Does your child behave differently at daycare than at home? Find out why.
Do you ever wonder if the daycare educator is talking about the wrong child, because your little one acts so differently at home? Discover what’s affecting their behaviour and what you can do about it.
Home and daycare: Two different environments
Home and daycare are very different environments. At home, your child is part of a small family unit, whereas at daycare, they’re with a big group of people in a lively, noisy space. Plus, your little one has specific routines at home.
When they’re at daycare, they need to adapt to the routines in place for the entire group of children (e.g., meal and nap times, outings). They also have to follow a different set of rules.
Acting out at daycare
Sometimes, a child will act out at daycare because the social expectations are so different. For example, they may find it difficult to wait their turn because they never have to wait at home. They may start pushing or cutting in front of the other kids.
Being part of a group takes practice. To get along with others, your child needs to develop certain social skills, like sharing, listening, asking politely, accepting rejection, and resolving conflicts with words.
How should you react?
It’s not always easy to hear about your child’s disruptive behaviour. Here are a few tips to help you respond:
- Keep an open mind and work with the educator to improve the situation. Remember, you see a different side of your child at home. Together, you can get a better idea of what’s influencing their behaviour and agree on how to intervene.
- Tell the educator which strategies you use at home to encourage certain behaviours. For example, if you place a family photo by your child’s bed at nap time, share this sleep tactic with the educator and offer to bring a similar photo to daycare.
- Don’t scold your child for something they did at daycare. The educator surely stepped in when it happened. It’s also best to avoid giving too much attention to disruptive behaviour. Rehashing the event could also create a negative atmosphere at home.
- Simply tell your child that you know what happened and suggest an alternative for next time. For example, you could say: “Your educator told me that you hit Malik. If you want to play with a friend’s toy, ask them to lend it to you.”
Acting out at home
Some children have more difficult behaviours and reactions at home. Shy kids, for example, are sometimes better behaved in group settings.
Once again, being in a group can make a big difference.
Children learn by example. For instance, if your child sees their daycare friends put away toys, stay in their seat during lunch, or wait their turn, they’ll be inclined to do the same.
At home, however, there is no group effect compelling your child to follow the rules and behave. Plus, children often feel more comfortable acting out at home, because they know their parents will love them regardless of their behaviour. At night, your child may be disruptive because they’re tired or want your attention.
How should you react?
- Make sure you spend quality time with your child each day. For example, you could do a fun activity together.
- Put your child to bed earlier if they tend to get irritable when they’re tired.
- Set clear boundaries. For tips, check out our fact sheet on Discipline: How and when to set rules and boundaries.
- Encourage the positive behaviours you expect from your child.
- Praise your child for behaving well.
- Talk to the daycare educator if your child’s behaviours continue to be challenging at home. They may be able to offer you some solutions.
Why your child eats better at daycare
Sharing meals with friends at daycare encourages your child to eat. Plus, they know that they can’t ask for something else if they don’t like what’s being served. If your child eats well at lunch, they may also be less hungry at dinner. What’s more, your child is probably tired from their day by the time they get home, which can decrease their appetite.
Things to keep in mind
It’s normal for a child to act differently at daycare than at home.
A child may be disruptive at daycare because they’re still developing social skills.
If your child is exhibiting challenging behaviour at home or at daycare, talk to their educator.
Scientific review: François Couture, early childhood consultant, CASIOPE
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: June 2022
Sources and references
Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.
Educatout. “Comportement différent à la maison et à la garderie.” www.educatout.com
Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. “Child care: Making the best choice for your family.” 2017. www.caringforkids.cps.ca