My 4-year-old daughter doesn’t want to go to preschool. When I take her to preschool in the morning, she insists that I sit with her in class, which is impossible. I have tried leaving the classroom for 30 minutes at a time, but then she clings more. I don't know what to do.
Dealing with separation anxiety can be tough on both the parent and the child. We're happy to see that you are reaching out for support and guidance before deciding what to do. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to break your daughter’s habit but to do it cleanly and completely. The most important thing right now is consistency. Remind yourself that every time you give in, it takes 10 more times of being consistent for that behavior to change. If she pushes and you give in and stay, then she will push even further next time to get you to stay.
At home, practice what she should do when it’s time for her to go to school. Pretend your living room is the school; tell her goodbye and then walk out of the room. Describe specifically what she should do (i.e., sit quietly, focus on the teacher, etc.) when she starts to feel sad. Ease her anxiety by giving her something small of yours to take with her. This gives her something to hold onto when she thinks of you and helps her feel like you are never far away.
When she makes it through a day at school, praise her like crazy and give her lots of attention for it! The process will just take some time to become normal to her and for a routine to be established. Once this happens, she will begin to understand that you will be there at the end of the day.
My ex-husband’s mother is my daughter’s day care provider. My former mother-in-law does not treat my daughter like the rest of the kids she cares for. She favors her, giving her everything that she wants. This concerns me, especially since she is becoming a certified preschool teacher so she can teach my daughter. I would rather my daughter be in a preschool with other children so she can learn independence. I don’t know how to approach the subject with my ex-husband without starting a fight.
My daughter has also been throwing major temper tantrums, sometimes to the point where I cannot get her to calm down. When I put her in time-out, she will stay there but acts like she is trying to leave.
If your mother-in-law becomes certified, she will have to follow a strict preschool curriculum. In this structured environment, she will be less likely to display favoritism toward your daughter. The best you can do is research your preschool options, make an informed decision on what program would be best for your daughter and present this information to your ex-husband in a calm manner.
As far as the tantrums go, they are not unusual but need to be addressed. Your daughter needs to be taught a more acceptable way to act when she is feeling angry or frustrated. Putting her in time-out perhaps is being used as a way for her to calm down or as a negative consequence for inappropriate behavior. The differences between the two can sometimes be confused.
If she has a tantrum and is put in time-out to calm down, then she should have a separate consequence for the tantrum. Or once she is calm, she can sit in time-out quietly for three minutes as a consequence before she is allowed to return to playing.
Teaching her calming techniques should be the focus right now. One well-received technique for children her age is to have her hold up as many fingers as she has had birthdays. When she is angry, she blows on each finger and folds it down. This is referred to as “blowing out her birthday candles.”
Regulating a person’s breathing helps with emotions and has a calming effect. Getting her favorite blanket or stuffed toy to hold close is another calming technique that is effective with children her age. Teach her these techniques when she is calm, and practice them so she is familiar with them when she is upset.
My 3-year-old son is having difficulty adjusting to the birth of his baby sister, who is 3 weeks old. He is very physical and is having frequent tantrums. His preschool teachers say he is more aggressive at school and is engaging in attention-seeking behavior. What can we do as parents to help him?
Do not ignore his new behaviors – address them like you would have before his sister was born. To help him adjust to his new sibling, focus on his role as the big brother. Point out what is “cool” about being the big brother and engage him in tasks that involve caring for his little sister.
Perhaps he can hand you a diaper when needed or help tuck his sister in bed. Give him jobs that only a big brother can do. Make him feel needed and important to the family.
While it may be difficult, share some one-on-one time with your son. Can Grandma and Grandpa babysit your daughter for an hour so you and your son can do something together? This will help reinforce that you still love him. He needs your attention, as hard as that may be right now.
My 2-year-old started going to a Montessori school and adjusted very well at first. But with time, she has not shown the development that her classmates have demonstrated. In fact, it seems that she has regressed. She can sing her assigned poems at home, but in school she just cries and clings to me. I want to be a better mother and teacher at home. How can I help her be more social and responsive at school?
We have a few questions for you to consider. Is your daughter the same age as the other children in her class? How many children are in the class? Are other parents involved in the class? Does your daughter have separation issues? Does she respond in a tearful or shy manner in other social situations?
As parents, we often compare our children to others. But each child develops at a different rate, so please try not to compare her to her peers. It may be that at age 2, she is not ready for a classroom setting. This does not mean that she will never be ready.
How your daughter responds to certain social situations is not an indicator that you need to be a better parent. You obviously are a good mother who is involved in your daughter’s learning and development. She is responding to you at home, which shows that she is learning the material. She just may not feel comfortable at this time in this type of classroom environment.
Talk to her teacher. He or she has most likely had similar situations occur in the past and may have some suggestions for you. You may also seek recommendations from your daughter’s pediatrician. Another possible option is to continue the Montessori curriculum at home or with a smaller group of children with which your daughter would feel more comfortable participating.
If this is not possible, consider other types of activities in which to involve your daughter, such as story time at the library, music classes and play groups. These types of activities afford your daughter the chance to interact with other children in perhaps a less stressful way for her.
My 7-year-old son is beginning to hate school. He is impulsive and as a result, often has to sit apart from his classmates. This consequence only intensifies his behavior. I have provided suggestions on how to handle his impulsiveness, but the school’s staff will only administer the school’s policy of separation. He is not trying to be defiant, and he is now feeling like he is being punished for who he is, not for what he is doing. He feels singled out. What are my options?
This situation, if allowed to continue, will hamper his education. So you must act now to stop it from continuing. Did your son go to preschool? How was his kindergarten experience? Preschool and kindergarten are when impulsive behaviors are dealt with through redirection, teaching and practicing more appropriate responses.
Impulsive behavior is normal; we all have impulses. As we grow and develop, we learn to curb our impulses through social interaction. How other people respond to our behavior helps clue us in to whether or not that behavior is acceptable. We adjust our behavior in order to get positive reactions from those around us.
In school, the social reaction to a student’s impulsive behavior is separation from the group in the “safe seat” or “buddy room.” While there, he is missing out on classroom fun and educational instruction.
Some children do not connect their behaviors and the consequences of their behaviors very quickly. It takes administering consistent and repeated responses before a child learns that his behavior is linked to the consequences.
Your son has not made the connection yet. Perhaps he is strong-willed or stubborn, and thus it may take more time. Don’t be surprised if the behavior worsens at first. This is common but not long-lasting.
There are steps you can take to help your son with this developmental lesson. First, you must support the school’s staff and their policy on how to handle impulsive behavior. Second, find out what is occurring at school directly prior to the inappropriate behavior. Work with your son each day after school by teaching and then practicing a more acceptable behavior to use in place of his unacceptable behavior.
The goal is to teach him the necessary social skills to succeed in the classroom and wherever else life takes him. You can work on this by using a three-step approach that we call Preventive Teaching:
- Describe the positive behavior. Be very clear and demonstrate it if necessary.
- Give him a reason to do it this way. Make this reason a “kid” reason that shows him how he will benefit from doing it this way.
- Have him practice what you just taught him. Keep it brief and make it fun.
The comment about being “punished for who he is” is not likely his words, but something he heard an adult say. Kids will say whatever they need to in order for their parents to take their side and defend them, whether they are truly the victims of the situation or not.
You are not trying to change his personality. Neither is the school’s staff. The goal is to help your son succeed and be happier in an environment that he will be in for many years to come.
Our adult daughter and her 3-year-old son are living with my husband and me. We are concerned about her parenting and its adverse effects on our grandson.
Our daughter is very independent and does not welcome advice from us. She works varied hours, comes home tired and is irritable with her son. She is always telling him “no” and even pushes him away. When I call her attention to this, she snaps at me.
She is not willing to go to parenting classes to improve her skills. She has even left her son in our care so she could live with her boyfriend. Our grandson’s father walked out on them, but now my daughter is thinking of getting back together with him. I have discovered that the two of them smoked crack before our grandson was born and that she smoked marijuana while she was pregnant.
Our affectionate, precious grandson is now waking up in the middle of the night crying. He is not wet, hungry, thirsty, etc. We can’t calm him; it is like he is in a trance and is unaware of his surroundings. During the day, he is loving and attached to his grandfather and me, frequently giving us hugs and kisses. He loves to read and draw and has a good attention span.
Has he been hurt by his mother’s prenatal marijuana use? How can we help him through this difficult time with our daughter’s unsettled behavior?
It is likely that the instability your grandson has experienced is now taking a toll on him emotionally and behaviorally. It sounds like there is tension at home. We strongly encourage you to avoid adult conversations in his presence. Wait until he is asleep or is in another room. Children are smart. They pick up on tension and they know when adults are arguing. Overhearing adult conversations can be confusing for them.
It is also important to provide as much structure and stability as you can since this gives children a sense of emotional and physical safety. If your daughter agrees, establish a consistent daily routine. This will create predictability in your grandson’s day, which will be comforting for him. Children crave routine and respond well to schedules. This, in turn, allows him to feel safe as he navigates the world and interacts with those around him.
It is difficult to know exactly why your grandson is crying at night. He may not be able to express why he is upset because he may not even know the reasons himself. He could be experiencing night terrors. Offer him hugs and kisses. Comfort him. Tuck him back into bed and assure him that he is safe and all is well.
If you are concerned about his prenatal exposure to marijuana, have him evaluated by his pediatrician. And continue to offer him your unconditional love and plenty of praise. Hopefully, your daughter will begin to learn from your example and place her son’s needs before her own. If not, you will remain a consistent source of love and support.
I have twin girls and an almost 4-year-old boy. I am having discipline problems that are getting worse. I am getting frustrated and need some advice.
Learning to apply effective consequences is one of the most difficult parenting techniques. When your children are young, it is even harder because you might not see the effect the consequence is having right away. All you can see are the temper tantrums and limit-testing.
It is important to discuss what discipline is. Many parents equate discipline with punishments. This is not true. Discipline means structure and instruction. We have to teach our children appropriate behaviors (sometimes repeatedly). Otherwise they learn from other “teachers,” such as TV, their peers and the media.
Once you identify an inappropriate behavior, stop the behavior immediately. Once the behavior is stopped, issue an immediate consequence (a time-out, removal of toy, etc.). Then discuss and practice a more appropriate behavior.
For example, if a child is throwing a toy, calmly stop the behavior by describing what he was doing. This might sound like, “Right now you are throwing your toys. Because you chose to throw your toy, you cannot play with this toy the rest of the day.” Then explain to him how he should play with his toys.
His behaviors show that he needs reminding. So set your expectations of how you want him to play by telling him what he SHOULD do and not what he SHOULDN’T do. Focus on the positive. Then ask him to show you how to correctly play with a different toy. This is his practice. If he plays nicely with it, praise him for following your instructions.
Boys Town does offer a parenting class for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. If you are interested, let us know and we can see if there is a class being held in your area. If not, you can always go online to the Boys Town Press and purchase the book titled “Common Sense Parenting: Toddlers and Preschoolers.”