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Q: Here's the deal...our two children, ages two and three, are cared for,during the day ,by my aunt who has taken care of all of my nieces, nephews, cousins, etc.,... Currently, she has four children under her care -- my nephew,age four, my cousin's daughter,age three, and my two. At least twice a week I can count on having a heated discussion with my husband concerning the quality of the care they are receiving. My daughter, the two-year-old, comes home with scratches on her face on a daily basis. My son,age three, almost as often. The scratches are inflicted by my cousin's daughter. She has a real problem and I have mentioned it to her parents several times. She doesn't have long nails, but knows how to use her little stubs to do the damage. (Smart kid, huh?)
My husband gets upset when he sees the scratches and I do too, but what can we do?
We can't afford daycare. While we do pay my aunt, we don't pay her nearly as much as we would pay at daycare. My husband insists that my aunt does not watch them, and he says,"I don't know what she does, but she's not watching them." I usually ask my aunt what happened and she says that it happened so fast she couldn't stop them before they started fighting. She has told me repeatedly that she never leaves the room without at least one of the children. She mainly takes my cousin's daughter with her since she's the scratcher.
I feel this is a phase that the girl is going through but my husband has no tolerance for it. I also need to mention that I have seen my children in action and they are no angels. They fight with each other, mainly hitting, and they pick on each other when they're bored. When I remind my husband of that he doesn't admit it. My aunt has told me that my son hits the scratcher and she reacts by doing what she does best!
I personally don't think my aunt can't be watching them every second and I can see how these things can happen in a split second, but my husband doesn't believe it. I'm not saying my aunt is the perfect babysitter, but who is? I know I'm not!
Also, a couple weeks ago my husband decided it was time for him to say something to my aunt, of course, I tried to stop him but couldn't. My aunt told me that the next day my son said, "Lauren scratched me, my dad's going to call you." The epitome of brattiness in my opinion. He has already begun to equate Lauren with scratches, so even if she is not the cause, that is who he blames.
How do we deal with this? After a hard day of work this is not something either of us wants to argue about.
A final note: My husband just read this email and said I'm defending my aunt too much and that I am being too one-sided. PLEASE HELP. I'm in the middle . I love them both and no longer know what to do!!!
A: I am concerned that you and your husband are in a rut over this problem. I think expecting that something will change the behaviors of your kids or the other kids in question is wishful thinking. Your aunt does have too much on her hands with this group of kids if they are fighting and hurting each other this frequently on a regular basis. Would you accept your kids coming home regularly from a day care facility with scratched up faces, having fought with other kids? Of course not; you'd demand that the day care staff be more responsible.
I realize your aunt has been the baby-sitting "institution" in your extended family. I'm sure she probably sees herself as having raised all these kids and that this has meant a lot to her. But the goal here is not how to best make your aunt feel happy or how to do what's easiest for you in terms of day care. The priority is getting the best day care for your kids you can.
I suggest you and your husband make an all out effort to find the best day care arrangements possible. You may have to sacrifice some other things in your family budget but I think you can do it. I know many licensed home providers and day care centers have sliding fees and offer partial scholarships. Your kids are not receiving the care they deserve and it's doing them a disservice and causing a growing rift between you and your husband. Set your priorities, handle your aunt with compassion (don't blame her) and find the care where your kids can best flourish.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.