There’s a reason people joke about babies being evil. Those little bundles of joy are capable of quite foul things, like poking you in the retina with their tiny talons or unleashing a geyser of pee right onto your unsuspecting face. (Side note: Why hasn’t anyone developed goalie-style protective masks for new parents? Seems like a great, untapped market niche, no?)
But we laugh about these misdeeds because we know babies aren’t actively trying to hurt us. They’re not nefarious creatures — they’re just babies!
Which is why a note that apparently came from a daycare provider is rubbing lots of moms, myself included, the wrong way. The note (which you can read in full below) was posted to a Facebook working moms group to which I belong and its contents include a mention that a 9-month-old girl was “playing roughly and aggressively with the other babies.” The note also said that the infant, named Samantha, was told “it’s not OK to hurt her friends” yet — shocker! — the girl was “smiling and going right back.”
The note also suggested that the girl’s parent “help us out by maybe discouraging her to not (sic) play roughly.”
This little missive upset Samantha’s mother, Vero, who asked other moms in our group to weigh in … so here’s my take: You can only tell so much from a short note, but its tone suggests its author — a teacher, perhaps? I hope not — appeared perturbed that the infant was smiling after being warned against playing “roughly,” whatever that means.
You don’t have to be a child development expert to understand why this is ridiculous. Of course the baby smiled after engaging in apparent mischief. THAT IS WHAT BABIES DO.
But don’t just take my word for it. Ask Dr. Adelle Cadieux, a psychologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Kids go through that stage where they just to see want cause and effect: ‘If I do this, this happens,'” she told me. “They’re learning. They get excited about the learning aspect as opposed to recognizing, ‘Oh what I’m doing is wrong.'”
Dr. Cadieux said that research shows that it’s normal for babies to begin behaving aggressively between the ages of 6 to 8 months, when they wish to express themselves but can’t yet do so through language. Sometimes you can prevent aggressive behavior in babies by looking for patterns and determining what may be causing them to hit, bite, etc. Is he hungry? Tired? Both? Whether you’re a parent or daycare aide, preemptively addressing such issues means you could soon find yourself with a less aggressive baby on your hands.
Can’t prevent the behavior? Try redirecting your mischievous baby — “Why don’t we leave Sally alone and play with blocks instead!” — or teaching him to avoid accidentally hurting others, e.g. “I know you love to run around, but let’s keep our hands down like this so you don’t hit other people while you do it.”
What isn’t productive, however, is a vague declaration that a baby is playing “roughly and aggressively.” If a baby’s behavior is truly alarming, the best way for a daycare provider to address it is by expressing concern through an actual conversation with the parent, Dr. Cadieux said.
Saying, “‘I’m concerned about your child because I’m observing something different,’ is a great way to begin a conversation as opposed to ‘Hey, your kid’s being aggressive and you need to do something about it,” she said.
I don’t want to discourage daycare providers from keeping parents abreast of their children’s days through the daily form notes common at many centers. As a parent, I’d rather see a caregiver tell me much more than I need to know about my child than tell me too little. But if a note demonstrates that a daycare provider is seemingly at a loss at how to handle typical baby behavior — like the one above appears to do — it would certainly shake my confidence in that center.
Many other parents feel the same way. After Vero shared the note on Facebook, dozens of moms posted comments questioning the competence of her daycare provider.
Good luck to Vero and her baby. I hope little Samantha keeps smiling through the nonsense.
Full transcript of the note:
Samantha has been playing roughly and aggressively with the other babies; they will be crying and upset but she is smiling and enjoying herself — even our using firm voices to tell her it’s not OK to hurt her friends and remove her from area, she is smiling and going right back. Can you help us out by maybe discouraging her to not play roughly with her friends and her dog.