Of all the important aspects of child care, none is more important than the relationship between your child and his caregiver. Whether you are seeking someone to work in your home or choosing a center, the caregiver's training, patience, warmth, and enjoyment of your child is critical to his well-being.

In Your Home
Look for someone who is warm, loving, and responsive, and who can pay close attention to him and respond to his individual needs, praising his achievements and supporting his development. This kind of relationship teaches a child that other adults (aside from his parents) can be trustworthy and enjoyable. It also provides the level and variety of stimulation that is essential for healthy brain growth and development on all fronts during this critical early childhood period.

A good caregiver can be a wonderful resource for you — an excellent source of information and helpful observations of your child's progress. It pays to get to know your child's caregiver, to brief her in the mornings about anything eventful, to get an update from her at the end of each day, and to arrange periodic meetings to discuss your child.

At a Child Care Center
Look for:

• Strong encouragement of parental involvement
• Exceptionally warm, patient, and attentive staff that stay for years
• Caregivers who have training in early childhood education and practice age-appropriate activities
• Discipline that is grounded in talking through and re-direction, not punishment and shame
• More questions to ask

From Me, Myself and I: How Children Build Their Sense of Self — 18 to 36 Months by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D. Available wherever books are sold. Copyright © 1999 by Goddard Press, Inc.