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Ask AF: Behavior at Day Care

by Gregory C. Keck

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Q: Our four-year-old son (adopted last year) behaves fairly well at home, but his day care complained about “disruptive behavior.” They’re now making us pay for a classroom shadow. Is this behavior schism common? Should we discipline him at home, after the fact?

A: Behavior-split problems are common—though children are more frequently disruptive at home and “perfect” when out in the world. Something about the day-care setting may be triggering memories of his time before he was adopted. Ask the staff when the problems arise. Is he being bullied or agitated by other children? Does he have control issues with the staff? You might also ask if there’s a way for you to observe part of the day without his knowing that you are there.

I would not recommend disciplining him at home. Doing so would blur boundaries and create tension at home around problems that did not originate in the home. Imposing consequences for problems that happened hours ago, at day care, may only compromise your growing attachment.

-- Gregory C. Keck, PH.D.
Coauther of Adopting the Hurt Child

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