instead of looking at the environment and typical behavior of a three-year-old.
Next, she insinuated our toddler was crazy. She brought it up know that our daughter was yelling to “stop kicking” while playing alone (although we later found out she was in a room full of kids). When my husband suggested that maybe she had been kicked earlier, he was quickly shut down because that couldn’t have possibly happened.
Which, whatever. Not saying we didn’t believe her.
(The funny thing was about this WHOLE conversation between the two of them was I SAW a young boy push my daughter three or four times the first day we went, and Miss Jane hadn’t noticed..)
I think it’s fair that we maybe questioned what happened because we know a provider can’t see every little thing a child does in a day.
And honestly…shit happens sometimes. We would not have been upset if there was a little accident at daycare. Hell, our oldest was kicked in the face at nine months while in our favorite provider’s care.
Anyway. Later that day, Miss Jane let me know that my husband had gotten VERY upset during this conversation.
Problem is, my partner is the calmest person I have ever met. But…she wouldn’t communicate about it.
She made us sign an incident report related to the above two things. She wanted to document that our daughter had NOT been kicked and that my husband HAD been bothered by the conversation.
This was another sign that she was a bad daycare provider. I mean, incident reports are common in cases of injuries, but I am not sure what she was trying to document here exactly.
I worked for CPS in an emergency shelter – so I know how these things go.
Next. She failed to make an incident report for letting our baby fall off the couch (and then proceeding to tell us that she would continue putting our baby on the couch).
Not only had our little one fallen off of the couch, but the daycare provider was not technically in the same room as her (although she said she could see her) and did not actually see it happened.
We gently brought it up to her that we weren’t very comfortable with her being on the couch (especially by herself). No accusations…just let her know we didn’t feel safe about it. We were told that she couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t do it again.
The last straw–is something we are not going to talk about. Unfortunately, my family has received threats because of this post.
Suffice it to say the girls didn’t go back to Miss Jane’s.
Knowing the signs of a bad daycare provider can be difficult. Because it’s not always crystal-clear – especially from the beginning.
A little thing here. A strange story there.
And before you know it, things are BAD.
Regardless, if you came to read this article because YOU are feeling unsure, you have two good options.
- Pull your child out.
- Talk about it to your provider.
Keep in mind, MOST daycare providers truly do have your child’s best interest at heart. They don’t get paid enough to do something they hate – they WANT to take care of your child.
With five different providers, we only had a bad experience with one.
So talk about it. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your concerns with the daycare provider, that’s a sure sign that you need to get your child out.
Don’t wait for things to get bad.
What other warning signs of a bad daycare provider have you noticed? Do you have a crazy childcare story? Do you have an inspiring one? I would love to hear about it below in the comments.
Warning signs of a bad daycare provider