Raising a child can be both rewarding and exhausting.

The wealth of information and advice for parents can be overwhelming, but two who work in early childhood education in Beaver Dam offer a unique perspective and sensible advice.

Renae Henning, administrator of Community Care Preschool & Child Care, 130 E. Maple St., and Kris Behrendt, BDCH director of Kids Care Childcare Center, 1200 N. Center St., shared advice on how to handle public tantrums, picky eaters and children who cling when dropped off.

Henning, the mother of three boys, has been affiliated with Community Care for 16 years in different capacities, from parent, board member, board president and now director.

“I am in this field through non-traditional means,” Henning said. “Because I was a social worker first.”

She went to tech school at Nicolet in Rhinelander to earn her administrator credentials.

Behrendt, the mother of two, was drawn to caring for children from a young age.

“I did a lot of babysitting when I was younger and when I enrolled in college there was no doubt in my mind I would major in teaching,” Behrendt wrote.

She earned a degree from UW-Oshkosh in elementary education.

“Over the years my path has led me toward expanded leadership roles and I have been with the Beaver Dam Community Hospital Inc.’s Kids Care for 26 years now,” Behrendt wrote.

Picky Eaters

“A child needs to be exposed to a new food at least 10 times,” Henning said.

She said parents should not give up, and not make a big deal out of it.

Tuesday’s lunch menu at Community Care included Sloppy Joes, celery and pears, and she said not everyone will like it.

“But we always offer (the food),” Henning said. “You need to introduce it, encourage and expose them to new foods.”

Behrendt suggest that parents should consider why children are picky eaters.

“Are you modeling the same behavior, is it a power play? Or, could it just be that they are picky eaters and have their preferences?” she wrote. “Avoid pushing so much that it becomes a power struggle and they perceive mealtime as an anxiety-ridden event, subsequently leading to less eating. I feel as long as children are hydrated and nourished (not losing weight, lethargic, etc…), I wouldn’t worry too much.”

She suggests consulting with a primary care provider if concerns persist and continue to offer different choices and expose them to a variety of foods.

Public tantrums

Behrendt recommends letting children know your expectations for public behavior.

“If your child does not comply after receiving a warning. I would leave the store. Children need to know you are going to follow through and they will change their behavior if it is a place they want to go to with you. Follow-through is not always convenient but will pay off in the long run. Idle threats typically do not work so following through is key to success.”

Henning said parents should be brave about people who may judge your child or your parenting, because they are not walking in your shoes.

“The best thing you can do is breathe,” Henning said. “Just breathe. Giving in to the child to make them quiet isn’t the answer. Try your best not to get mad. Kids need help with their emotions. Don’t give in. Don’t buy that toy. You are the parent. They will get over it and learn to handle their emotions better.”

Henning said when talking to children, parents should end sentences with periods instead of question marks. She said it is important to be respectful of children, but also to set limits.

“We’re too afraid to let them be disappointed,” Henning said. “And that is an emotion they need to learn.”


Behrendt said clinginess is a normal behavior and parents can help by preparing the child the night before or in the morning by talking about what will happen and what the child will be doing. She said teachers are experienced in redirecting a child’s behavior/clinginess, so parents can trust them.

“Sometimes it lasts longer for some children than others. I explain that each child is different. We discuss that sometimes it is best to simply leave even though the child is upset. More often than not, it lasts for 2-3 minutes and the child is fine. We can also give parents reassurance by offering to give them a call or have them check in with us when they have a couple minutes.”

She recommends parents strive to avoid being said themselves, or saying “I’m going to miss you.”

“That only makes things worse. Be strong and redirect your child, assure your child they will have a good time at school and mom/dad grandma will pick up and can’t wait to hear about all the exciting things that happened at school.”

Henning said parents need a place they trust with people they trust to care for their children to help ease anxieties when dropping off a child at school or childcare.

“The best thing a parent can do is give them a big hug, tell them you love them and will see them later, and go,” Henning said. “A long, drawn-out good-bye only avoids the inevitable – you will leave. And generally speaking, by the time you are in your car, the sadness is over.”

Changes in childcare

“I’ve gotten smarter and I’ve gotten better at serving the customers and leading the staff. I’ve learned and I’ve grown,” Henning said. “The parents are certainly getting younger.”

She said she feels they are doing a better job, with a major change being the emphasis on educated teachers.

“When I first started, we had two degreed teachers on staff,” Hennng said. “In the spring, 100 percent of lead teachers will have two or four year degrees.”

Behrendt said after 26 years in the field, she sees centers in general as more structured with an emphasis on school readiness.

“Parents who may not need child care are seeking opportunities for children to be involved in early childhood environments to obtain the skills needed to be ready for school, which for many is now 4K,” she wrote.”