A query by one of Janet Lansbury's readers caught my eye this morning. I quote:
1. Don't sweat the small stuff. If your child or baby is in genuine physical or emotional danger, then of course you must intervene even if it costs you a relationship- but I don't need to tell you that, because if your child REALLY is in danger you WILL act- you won't need to ask for advice. It's the grey areas that are difficult. Make sure that you're not blowing an incident up out of proportion.
Your child's teeth won't be ruined for life if Aunty Mary gives her one sugary lollipop. Try to let isolated incidents flow over you; if necessary and if your child is old enough, talk about the incident with your child later (and clean her teeth). Make 'I' statements to your child to ensure she knows how you feel about it and WHY. (And listen to her response!)
2. Don't act in the heat of the moment. If you have a repeat offender, to the point where you feel you have to say something, you don't have to say something right now while you're upset. Take a deep breath, because 'changed behaviour' and 'direct personal attacks' don't belong in the same sentence.
Write down what you want to say. Then rewrite it till it's polite. Make sure you're making 'I' statements, not 'you' statements. Try to understand and acknowledge the other person's point of view- yes, they probably mean well. 'I can see that when you give Mitzi a lollipop it's a gesture of love, and you want to make her happy.' Explain your concern. 'But I worry that sucking on sugar for hours will damage her teeth.' Make a polite request for the POSITIVE behaviour you want to see- eg 'I would really love it if you could offer Mitzi beautiful fruit instead, such as strawberries which she loves.' And close with more appreciation of the motives- 'Thank you for wanting to show your love to my daughter; I really appreciate the intent behind your gifts.'
When you've got your statement into a form where the other person is likely to hear it, instead of closing down because their good motives have been misunderstood and their behaviour criticised, that's the time to decide whether to send them the note or try to say it to their face.
You have every right to do exactly this within a childcare setting, if you see a behaviour that doesn't fit with your philosophy for your child. The response, once you're out of sight, will depend on how diplomatic you've been and how well you've explained yourself. Once you kill the goodwill, you have ZERO chance of changing people's behaviour. Treat difficult relatives and friends with exactly the same diplomacy and respect!