10 Tips to Handle a Child Acting Out at Daycare

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So your child is misbehaving at daycare. You aren’t the first parent to deal with this, and you won’t be the last.

Fortunately, there are many, many parents who have gone before you that have found good options for dealing with disruptive daycare behavior.

The following are some of my favorites.

*FYI, some of the links in this article about child misbehaving at daycare may be affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, we may get a commission (at no extra cost to you). For more info, please see our disclaimer.

10 Tips to Handle a Child Acting Out at Daycare

You need help. I get it. All of us moms who have had children in daycare have had issues at one time or another. Try one (or more!) of these tips to help your child dial down the drama.

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1. Look for Triggers

Ask your daycare provider if there is a specific time of the day when your child’s behavior worsens.

  • Is it during nap time? Perhaps you have a restless child who can’t calm down enough to relax.
  • Is it during drop-off? You will need to manage separation anxiety.
  • Is it during the mid-afternoon? Perhaps your child is overly tired and/or over-stimulated.

There isn’t always a trigger for bad behavior, but looking for one is a good place to start.

Related: 10 Signs of a Bad Daycare

2. Follow a Steady Schedule

Daycares and nursery schools tend to operate on very regimented schedules. If your child is not used to having a scheduled nap, meal, and snack times, that could be part of the problem.

Enact a schedule at home to give your child more consistency throughout the day and night.

Kid’s Editable Daily Schedule Chart

Check out this kid’s daily scheduler. It might help you stay organized and keep a steady schedule with your child.

If you have mommy guilt when sending your child to daycare, you’re probably not going to like this advice.

You really need to decide early if your kid is going to be a daycare kid or not.

The reason for that is because daycares have schedules they run, and if your kids aren’t regularly going to daycare, then that means they’re probably not running on a consistent schedule.

It really will make your life easier (and the daycare staff life easier) if you pick one or the other.

Also, on the days you have to keep your child home, either on the weekend or if the daycare is closed, find out what schedule the daycare runs and try to keep your child on that schedule.

3. Develop a Drop-Off Routine

Separation anxiety is one of the primary causes of bad daycare behavior. Create a routine during drop-off that gives your child a sense of normality each day.

The structure of the routine is less important than daily consistency. Something as simple as a hug, a kiss, and a goodbye done in the same order, every day, will cue your child that it is time to have fun with friends.

4. Have a Conversation

If you want to know why your child is being irritable or acting angry, all you have to do is ask. A toddler might not be able to put all of their feelings into words, but they should be able to give you an idea about what is causing friction.

If they can’t speak about it, ask them to draw a picture about something that frustrated them at daycare. Next, talk about those frustrations.

Encourage your child to step away and take a deep breath whenever something is upsetting them. Above all, let them know that they can always talk to you about those daily annoyances.

Looking for a Good Quality Daycare?

Find an affordable and qualified daycare center that fits your needs.

5. Do Yoga Together

Even a toddler is not too young to do yoga. The practice helps a person find calm and balance. Go to a mommy-and-me yoga class or develop your own routine at home.

You can teach your child some basic poses (asanas), but the main focus should be on breathing and relaxation. A child who is at peace at home should be able to find peace while in daycare.

6. Serve Nutritious Food

a kid eating spaghetti

There is a strong connection between healthy eating and good behavior. According to the American Psychological Association, a child that doesn’t have a nutritious diet can suffer from irritability, behavioral problems, and social anxiety.

7. Add More Exercise

child swinging a bat

Children with a lot of energy to burn need a strong outlet. I know a child who was kicked out of two daycares for misbehavior. His mother was at a loss until she realized he was simply in need of more activity.

She enrolled him in toddler soccer, swimming lessons, and karate. Her schedule was overflowing, but it made a huge difference in his overall attitude. Within weeks he was happier, sleeping better, and performing well in his new daycare setting.

8. Sleep Tight

child sleeping with teddy bear

A tired child is a cranky child. A child who isn’t getting enough sleep at night is the crankiest of all. According to the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers need a minimum of 11 hours of sleep, while preschoolers need no less than 10.

There are a number of ways to increase the amount of sleep your child gets at night. Change the temperature in the room, develop a consistent bedtime routine and invest in a white noise machine. If these ideas don’t work, talk to your child’s pediatrician for more tips.

If you’re concerned about the temperature in your child’s room, then consider getting a smart thermostat that also comes with a smart sensor.

If you place the extra sensor in your child’s room, it will allow you to keep a closer eye on the temperature in their room, and you can even have the thermostat adjust based on the temperature in their room.

I have the Ecobee Smart Thermostat, but most of the other major brands, including the Nest Thermostat, will give you similar options.

Ecobee Sweet Dreams Baby Kit
Comes with a thermostat, a sensor, and a smart camera so you can monitor your child's room both day and night.

9. Seek Outside Help

My best friend is a mother of four who has a degree in early childhood development. When her second oldest started acting out at daycare, she tried all of these tips and many others.

Nothing worked. Eventually, she chose to take her daughter to a therapist. She learned that her sweet four-year-old daughter had an anxiety disorder.

The therapist recommended stress-relieving activities and coping mechanisms that my friend would not have thought of on her own. Her daughter is now thriving thanks to professional help.

There’s nothing wrong with understanding where your limits are and seeking the help of a professional. Go here to find a therapist.

10. Monitor Your Own Behavior

Sometimes, the issue with the child is that they are modeling what they are seeing at home.

Watch how you handle conflict in your daily life. Do you yell, slam doors or over-react in other ways? If so, it could be you who needs the change. Your child might follow suit.

Looking for a Good Quality Daycare?

Find an affordable and qualified daycare center that fits your needs.

There are Consequences for a Young Child’s Continued Behavior Problems

These are just some of the ways you can help your child with their negative behavior at daycare. It’s important you keep trying until you find a technique that helps control your child’s misbehavior.

My fear is if you don’t do anything, your child care provider will get to a point where they’ll kick your child out of daycare. If it’s a good quality daycare, you don’t want that because from experience finding a good daycare is hard.

Have you tried any of these methods for managing your child’s outbursts? Do you have other tips that aren’t covered here? Share your story in the comments.

Have You Read These Other Articles?

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re child is misbehaving in daycare consider talking to their daycare teacher to help you come up with a game plan for changing their behavior.

Calm talk to your child about their actions. Make sure to set firm limits and boundaries and give consequences for when those boundaries are broken. Make sure you’re modeling the behaviors you’re trying to teach your child.

Children who are unhappy at daycare may display extreme anxiety when it comes to going to daycare. This could be crying or yelling when driving or walking up to the daycare.

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