Please help this struggling daycare worker!

Hello, I’m very sorry in advance for how long this could potentially be…

So I’m a nursery nurse (daycare) and we have a little girl of 14/15 months who has been with us for 2 and a half months now and just can not settle.

She comes in for two full days a week, and we’ve had her in for extra visits every day for the last 7/8 weeks.

We have tried EVERYTHING. We’ve done: the cuddle-most-of-the-day caring approach, the one-to-one all day approach, the positive praise approach (saying “no” when she screams and praising her when she calms down), we’ve made her a ‘nursery book’ which has pictures of the room and activities and all the staff in the room for her to take home and look at (which apparently she LOVES but it hasn’t had an effect at the daycare), and now we’re currently trying the “harshest” of all and just flat out ignoring her (with this one, if she follows one of us or she stands in front of us and scream, we don’t look or talk to her, but we take her hand and lay her down on a beanbag to calm down).

The key thing to note here, though, is that she is NOT in distress. She is not upset or sad, she is downright cross. She has a teddy as her comforter and she will often find a single toy throughout the day that she clings onto, but it doesn’t make a difference.

I’m just at a complete loss as to what to do with her now to help her finally settle. She wants to be picked up/sat on your lap all day but that doesn’t stop the screaming… She will literally spend the entire day just screaming in your face - not crying, literal screaming. The only thing we’ve found she’s actually started to enjoy is being out in the garden, which is fine, but we just physically can’t be out there all the time (especially not now that it’s dark but 4:30 here in the UK).

If anybody, ANYBODY, has any ideas that we can try, please please PLEASE help a girl out. It’s tearing me apart to see her like this when I know she can be such a funny character, let alone her parents😩

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Nursery daycare worker here. Been there!! It is SO hard. Especially, as you’ve noted, when they are clearly having a tantrum rather than being actually upset. It is simply impossible to be holding a child one-on-one all day when you have seven (or however many) other children to care for!

When it gets to that stage, we do what it sounds like you’ve been doing – redirect to a cushion, and continue to redirect there until they have calmed down. As soon as they’ve calmed down we try to engage them in play and be really happy and positive. No getting cranky at them when they start up again, just a very simple “Let’s lay down on the cushion until you are feeling better.” We have had this multiple times before and it seems like eventually they just snap out of it. Our longest one was my benchmark for all others – started at 9 months old and screamed all day, every day (3 days/week) for about six months. And she was the younger sister of another child so she had been coming in her entire life. It is so hard. I say keep doing what you’re doing, you may need to wait it out.

That is very interesting. I’ve never seen that before.

I have questions:

  • Does she act this way at home? Like, expressing her opinions very loudly, if not screaming?
  • Is she calm when guardian drops her off and calm when guardian picks her up?
  • Does she seem upset and uncomforted when guardian picks her up? Almost like she is betrayed to see her guardian arrive after missing them all day?

Is there the possibility of an underlying medical condition? I know I’d be grumpy if I was in pain, or uncomfortable, or tired all the time.

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Thank you!! She just so happens to do the two busiest days as well, we have 15 on her days! We’ve had it before with another little boy, but after being in everyday for about 4 weeks he was absolutely fine. It’s just so difficult for us because the other children then start to feed off of her and become upset from the constant screaming😩 I did think it would just be a waiting game, though.

As far as I know, she does not act like this at home. What’s interesting, though, is that she goes to swimming lessons with a lot of the other children in our room, and many of them have noted that she is known for being loud. I wonder if it’s just a case of mum and dad are a bit too soft on her when she’s cross…

She is not at all calm when handed over. She used to cry as soon as they pulled into the car park, now she cries when they get to her peg. But she cries. And then screams. Most of the children still grumble/cry a little when handed over though.

She’s very hit and miss at pickup. She will either cry a little like she’s a bid sad - not full on crying, but sad face and simpering - or she will scream. We’ve had one occasion where she hasn’t cried. That was when [name_f]Nan[/name_f] picked up and we were in the garden.

I honestly do think we just need to wait it out, but I was curious to see if there’s anything anybody else has tried before.


Nope, absolutely not. She’s not in pain, she’s not hungry, she’s not thirsty. She tires herself out with the screaming and will fall asleep sometimes but on the whole she’s not tired. She’s a perfectly healthy, very stubborn little girl!

Thank you for explaining!

My guess is that she is experiencing hearing loss. I could be wrong, especially since kids that age see the doctor for well-visits pretty often. But it may be something to suggest, hopefully the guardians are open to it, just to make sure nothing is being missed!

My other theory is that she has an insecure attachment to her parents. I’m not sure if you’ve studied Attachment [name_u]Theory[/name_u] before, but one of the key signs is what you described - Parent leaves child, child cries, parent comes back, child is not comforted by their return. This is a very, very, very complex aspect of child development and is NOT a criticism of the parents, nor in any way saying that they don’t love their child (a common misconception). But there’s really nothing that can be done in daycare if that’s the case. I love this video, used it in several presentations in my undergrad and grad program, because of the 2 examples at the end.

Otherwise, I honestly can’t think of anything else that could help her. I think your current attempt now with the “cry it out” method is pretty much all that’s left.


Former [name_u]Infant[/name_u] and Preschool teacher turned SAHM here…

Yikes! I feel for you. I always remember when new children started and thinking that it was the two week struggle… for full day kids!

I dont know if I have much to add. Have you possibly consider asking for pictures from home. I know something I used to have in each of my classrooms was a little family tree for each child. It wasnt necessarily for comfort purposes but maybe (I highly emphasize maybe) it could have a positive effect.

But where you say shes not in distress… what my thinking could be is what role does screen time play in her day at home. Does she scream and is handed a show?

I will say I echo the sentiment of others that it sounds like youre doing all you can. I highly agree with the no when she screams. I wouldnt even pick her up if shes going to just scream in your face. Make that association clear, “If i’'m holding you you arent screaming.”

Not a nursery worker but former special needs worker and we would have kids with this behavior for months (if not all year) what we found most of the time is it was a boundary pushing/ security searching issue OR just pure sensory overload. 14/15months seems very young to be displaying this type of behavior for such a long time (however I worked in public school, so 5 yrs & older so maybe not) It sounds like you guys are doing a good job. The only other suggestion I have is the room might be a sensory overload which might be why she prefers the garden. I would lessen the distractions/noise in the room as much as possible. When she shows up make sure the room feels calm & quiet and if she gets into a screaming fit remove her to a quiet place as much as possible, maybe designate a specific spot just for her that is out of sight of the other children (but not you) like a pop up tent, with soft blankets, and some quiet toys etc.

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