Does Your Child's Caregiver Undermine Your Parenting?

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By Erik Fisher, AKA Dr. E

We live in a time when so many of our kids are in childcare, and while there is a modicum of research that tells us that childcare is not detrimental to our children, it is well known that the people who care for our children can have a profound influence on our children for the rest of their lives.

I qualify caregivers as childcare workers from infancy through toddlerhood - in-home nannies, family members, and even educators. There are many qualified, well-meaning people who help care for children every day at many ages of our children’s development.

As parents, many of us have our ideas of what we feel is in the best interest of our child and how we want them raised. It is our hope that those caring for our children are of like mind and will espouse those similar beliefs, attitudes, and qualities. But, when it comes down to it, we are at the mercy of those who care for our kids when we are not present.

So what happens when your childcare is undermining or not consistent with the structure that you work to define with your children?

Many of us have seen the nightmares of childcare workers abusing children, and this is a true tragedy that can have long-term impacts, but there are more subtle yet still long-term consequences that can occur when the people who care for and/or educate our children are passive-aggressively defying, manipulating, and/or disregarding rules that we have put in place.

From my years of experience I can tell you that there are many times that parents’ behavior by itself can contribute to many behavioral and emotional problems of children, so I am not trying to let anyone off the hook. There are many other situations when there is a combination of parent and childcare issues, and some problems where it is only a childcare issue.

What are the types of problems am I talking about?
1.    Lack of reinforcement or inconsistent reinforcement of behaviors and limits. Whether it is not wanting to get dressed, comb their hair, take a nap, or more disruptive behaviors like aggression or disrespect, if a caregiver does not set limits and you do, this can lead to tantrums and limit-testing, resulting in your child having more consequences and frustration with you.

2.    Your caregiver yells at your kids. I, personally, am not a yeller and do not believe that one needs to yell to manage behavior. However, if your caregiver yells at your kids, and they don’t feel that they can tell you, this can result in outbursts toward you and a feeling from your children that you are sending them into this threatening experience, decreasing trust and safety with you.

3.    Your caregiver competes with you for the love of your children. I love that the people who look after my child may love them dearly, but I also have seen situations where the caregiver made love a popularity contest. This can feel very confusing to your child and can be very damaging to your relationship.

4.    Sharing inappropriate information. Sometimes adults have very inappropriate boundaries with kids and they may talk about things that your kids should not hear or they talk about other people behind their back, even you. This type of indiscretion can result in your child not respecting you or other people, and can also contribute to a lack of boundaries on their part.

These are only a few of the issues that you may experience. If you feel that any or all of these issues are not significant, consider that your children may spend more time in a week with their caregivers than with you. So just how much influence do they have on your child?

Erik Fisher, PhD, aka Dr. E…, is a licensed psychologist and author who has been featured on NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN. Visit him at to learn more about his books "The Art of Empowered Parenting" and "The Art of Managing Everyday Conflict," or to check out his blog.