Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Grandson Crying at Preschool


Dear Jane,

Please help me to help my grandson! He is only 26 months old and his parents decided to take him to a nursery although I personally think that he is not ready yet to deal with this experience, the way that is usually given to all children by the nurseries here in Cyprus.

The reason I am saying this is that he is a lovely content boy (not spoiled), who is raised on Positive Discipline, with lots of love and affection by all of us, including his nanny who adores him. He has no other young children around to share his time with, so he is used to have lots of fun in a safe environment, and sometimes he plays with other children at birthday parties or on the playground , having an adult who is known to him always around. He is a happy, encouraged 2 year old who does not need to misbehave.

Now the nursery rules are for parents to stay with the child for an hour the first day and then go home together. The 2nd or 3rd day the mother will pretend that she will go somewhere for five minutes and leave him there with a teacher (a stranger). The following day the mother must leave him for ten minutes and then leave him at the doorstep in the hands of the teacher and say good bye (whether he is crying/screaming or not).

So my grandson went to this nursery for three days now and he was really scared and crying a lot when his mother went back, after leaving him for five minutes following the rules!!! Next week he will have to suffer more and more until he gives up.

I believe that this is a very dramatic experience for any child, because all these feelings of being abandoned all of a sudden will be stored in his subconscious mind and will always be part of his program!!!

Please Jane share your wisdom with me and advise me how to deal with this situation before we turn an encouraged child into a discouraged child because of Nursery Rules!!!!!

Thank you very much in advance, Elenitsa


Dear Elenitsa,

Oh my goodness, you sound like a grandma. (You may know that I now have 20 grandchildren, including my 11 month old of my youngest daughter. I'm so devoted to him that I purchased a house in San Diego so I can spend lots of time here.) I tell you this so you'll know I understand. In fact, they recently tried to put Greyson in a 3 hour morning program (at 10 mos.) and he cried so much that they gave up. I definitely thought he was too young.

However, I think your grandson may be just fine. The big question is how does he act after his parents leave. I use to have a morning preschool (many years ago) and I could hardly wait for the parents to leave because the children would be just fine soon after they left.

Actually, the schools rules that you describe, sound good to me. Elenitsa, I don't know for sure if he is ready or not, but I have a hunch that he could be. I don't believe he will suffer feelings of abandonment (he is loved too much). It is very possible that he will learn to feel more confident and capable. A big part depends on the energy he feels from his parents (and on how he is once they leave.)

Following is an excerpt from Positive Discipline for Childcare Providers. At the end is my story of what happened when I felt so guilty about taking Mark to a Preschool when he was 26 months old. Keep in mind, that I knew this was a very good preschool and I had even trained the staff.

Crying (See Clinging and Separation Anxiety)

Child Development Concept

Crying is a language. In fact, it is the only language infants and very young children possess Adults would not be so nervous or annoyed when children cry if they accepted this fact. Children cry for too many reasons to elaborate here, but a few of them are frustration, fear, pain, or an effort to manipulate adults. No matter what the reason, the best way to deal with crying is with an attitude of dignity and respect.

It is never a good idea to tell a child to stop crying (never mind that it rarely works). It is even worse to tell a child, "Big girls/boys don't cry." We know adults mean well when they say, "Don't cry," but that is the same as saying, "Don't communicate. It makes me uncomfortable."

Use your intuition (and/or the mistaken goal chart on page X) to give you clues about why the child is crying. The child may be crying in an attempt to find belonging through undue attention. He may be using "water power" as a misguided way to seek belonging. The child may feel hurt (possibly because he has been dethroned by a new baby at home, or because he feels abandoned) and feels his only option is revenge (which he takes out on whomever is in his path), or perhaps he feels inadequate and just wants to give up. Each of these goals would be handled differently. Check the mistaken goal chart for specific ideas.

If you sense the crying is due to fear or frustration, do your best to offer comfort. If a child is experiencing separation anxiety, it may help to hold her for a while. Every childcare environment should have a rocking chair. Sometimes an older child can help comfort or rock a younger child.

If you think the child is frustrated, validate her feelings. "You are feeling angry right now." "You wish you could do what the older kids are doing."

Sometimes it is okay to simply allow the child to have his feelings. You might say, "It is okay to cry. I hope you feel better soon."

If the child has been involved in creating a "Positive Time Out" area (see page X), you might ask, "Would it help you to go to our 'feel good place' (or whatever your children have decided to call it) for awhile?"

If you feel the child is crying in an effort to manipulate you, state what you are willing to do or what needs to be done. "I know you want me to put your shoes on for you, but I have faith in you to do it yourself. I'll come back in a few minutes so you can show me what you have done." Or "I know you don't want to help clean up, and now it is cleanup time."

Communicate with parents to stay informed about what might be going on at home that is affecting the child's behavior.

Tips for working with parents

Parents will feel differently about crying when they understand it is a language. They will be more effective when they learn to understand (not speak) the language. They can also take time to teach skills that many help the child learn other ways to behave and communicate, as in the example below.

After following all the guidelines to find a good child care situation for twi-year-old Mark (and knowing that the preschool she picked was excellent), Mrs. Nelsen was distressed when Mark cried every morning when she left him there. Parting was very difficult and Mrs. Nelsen would leave with a heavy heart. However, she noticed that when she came by to pick him up at the end of the day, Mark didn't want to leave. He was having a great time.

Mrs. Nelsen thought, "Hmmmm. What is wrong with this picture?" Then she remembered hearing that children know their parents' "buttons" and how to push them. She had a "working mother guilt button," and Mark was pushing it with great skill.

That evening Mrs. Nelsen said to Mark, "Let's play a pretend game. Let's pretend you are the mommy and I'll be Mark. When you take me to school, I'll cry and tell you I don't want you to go." Mark thought that was great fun. I cried and held on to his legs. He laughed and laughed. Then Mrs. Nelsen said, "Okay, now you pretend you are Mark and I'm the mommy and you can cry and hang on to me when I take you to school." Of course, Mark already knew how to do this very well, but he had a hard time crying when it was just pretend. He ended up laughing as he held on to Mrs. Nelsen's legs.

They were both laughing as Mrs. Nelsen said, "Well, I know you know how to do a crying goodbye, because you have been doing it every morning. Now let's practice giving a hugging goodbye. You be the mommy first and I'll be Mark. Pretend you have just taken me to school." Mark took her by the hand and walked her to the imaginary school. Mrs. Nelsen gave him a hug and said, "Bye Mommy, See you later." Then it was Mark's turn and he repeated the scene with a goodbye hug. Then Mrs. Nelsen said, "Now you know how to do both a crying goodbye and a hugging goodbye. Tomorrow you can decide which one you want to do."

The next morning Mrs. Nelsen reminded Mark that he could decide to give her a hugging goodbye or a crying goodbye and said, "I wonder which one you will choose?" Mrs. Nelsen wasn't surprised when Mark decided to give her a hugging goodbye, even though either choice would have been okay with her. Later she shared with a friend that she thought she knew why he chose the hugging goodbye. First, she had given up her guilt button. She felt very confident that Mark was spending his days in an excellent environment. She said, "I don't know how he knew that I no longer had a guilt button, but I know he knew." Second, she had taken time for training so Mark had the skills for a hugging goodbye as well as a crying goodbye – and he knew it was his choice.

Elenitsa, I hope this helps. Remember, I don't know the whole picture, but I do believe there is a lot of "extreme" parenting going on these days. Let me know how it goes.

Dear Jane,

"Thank You" is such a small phrase that cannot express my gratitude for your wise thoughts and suggestions!!! Yes, I sound like a grandma (perhaps a little bit overprotective, which I try to overcome!!!).

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