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!