When choosing childcare there are many things to consider, including your child’s personality. Researching a facility’s approach to different temperaments will ensure a happier experience for your child when she’s away from home.
As parents, we want the best care possible for our children. This can make choosing appropriate childcare for your son or daughter time consuming, but rest assured—if you do your homework, you’re likely to find a suitable setting for your little one. Parents often look for a checklist of things in a childcare setting such as a center’s fees, drop off and pick up times, location, religious or educational affiliations, meals, CPR and First Aid certification, and discipline techniques. Yet there is another factor to ponder while doing your search: finding a facility that will mesh with your child’s individual temperament.
Defining Your Child’s Temperment
Temperament consists of traits that are genetic and determined by unique neurological characteristics. There are many different types of temperament; the extrovert, for example, is expressive and energized by his environment and other people, while the introvert is naturally reserved and prefers being alone with his thoughts and ideas. If your child has an easy or flexible temperament, he is generally happy and prefers routine but can readily adapt to new situations. Children that are classified as slow to warm, or fearful, need time to adapt to new settings and people. They need a routine for security, plus they need an adult they can depend on to help them with difficult situations.
There are other classifications of temperament as well, including feisty, active, social, spontaneous, non-conformist, intuitive, and perceptive. Once you have determined your child’s temperament, the question is how to find childcare that will be appropriate for your child. If you have a daughter who is constantly on the go, should you look for a place that will keep her busy all of the time? If your son tends to be a bit laid back, do you keep him strictly involved with low-key activities?
Finding a Good Match
Renowned parenting expert Stacy DeBroff, author of several parenting books including The Mom Book: 4278 Tips from Moms For Moms, says that the best idea for matching a daycare to your child is to try for something that is opposite of your child’s temperament without being extreme or making him or her unhappy.
“For a very active child, the best childcare will offer some periods of free time, but it should also be a place where the child will have some pacing in his schedule,” says DeBroff. If you happen to have a shy or reserved child, consider a place that has required social activities. This setting will help draw him out of his shell as well as push his comfort level. “For most shy kids, avoiding contact with other children isn’t a realistic option unless you are willing to spring for a private nanny,” says DeBroff. “It is good for a child’s social development to be exposed to other children while in a controlled setting with controlled activities.”
When Mike Schultz was in need of a new childcare facility for his two-year-old daughter, Kyla, and four-month-old son, Owen, he was specifically interested in finding a place that would stimulate his daughter’s love of learning yet be sensitive to her demeanor. “She’s not shy, but a bit introverted in that she often prefers to play by herself or in more structured teacher-led activities. She isn’t as interested in free-play with other kids, but she isn’t adverse to it, either,” says Schultz. He was successful in finding a center that had a director who would help his children grow as unique individuals. “They weren’t just numbers receiving blanket care,” he says.
According to Leslie Coleman, an Educational Specialist with Kiddie Academy International, Inc. in Bel Air, Maryland, quality childcare facilities should be aware of different temperament types and do their best to accommodate each child accordingly. “This is accomplished through curriculum and programming,” Coleman explains. “We encourage small group activities as well as ‘center-based teaching’ where children have an opportunity to explore a particular theme in many different ways. Children who have free choice during their day can reduce many of the problems associated with large group settings for young children. Parents should look for programs that promote social interaction and give children a chance to explore their emotions in a way that is not demeaning or disrespectful.”
Dealing with Temperment
A good way to find out how daycare providers deal with different temperaments is to take a tour of the facility. During your visit, observe whether teachers acknowledge the children’s feelings and provide them with tools to manage their emotions. Parents should look for signs that children are free to express themselves and see that teachers work with the children to guide them through their emotions in a respectful and accepting way. “Children should always feel free to express emotion, and at no time should they be punished for expressing themselves,” Coleman stresses. “This sends a very clear message to the child that their feelings are important and never a cause for punishment.”
Bonding with Your Childcare Provider
Finally, it is important for a daycare facility to work with the parents to make sure that the child has a successful experience no matter what type of temperament he has. To forge a bond between the teachers, parents and children, Ashley Murphree, owner of Carpe Diem Private Preschool in Richardson, Texas, has parents fill out a form called “Help Us Know Your Child.” One section of the questionnaire specifically addresses the child’s temperament. “This is important because parents and children should feel completely comfortable and accepted in the school environment,” says Murphree. “The importance of frequent, open, two-way, collaborative communication between parents and families can’t be emphasized enough.”
Although it might take some time to find a childcare facility that fits your child’s needs, it can be accomplished. The key is to visit several different facilities, talk with parents who already have their children in daycare, and speak openly and honestly about your concerns with day care directors and staff. Before you know it, you’ll find a match for your child’s specific personality.