a blog about parenting, home daycare, adoption and life in general.
Home Daycare

Home Daycare How-To: Discipline

We’ve all been there: Little Hunter is playing happily until Colin walks over and grabs his toy.  Hunter winds up and socks Colin in the arm.  Or bites him.  Or kicks him.

Or you’ve told Mary for the 14th time to put her shoes on and she just keeps playing.  You’ve got a handful of other children to get ready for Outdoor Time, so what do you do?

Having a structured plan for discipline is essential to running a home daycare, because it will come up … possibly many times each day.  It’s wise to have your plan in place so that you’ll know what to do when the frustration starts to set it (and it will from time to time).  You’ll be able to respond rather than react, and Hunter, Colin and Mary will know exactly what to expect too.

Here’s what worked for me:

Remind Children of The Rules:

Children were constantly reminded of the rules in fun ways and always with a smile.  The biggest one was “Listen to Megan’s words and do as she says”, because that covers most things.  The next biggest was “Hands Off” or “Hands To Ourselves”.  Because I have two boys of my own and have learned from experience, I didn’t let the daycare kids hug one another either — hugging always leads to falling which always leads to wrestling which always leads to getting hurt.  They were welcome to come to me for a hug anytime however!

By the same token, when someone was doing a great job of following the rules, I made sure to recognize them for it with verbal praise, high fives, and hugs and kisses.

When A Rule Is Broken, Give A Warning and State The Consequence:

In general, children attending daycare are very young and often won’t remember on their own that they’ve broken the rules.  When Mary is dawdling, I would remind her: “Mary, remember: We need to listen to Megan’s words and do as she says.  If you don’t come put your shoes on, I will have to help you.”

Often the “threat” of helping a toddler or preschooler do something is enough to get them moving.  Or if the child is not getting along with others, a better consequence might be having to play alone or depending on the age and situation, a time out.

If the child is doing something that might hurt themselves or others, you need to remove them from the situation without a warning.

Follow Through On The Consequence:

Do what you’ve already told the child you’d do.  But don’t do it before you’ve warned the child unless there is a danger involved.

This is the time when I would get down on eye level, explain what they did wrong and what the consequence is: “Johnny, you were hitting Mary.  At Megan’s house, we are Hand’s Off.  You will have a time out (or whatever consequence) because you broke the rule.”

Enforce the Consequence:

If the consequence is a time out, you’ll need to make sure you’re supervising the child the entire time while watching the rest of the children.  Our time out spot was the bottom step, where I could sit with the child if needed, while still keeping an eye on everyone else.  Your time out spot may just be the patch of carpet next to you, a chair, or some other area.  The important thing is that the child is never alone, and that you are able to supervise all of the children at the same time.

Some children may sit for time out, but others may resist it.  Just keep returning the child to time out until their time limit is done.  Time out should be about one minute for each year of age, but use your judgement for the individual child.  Set a timer because it’s easy to lose track of time.

If the consequence is the loss of a privilege, make sure to follow through on that as well.  Children need to know that they can trust what you say.

Let The Parents Know:

I recorded each time out and the reason for it on the child’s daily report.  This way the parents were aware of any ongoing concerns.

When Behaviour Becomes An Issue:

With children, there’s always the chance that behaviour will escalate and become unsafe for the other children or for you.  If a child is becoming too dangerous, is hurting other children on a constant basis, or is starting to push you towards anger and frustration, it may be time to let the child go.

You need to weigh the advantages of keeping a child in that position (which usually comes down to income) against the disadvantages (the possibility of you losing your cool, or starting to hate your job, and the chances of other children being hurt and families leaving you).

When in doubt, rather than stressing about it for months on end,  I’ve found it’s better to just let that child’s family know that you can no longer provide the type of care that they need, and give a final date of at least two weeks away.  But do keep in mind that many families will stop bringing their child at all, and you may lose two weeks worth of income.

Rules For Home Daycare Providers:

As the adult in situations that can often be trying and very challenging, here are the rules that YOU need to abide by:

NEVER physically discipline a child.

NEVER verbally demean a child.

NEVER leave a child where they can’t be supervised.

NEVER leave a child behind a locked door.

ALWAYS take a time out for yourself if you need it.  If you feel your emotions getting the best of you, put the kids in front of the  TV for a couple of minutes, get out the Play Doh for the kids, or give everyone an extra snack while you take a few minutes to collect yourself.  NEVER put yourself in a position where you may regret your words or actions.

Next Time: We’ll look at ways to head off challenging behaviours before they even start!


What’s your advice for dealing with discipline in a home daycare situation? 

Have you ever had a child that was disciplined inappropriately at daycare?


Article written by:

Megan is a WAHM to 3 (and then some) kids, who spends the majority of her time working as an Administrative Assistant, blogging and washing dishes. She loves to write about her adventures in parenting, running a home daycare, adoption and whatever else strikes her fancy!


  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I have always wondered how discipline was handled at day cares. It’s great to know it’s so well thought out.

  2. Kungphoo

    That is a hard thing to do when they become teenagers.. they think they know it all and they are above your rules.. but we do our best to make them stick!

  3. Everything Mom and Baby

    Excellent rules! I am guilty with my own kids when it comes to following through on consequences.

  4. Mystic_Kitchen

    Great tips! Thankfully all mine are grown now.. my middle child was the worst at daycare… they called him “Houdini’ because he got out of everything!

  5. thenewmodernmommanyri

    as a stay at home mom to three kids under 4, i am thankful for a reminder of these tips. my two toddler girls like to fight over toys and it just makes me insane most days because of all the screaming.

  6. Lexie Lane

    Even having just one can be challenging. These are such great tips and so helpful because my little guy is going through a lot of this at the moment. Thank you!

  7. Ourfamilyworld (@OurFamilyWorld)

    Those are great tips for home daycare and and any parent. Sometimes I fail at enforcing the consequence

  8. Lisa Rios

    These are absolutely great tips to maintain discipline at home day care. Great list of rules for the Daycare providers as well. Kids who follow the rules will definitely have a great impact in their life too.

  9. Yona Williams

    I found reading about this very interesting. I just read a headline or something that said daycare costs were more than what families spend on food (or something like that). I hear people talk about how difficult it is to pay and find good daycare options. It’s good that you document time outs in a report.

    • Megan Elford

      Yes, I’ve heard of cities too where the daycare market is really difficult and parents have a very hard time of finding good quality care. I think it’s crazy that costs are so high, but I do believe that as long as it’s legal, educational, safe and loving care, it’s worth it. These are our children after all, and good, safe care is worth a great deal. That said, I do think it’s up to parents to decide whether working is worth the cost, or if they may be able to live on less income so that one parent can stay home with the children. I understand completely that this doesn’t work for everyone, but it is a very valid option.

  10. Mystarlight

    I see these kinds of things happening with my girls. I think these are great reminders of how to handle situations. I know I have put them in time out and did not stay watching them the whole time and all of a sudden they are scooting all over the floor or are already up playing with toys.

  11. Audrey Blakeney

    With it being summer, I find having all my children at home a little difficult at times, especially when they are all home at once. As you said, children don’t often remember or have a long attention span, so disciplining them and helping remind them of the rules is difficult. I will be sure to remember your advice, however, about never verbally demeaning a child. Even though it can be hard to control your temper at times, I agree that it is vital to stay calm and kind yet firm. I think this tip will help me help my children be more behaved this summer, so that everyone can have fun.

  12. Stephanie Ann Garrett

    I come from the nannying world and the dynamics are way different when you are working for a family. They set the precedence for discipline and sometimes that means having little to no authority when it comes to discipline no matter the behavior. Now as I’m starting my own home daycare, I’m guessing the dynamics will be slightly different. These tips were very helpful. Thanks!

  13. Beth Browning

    I’m so grateful to have found this! I just started my home daycare and have been surprised by the challenges that have come along with it, and your advice is wonderful!

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