Thursday, May 17, 2012

Too Much Love for Daycare?

When we started looking for a daycare for Jr., it was not without much prayer.  It is such a hard thing to leave your baby all day with strangers; we really wanted to find somewhere where he would be happy and loved.  I felt more comfortable with a reputable daycare center over a small in-home daycare or even a nanny, because there is more accountability and oversight (in my point of view) at a center.  If one teacher is irritable and having a bad day, another teacher can keep her "in check" and pick up any slack.  We also wanted to find somewhere associated with a church, so that Christian values would guide the teachers work and interaction with the children. 

We have been extremely pleased with the awesome center we have found!  It really has been an answer to those heart wrenching prayers during our daycare search and Jr's beginning days at the center. The three teachers seem to really love Jr. and they have taught him some beautiful things - like raising his arms over his head when they say, "Praise the Lord!"  So stinkin' cute.

And, Jr. loves his teachers.  Although he had some pretty strong separation problems from six to nine months, he is clearly over that now.  He used to have some teary goodbyes on Monday mornings, but now, he runs in and starts playing with his friends.  This is exactly what I wanted - for my baby to be happy, loved, and well-adjusted to daycare!  But, can a toddler love daycare too much? 

Within the last couple weeks, Jr. has started throwing tantrums when I pick him up from daycare.  He is usually having so much fun riding the stroller buggy, playing with toys, or running around, that he has a hard time going home with me.  He usually seems pleased to see me, and may even run over to me for a second.  But, as soon as I try to remove him from the toys, stroller buggy, or snacks, he arches his backs, screams, and kicks his legs.

Sometimes, his beloved teachers rescue him. They just can't stand to witness such a tantrum.  They may pick him up or take him from me, tell him he can take a toy home or try to otherwise distract him.  I'm pretty sure this isn't helping the problem.  (See me rolling my eyes.  Get a grip, teachers.)

Yesterday, in a fit of distress over leaving the buggy, my precious boy head-butted me right on the cheekbone.  This was painful.  But, I didn't want his very concerned teacher to think that I couldn't handle it, so I just kept on smiling and said, "Oops!"  (Now, I'm rolling my eyes at myself.)

I've been keeping my husband abreast of this developing situation, and apparently he does not have the same problem when he is in charge of pick-up.  He asked me if I wanted to read his Cesar Milan book, "Be the Pack Leader."  He says approaching Jr. for pick-up is much like training a dog.  They can sense your anxiety, so you must be calm assertive.  (Another eye roll).

So, I'm feeling quite inadequate.  I'm a psychologist!  I should know how to handle this!  I'm the mommy!  My baby should be dying to see me and come home with me!  Sigh.

I've decided I must think like a psychologist.  I have two choices to modify his behavior - reinforcements or punishments. Just for clarification, reinforcements are those things that increase behavior and punishments are those that decrease behavior.  I will try reinforcements first, as it's really hard to punish a 13 month old.  The behavior to increase - leaving daycare with mommy without tantrums and/or bodily harm to mommy.  Today, I am going to daycare with an arsenal of Jr.'s most beloved items, sing-a-ma-jig, snacks, and his pacifier.  I'm sure these will be just the reinforcers (we don't say "bribes") needed to turn the tantrum monster into a compliant young boy.  Who needs the Dog Whisperer?  I'm Dr. Momsie!

15 comments:

  1. We use to have the same problem when our son was in my sister in law's daycare. Thankfully telling him when he was coming back seemed to help.

    New follower from the blog hop
    http://lifeexperienceneeded.blogspot.ca/2012/05/youre-mom-when.html

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  2. I am an older grandma. I call them bribes. When my kids were small it was the promise of a new Golden Book if they behaved in the grocery store and didn't play the aligator game. You do what works best.

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    1. Mom, is this you?! Or, did other children also play the alligator game in the grocery store?

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  3. No worries - I'm a psychologist too and my youngest did the same thing for a while! He went through a period of being so happy to see me that he burst into tears as soon as I walked in the door (momma couldn't pick him up fast enough), and then a phase where he didn't want to leave!

    I think some kids get overstimulated when they are excited, too. I noticed my little guy would be so excited to see me, but so excited to keep playing, and he was just all over the place trying to decide WHAT to do! Spending some time at the daycare with him at pick-up, before we actually left, seemed to help him transition.

    Have you considered talking to the teachers? If they seem to be reinforcing the tantrum/refusal to leave, maybe you could fill them in on our plan and talk with them about how they can better help you during pick-up. Good luck! Hope this phase is over soon!

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    1. Great input! Overstimulation could definitely be contributing. And, there is no doubt in my mind that I need to talk to his teachers. My plan that I will be asking them to support is for me to calmly come in and play a little. Then, when it's time to leave after a few minutes, I will tell him to say "bye-bye until tomorrow." That will be a clue for teachers to say bye-bye and me to take over ( hands off, teachers!) Once I remove him from the room, I will introduce the incentives in the calmness of the hall. Or should I distract him with an incentive in the room?

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    2. I like the incentive in the hallway, mainly because then other children won't want your incentive as well. And, time playing in daycare has worked for me.

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  4. The spelling gave it away!!!

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    1. No, Missy, I really didn't believe anyone else knew the alligator game!

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  5. Update! OMGenius -it worked! When I told her the plan, the teacher looked at me like, "Whatever, lady. I'll believe it when I see it." But, the moment I showed Jr. sing-a-ma-jig and his treat cup, he was jumping into my arms!

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    1. Yay!!! Sometimes I find when I'm having a rough patch with the kids it just takes a few days of thinking about it, figuring out a plan, and then viola! Improvement! Kind of a bummer that the teacher wasn't more supportive of you.

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  6. I am a new follower from BlogHop - stop by my blog and say hi if you get a chance :)
    http://superficialsydney.blogspot.com.au/

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  7. Nice to hear a professional (and Mom's) perspective. I'm sure he will come around- just a phase.

    New follower here from the blog hop.

    I'd love to have you join in the Weekend Blog Walk at my blog, At Home Take 2. Always great to have some new faces (blogs) join in!

    Jessica @ At Home Take 2
    http://www.athometake2.blogspot.com

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  8. Now I must know, what's the alligator game?

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    1. The alligator game is something my sister and I made up when we were young and having to go with mom to the grocery store. We pretended that there were alligators in every green tile square. All the other squares were safe. You basically have to run around the store jumping the green tiles. We got yelled at by store employees on several occasions. :)

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    2. How fun to have memories like that!

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