It is often said, the best way to handle a problem is to prevent the problem. This
is true in managing misbehavior in young children. True we can use our time and energy playing firefighter and run around
dousing one blaze after another; but understanding why children misbehave can help prevent many problems from the start.
Child wants to be independent
WAYS TO PREVENT
Give child a change to do for themselves and give
them simple choices. Example: "Do you want to put the books away or pick up the legos?"
Child has a lack of language skills
WAYS TO PREVENT
Remind child to use words. You may even suggest words for
them to use. Example: "Josh when you're mad say, 'stop that makes me mad' insteading of hitting.
Child has a lack of impulse control
WAYS TO PREVENT
Help children to think through their actions.
Example: "What do you think will happen if you throw that block?"
Child is easily frustrated
WAYS TO PREVENT
Break tasks into smaller parts. Provide for opportunties
for child to feel successful and competent.
Child is unfamiliar with limits or forgets the rules often
WAYS TO PREVENT
Set simple and clear rules. State the reason for
a rule when reinforcing. Prompt the child to recall a rule or limit. Example: " Tammy, can you tell my why you are not to
put playdoh in the fish tank?"
Copyright 2004 ~Joni Levine
HANDLING COMPLAINTS AND SOLVING PROBLEMS
Family Life Specialist
Human Development and Family Studies
Iowa State University
Complaints and disagreements with parents are bound to happen every so often. But problems can be solved if
the relationship between you and parents is good and communication is open.
IF YOU HAVE A COMPLAINT OR A PROBLEM
- Bring it to the attention of the parent at a time when neither of you is tired and when you both have
a free moment. If that time never seems to be available, set up an appointment.
- Talk in a polite, helpful manner. For instance, if Timmy always seems to be tired, it does not do
any good to blame his parents for keeping him up too late. Instead, phrase your comments more positively and ask for the parent's
help or advice. "Timmy seems more tired than usual today. Has he had trouble sleeping?"
- It will be easier for parents to accept your complaint if they know that you see their child's good
points too. And remember to comment sincerely on helpful things the parents do for their child. If you let them know you think
they are doing a good job, they may be more open to hearing your suggestions.
WHEN A PARENT COMES TO YOU WITH A COMPLAINT OR DISAGREEMENT
- Listen carefully, not just for the words, but for the feelings. Try not to react defensively or in
hurt or anger. And never resort to name-calling or blaming. That only makes it more difficult to reach an agreement. Hear
parents out. Remember, as your customers, they have a right to complain. Their comments may help you improve the quality of
- Once the parent has finished talking, summarize what she has just said so that you can be sure that
you understood her concern. Next share your thoughts and feelings about the problem so that the parent can understand your
point of view. Together each of you can propose several solutions and try to reach an agreement. Try to be as specific as
possible about what you will do to remedy the problem.
IF PROBLEMS CANNOT BE SOLVED
If despite your best efforts things just don't work out, don't blame yourself. It may be the result
of a personality clash, differences in beliefs aboutchild-rearing, or unrealistic demands made on you or the child. But this
doesn't mean that you're not good for the child-just that you and the client are mismatched. So refer the parent to the child
care resource and referral agency, and keep your complaints confidential. Sharing the care of children with parents has more
ups than downs. Developing a good working relationship early on often leads to a close personal friendship that may last for
years. Parents recognize that their child care provider is a special person who brings skill, professionalism, and love to
each family and child that they serve.
STEP 1 --- STATE THE PROBLEM
Provider: Laura, I noticed that you picked Jon up late every day this week. If you will remember the
mutual agreement you signed when Jon began coming here, you agreed to pick him up by 5:30 p.m.
STEP 2 --- LISTEN TO THE PARENT'S EXPLANATION
Mother: I'm sorry, but things have been so crazy at work. They are talking about layoffs, and I'm really
trying to put in a little extra effort so that I don't lose my job.
STEP 3 --- CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE PROBLEM BY SUMMARIZING.
Repeat to the parent what she shared with you. Ask more questions if you need clarification.
I see. So you are putting in extra time because your are worried about you job security? How long do you feel you will have
to be staying late like this?
Mother: As long as it takes. It could be a few more weeks or months.
STEP 4 --- SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ABOUT THE PROBLEM.
Provider: I can understand your dilemma. However, I really need to spend time with my family. Also
we have evening activities like softball practice and church that we need to get to. When you pick Jon up so late, it really
puts a hardship on my family.
STEP 5 --- BRAINSTORM SOME SOLUTIONS.
Provider: Let's try to think of some solutions.
Mother: Well, I guess I could arrange for someone
else to pick Jon up. My mother could do it on most evenings, I think.
Provider: You might also hire a teenager to
watch Jon for about an hour. There are two teens next door who might be interested in the job. I'd be happy to introduce you.
Mother: What if I brought Jon early- around 6:15 a.m? Would that be as much of an inconvenience for you? I'd be willing
to pay extra.
Provider: I would be willing for you to bring Jon early, but it might be hard on him.
STEP 6 --- TRY TO REACH AN AGREEMENT. BE AS SPECIFIC AS POSSIBLE.
Mother: I guess you're right. Mornings are hectic enough already. So I guess we're back to having someone
pick him up.
Provider: Why don't you check with your mother tonight and give me a call. If she doesn't feel up to
it, then I'll make plans to introduce you to one of the teenagers next door tomorrow afternoon. If that doesn't work out,
then we will look at the early morning arrival idea again.
National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service Children Youth and Family
Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes
only (not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this
notice is included:
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. (1993) Oesterreich,
L. Holt, B.G., Karas, S. "Handling Complaints and Solving Problems" Iowa Family Child Care Handbook. pp.61-63. Iowa
State University Extension. Ames, Iowa.
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Fact Sheet: Childhood and Adolescent Depression
Lori Carraway, Ph.D.
- WSU Cooperative Extension, Snohomish County
The scientific literature on diagnosis and treatment of children/adolescents with depression
is much more limited than that concerning adult depression. It is also very new, only 4-5 years old. Signs of depression in
young people are often viewed as normal mood swings, typical of the child’s developmental stage. Among both children
and adolescents, depressive disorders indicate an increased risk for illness and psychosocial troubles.
- a number of recent studies indicate that up to 2.5% of children and 8.3% of adolescents in the US
suffer from depression.
- research indicates that the onset of depressive disorders is occurring earlier in life than in past
decades and that depression in youth may persist into adulthood and/or reoccur more severely in adulthood
- depression is associated with suicide.
- in 1997, suicide was the third leading cause of death in 10- to 24-year olds.
- when depression is suspected, the person should be referred to a physician or mental health specialist
for assessment and treatment.
- depression may co-exist with other difficulties such as ADHD, ADD, conduct disorder, learning disorders,
Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder
Common to Adults, Children and Adolescents
Five or more of the following symptoms must be present for 2 weeks or more for a diagnosis
of major depression can be made:
- persistent sad or irritable mood
- loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- significant change in appetite or body weight
- difficulty sleeping or over-sleeping
- psychomotor agitation or retardation
- loss of energy
- feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
- difficulty concentrating
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
The ways in which symptoms are expressed depend on the child’s developmental stage. Young people,
especially young children, have trouble identifying and describing their internal emotional states or mood states. Instead,
they may act out in ways that are simply interpreted as misbehavior – e.g., irritability toward others; refusal to eat;
slow movement, stalling, being distracted when an adult wants a task completed, consistent crying/whining, excessive thumb-sucking.
Behaviors Associated with Childhood and Adolescent Depression
- frequent vague physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, tiredness
- frequent school absences or poor performance in school
- talk of or efforts to run away from home
- outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability or crying excessively
- being bored
- lack of interest in playing with friends
- giving away prized possessions
- fear of death
- social isolation, poor communication
- alcohol or substance abuse
- extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
- increased irritability, anger or hostility
- reckless behavior
- difficulty with relationships
Risk Factors Associated with Childhood and Adolescent Depression
- boys and girls are at equal risk in childhood, but in adolescence, girls are twice as likely to develop
- there appears to be a stronger familial link with childhood depression – one is more likely
to become depressed if there is a family history of the disorder (e.g., a parent was depressed at an early age) -- than in
- cigarette smoking
- loss of a parent or loved one
- break-up of a romantic relationship
- attentional, conduct or learning disorders
- chronic illness, such as diabetes or hemophilia
- abuse or neglect
- other trauma, including natural disasters
- there is some initial evidence that erratic cortisol levels, as per salivary testing, may be indicative
of depression – especially among unattached infants and/or young children who have been exposed to extreme and unpredictable
Helping Young Children Cope with Stress
By Lori Carraway
WSU, Cooperative Extension, Snohomish County
Barry is going to the hospital to have his tonsils removed. Judy’s papa is in the Navy and has
been deployed for 6 months. Bethany has a new baby brother. Esther’s mom and dad are getting a divorce. Shirley attends
childcare now that mom is working full time. Mavis’ grandma just died. David has become scared of the big boys at childcare.
Different children, different situations, but, potentially, similar reactions. Each of these children
is experiencing change and may also be reacting to stress.
Stress is the body’s reaction to a demand that is beyond the person’s ability to cope or
to a demand that taxes personal resources (Lazarus & Launier, 1978).
While some young children seem to flow with changes, most need adult help and support to adjust to
situations that are out of their control.
Some stressors come from inside. A toothache or Chicken Pox usually limit children’s coping resources.
Other stressors are outside, but affect us internally. Hearing mom and dad argue can be exhausting and frightening. Being
ridiculed by peers can create anxiety, illnesses, and wishes to avoid school. Some stressors are chronic, like living with
illness, constant criticism, or frequent abuse. Something stressful to one person may not be stressful to another, because
humans place different meanings on the same experiences.
Young children have difficulty talking about what they are feeling. Usually they just react. Therefore,
adults need to tune in to changes in children’s behavior. Symptoms of stress might include: withdrawl; daydreaming;
temper tantrums; regression to bed-wetting; clinging; preoccupation with monsters or threatening figures; restless wandering;
disturbed bodily functions (like soiling or wetting long after toilet training is complete); grinding teeth during sleep;
inability to focus on an activity or directions; excessive self-stimulation; aggression toward others; or nightmares (Honig,
1993). Emergence of these behaviors or the presence of several symptoms could indicate stress.
Adults might find the following strategies useful:
a. Model calmness and self-control. SHOW children appropriate, positive ways to deal with stress
through your own actions.
b. Provide body contact. Hold, hug, touch more often and stay closer than usual when a child
is stressed. Body contact can provide security.
c. Put predictability in the day: Establish ROUTINES and RITUALS for children to count on. Consistently
read a book before bedtime, rub backs at nap, wash hands before snack, and/or give warnings before clean-up.
d. Allow extra time. Stressed children may need more time to complete a task, or to start something
new. Give extra time for transitions, offer gentle warnings, and help children change gears.
e. Partner with one another. Parents and teachers can share observations and feedback. They
might discuss ways to support the child. They might agree to reinforce coping skills at home and at school. When stress stretches
parents too thin, teachers can be superb resources, giving comfort to children and relief/support to parents.
f. Provide nutritious food and time to rest. Stress uses our energy and taxes our systems. When
households are chaotic, routines get jumbled, but children still need adequate rest and nutritious meals.
g. Acknowledge feelings. Help children to "talk" about the situation. Accept feelings, despite
any discomfort with them. Bibliotherapy (stories that parallel the child’s situation) puppets, dramatic play, and art,
can help children express feelings.
h. Help children separate fantasy and reality. Preschoolers use "magical thinking" (I MADE the
truck drive by because I was thinking about a truck) and they might feel responsible for a death or a divorce. Joey
needs to know that grandpa’s accident did not happen because Joey was mad at him.
i. Decrease competition. Design classroom activities and family outings to eliminate competition.
Plan cooperative activities and expect children to help and cooperate. Requiring helpfulness increases "children’s sense
of effectiveness and coping" (Honig, 1993).
j. Listen. On a one-to-one basis, find a quiet place, encourage the child to talk, and listen
attentively to concerns. Hear what might be threatening or frightening. Help to generate alternative reactions. Help children
think about what else they might do in a situation that scares or upsets them.
k. Treat for stress. Sometimes exceptions to routines are needed. Sit next to the child, give
him an extra nap, allow him to color during naptime, or lie in your lap during story time. Sometimes, during very stressful
periods, we need to do whatever is comforting.
All of us experience stress. When a parent is severely stressed, children are very likely to be affected.
Learning to deal with stress takes time, experience, and personal resources. Most young children need adult support, familiar
settings, predictable routines, some sense of control, and time to learn coping skills.