Four key steps to take you from “we have a problem” to “I like this solution”
We all know that communication makes or breaks a relationship. And as mamas, we yearn for beautiful connections between our little ones and their childcare providers, as we want them to thrive, feel loved and safe, and feel at ease.
Finding the time and appropriate place—let alone the right words—to have a critical conversation with these important members of our tribe can be a challenge, though.
Every day, any number of things may not go the way you envisioned when it comes to taking care of the most precious human being you’ve ever known.
You may be worried your caregiver isn’t feeding your baby enough. Or perhaps, you’re worried she is overfeeding. Or at the end of the day, all you hear is negative feedback about how the transition to childcare is going, and you wonder if you’ve chosen the right option for your little one. Or your caregiver consistently arrives 20 minutes late. Or the staffing ratio at your daycare is off (too many kids per adult) in the first hour the center is open every morning. Or, or, or…you get the picture.
And timing is oh so hard. As working mamas, we are always rushing at the beginnings and ends of days, just trying to make it to work or home to get dinner ready before meltdown hour. It’s easy enough to just say “forget it” and hope a situation will resolve itself.
But instead of resolving, it often just festers.
So, how to have that important conversation to resolve any current tension and also pave the way for a healthy and comfortable relationship?
When I (remember to) use this 4-step formula—whether for a daycare provider, or for anyone else for that matter!—conversations tend to go more smoothly, and the outcomes tend to be better:
1. Wait (for the ‘amygdala hijack to end)
Did you know that once your brain has been triggered into having an emotion reaction, it takes more than 20 minutes for your powers of reason to return?
The amygdale is the part of our brain that handles emotions, and it “hijacks” our rational, thinking brain when it perceives a threat. I’m not advocating waiting weeks after an event to have a conversation, but it is always better to wait until you are in a more calm state so you can respond appropriately rather than react in a way you’d regret.
I now say to myself “Amygdale hijack! Amygdale hijack!” when I’m in the midst of this type of reaction, so I don’t hit “send” on that angry e-mail I’m writing or pick up the phone for a conversation I’d regret.
In terms of timing, think about whether you can arrange a call with the caregiver during naptime, get in early the following day to have time to talk, or wait until you get to work and have a chance to calm down before calling the daycare center director.
2. Start with shared commitments
Before getting into the issue, spend a few minutes acknowledging and affirming the commitments you and the caregiver share.
For example, if your concerns are around nutrition, “I know we share a commitment to helping Baby grow and be well-nourished. I am so grateful that we are both on the same page about making sure he is loved and healthy. And I know we are both committed to having a relationship where we can talk about anything.”
Starting with shared commitments lets the caregiver know you feel like you are on the same team. And she’ll be in a better frame of mind to work collaboratively with you to reach a good resolution.
3. Stick with a short version of the facts—and how the situation made you feel
You can (indeed, should!) vent to your spouse, a close friend, a coach, a therapist, etc. about the issue to get all of your feelings and emotions out. Find a safe place and person to go on the tirade you need, think about the issue from a million angles, and feel all the emotions you feel.
But the conversation with the caregiver isn’t the place for the venting.
To get to a good resolution on the issue at hand, try to stick with facts—instead of your interpretations of them—and condense them into a few short sentences.
So, for example, instead of “Why is there so much milk in these bottles!! You aren’t feeding my baby enough!”, opt for: “Yesterday, I sent 12 ounces of milk to daycare in the morning; when I came to pick Baby up, there were 6 ounces of milk left in her bottles. I’m worried about her milk intake and am scared she may not getting the nutrition she needs.”
4. Make specific, direct requests for your provider to consider
Think hard in advance about what exactly you’d like from the caregiver. In the nutrition example, perhaps it’s “Can you walk me through exactly how the feeding process goes here, step by step?” and “Can we commit to talking about this issue again tomorrow at the end of the day?”
If you make a specific, reasonable request—one they have a right to say yes or no to—and they accept, you will walk away feeling empowered, and you are more likely to achieve the measurable outcome you are looking for.
These conversations take bravery. I’ve more than once been in a cold sweat before having one. But I am always, always glad I mustered up the courage in the end.
If you don’t want to do it to put yourself at ease, do it for your little one.
The stronger the connections to your whole village, the happier you’ll be as a mama.
(With gratitude and huge props to my amazing leadership coach Amy Jacobsohn for teaching me all these awesome tools.)