Besides parents, caregivers are the adults who have the most impact on a child’s development and behaviour because they are the adults who are around the child most often. To ensure that caregivers are influencing a child in the ways that parents prefer, parents should discuss their childcare strategies particularly regarding discipline, encouragement and treatment for behavioural disorders with current and future caregivers.
One thing that parents often forget is that caregivers can only administer discipline in accordance with parents’ wishes if they KNOW the parents’ wishes. Before employing a caregiver, parents must sit down and decide which methods of discipline they prefer. When a caregiver is hired, parents must then inform him/her of their desired methods of discipline as well as any overall discipline strategies upon which they have agreed. Parents uncertain of particular strategies might consider the Naughty Step, Time Out, Grounding or Taking Away Privileges. Parents must also be certain of the methods of discipline with which they do not agree, and communicate these to their caregiver as well. Many modern parents do not agree with smacking or spanking a child, so a discussion of corporal punishment is important with any new caregiver.
There is a fine line between encouraging and rewarding a child and outright bribing him/her. Parents should advise caregivers of how they prefer to encourage their child, such as with a Sticker/Star Chart or through a chore-based allowance, so that regardless of which adult is around, the child will have consistency. Parents should also advise caregivers of behaviours or activities that should not be encouraged, and what type of rewards can and can not be offered. For example, at the start of the week parents might tell a caregiver that their son is working towards an extra hour of park time if he collects his toys without being asked at the end of the day. This will allow the caregiver to observe not only the child’s general behaviour, but the behaviours and skills that are being encouraged and developed as well. Parents should also be firm about the types of rewards that should not be extended to a child, such as sweets, fizzy drinks, DVD or video game time, or new toys.
Treating Behavioural Disorders
A child who has been diagnosed with a behavioural disorder will need to follow a treatment plan whether it be behaviour management, counselling or medication. No matter what course of action a family has chosen, a caregiver must be told of the regime and instructed in how best to follow the plans. Training may be required for caregivers, and if this is the case it should be made plain to the caregiver during the hiring process. Parents of a child who has been diagnosed with a behavioural disorder may also opt to advertise for a caregiver who has experience with similar disorders or an educational or medical background.
In the absence of parents, caregivers are the adults who will spend the most time with a child. In order to best carry out parents’ wishes, caregivers must be brought up to speed with the discipline methods and encouragement styles preferred by parents. Caregivers who will be looking after a child with a behavioural disorder will also need to be made aware of this during the hiring process and educated on the treatment plan that is in place. When caregivers have all of this information, there should be few problems in matching the parents’ preferences.