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Three Year Old Boy At Daycare

I'm a mother of a 3 year old boy who will turn 4 in November and I am really frustrated because every time I go and pick him up from the daycare the caregivers always tell me that my son was punching them, throwing stuff at them, and not listening.

I had to go pick him up one day because they couldn't "handle him". I do not know why he acts that way because at home he doesn't hit me or throw stuff at me so I really don't know why he is doing it in the daycare.

The one thing he does do at home is sometimes I have to repeat myself more than once if I want him to do something. So I admit he does have a listening problem but what 3 year doesn't? Or I'm I wrong? Because if I am then I really don't
know what to do anymore.

It's an everyday thing in that daycare, my son did this my son did that. He is 3 years old and I am the one who taught him his alphabet and his numbers from 1-20 other than that he still doesn't know his colors, shapes or anything else. When I ask him what he learned he says nothing, just playing with friends.

Every time I drop him off and pick him up I just see the kids playing amongst themselves and the caregivers sitting and just looking over them.

Is it time for a new daycare?

What can I do as a parent?

What should I do?

Comments for Three Year Old Boy At Daycare

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Three Year Old Boy - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

It is awful as a parent to be told our child has misbehaved when not in our care - and to be told constantly is so hard. We start to feel we are a terrible Mother, and our child is the worst child ever. Then we start coming down on our kids to
behave better so we look better!

So first of all, drop all that stuff - you are a wonderful Mom, and you have a delightful child, but his developmental needs are not being met, and yes, he does need to learn ways of expressing his anger without hurting people. But that does not make him a horrible child.

Firstly - there are likely several issues here, one them being the Daycare.

Of course as parents we want reports on our child's day - but we don't want reports that are constantly negative. My thinking is your son has been slotted into a box of a disruptive child and they are constantly interacting with him in
that way. This just reinforces the very behavior they are complaining about.

Any behavioral issues that happen at Daycare need to be handled at Daycare. Otherwise you are double punishing or interrogating your son when he gets home, which just makes the situation worse. I hope they did not speak about him and his behavior to you, with him present.

What are they doing to encourage better behavior? How are they handling the issue that is constructive?

The second issue I would be wondering about, is if he is fine at home but angry and even violent at Daycare, then he is not happy about something. It is totally normal for a three year old to be throwing a tantrum every now and then, and learning to get control of powerful feelings is a big part of learning at this age. A Daycare should have strategies for helping children to express their feelings more appropriately.

Does your son want to go to Daycare, are there friends he wants to see? Is there a carer he talks about? Good care requires the child to have at least one adult that they bond with. Someone they trust, someone they get a hug from, someone who is supporting their learning and development. After all, a Daycare is taking the place of the parent.

So there are a number of questions there I would be thinking about when evaluating if this Daycare is providing a good environment for him.

In terms of him learning, play IS learning at this age. Academic learning like ABC etc are only a tiny part of his development. Social interaction, language and physical development is actually the primary learning at this age.

However, I would also be concerned if I never saw any activities happening at a Daycare. It may be that you arrive at the end of a session when they have finished activity sessions and the kids are simply at free-play. In actual fact, the ideal is for a wide variety of activities to be available to children most of the time, and they are encouraged to try things they haven't, but that children are self directed as to what they are interested in.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Three Year Old Boy: Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

I would hope the carers are interacting with the children. It can be a fine line between letting them develop their games on their own, and joining in and extending their play - for example encouraging them to try something more physically daring, climbing, skipping. Or lots of language, asking questions about the truck in the sandpit, who drives the truck, what color is it, how many
trucks have we got here, which is the biggest etc.

A good carer knows when to simply observe and be present if someone needs some help - and when to get involved and extend their play. Lots of singing and word games, encouraging BIG thinking, asking questions etc. Teaching shapes and colors should just be a part of interacting.

Adult involvement also helps to teach kids to take turns, or help them to solve conflicts. It is not a matter of telling a child off for snatching a toy, we have to help them find solutions where everyone's needs are taken care of.

It sounded like his angry behavior is aimed at the adults? Is there a pattern to it, is it when they want to pack up, or if they take something off him? What have they done that is constructive to help him learn to express his feelings? It
sounds to me like he will be getting the message that it is not OK to be angry, that these adults are interrupting me (and don't forget, what we are doing in the moment IS the most important thing - adults don't like getting interrupted either!) He may even be getting messages that they don't like me. He is likely being punished
by time outs, constant disapproval, and then even more disapproval when you pick him up.

A three - four year old can be explosive sometimes. My four year old son used to get incredibly angry - I had no tantrums with 2 year olds, but my goodness, four year old tantrums can break doors!

What does he like about Daycare - what doesn't he like, have conversations with him about how he feels. You can be general like, what makes you Mad? Tell him what makes you mad. Help him to articulate his feelings, learning about sadness, happy, excitement - lots of different words to describe how we feel. All this helps kids to talk about their experiences. Try to help him talk about what happened without judging him or telling him off, give him a chance to tell it
from his side, and simply listen, or reflect back what you hear: "Sounds like you got pretty mad at Daycare today, what makes you mad? Does it make you cross when Mrs Daycare yells at you?" "You just wanted to keep on playing in the Sandpit?" "So what happened then? ... and you got mad with her?"

Part Three Follows . . .

Three Year Old Boy - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

You can then lead on to, "how do you think Mrs Daycare felt when you hit her?" "Do you think she was mad too?" "I don't like it when someone yells at me" etc.

You don't actually want to be passing judgement or giving a lecture, you just want to be encouraging him to express his feelings. Starting to think about how someone else feels is a big learning curve.

Kids don't automatically have empathy. Boys in particular often, take longer to be able to think how someone else might feel. Learning to express ourselves (NOT repress ourselves, which is what most of us were taught!) is a very important skill - one we need as adults. If we learn through experience as a young child that if I get angry, I get in trouble, we start to learn to squash down our anger, which just ends up erupting inappropriately down the track. Instead if we learn to say how we feel, and start to see the bigger picture and think about how others might feel, then children are learning great skills for relationship building later in life.

When you ask him what he learned at Daycare, he may not even have any idea what you mean. Learning is an adult concept, and particularly when you are thinking in terms of academic learning. Don't you remember your Mom asking
what you did at school today? We nearly all say, "nothing!"

Instead ask him questions like who did you play with today? If he brings something home like a painting or collage, "Wow, tell me about that! What's this bit here? I like that yellow, how did you do this bit? Did you cut that yourself?"

Encouraging him to explain and describe, it all adds to his vocabulary, and extends his thinking.

You said he doesn't listen - nothing unusual in that! Boys particularly get totally absorbed in what they are doing. They may register vaguely that you have said something, they may even know you want them to wash hands for dinner. But it
just is not exciting or interesting enough to break their concentration. We have all these expectations on our children that they should immediately drop what they are doing and that what we require is more important. To us it is - to them it isn't. So no wonder preschoolers get angry when when they are forced (often many times a day) to comply with an adults expectation.

I learned my son needed plenty of preparation time before switching activities.

Transitions are one of the biggest causes of conflict with preschoolers. We have been preparing for leaving the house, or getting dinner ready, we might have been doing all sorts of activities that lead up to the transition point, but to the preschooler it has come out of the blue. When you are in the moment engrossed in a game (hopefully not TV!) it is a wrench to suddenly have to drop what you you are doing and do what Mom wants. And often what Mom wants is
boring (wash hands for dinner) or even destructive of their game (pack up the toys NOW).

Part Four Follows . . .

Three Year Old Boy: Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

As the adult, we actually need to have more respect for our kids needs. Of course we have to get them out of the house on time, or have a set bedtime, or tidy up times. But we can help our kids to make those transitions in ways that
prepare them, and engage their co-operation.

Firstly, nagging in the background about tidying up, or time to wash hands etc, is a waste of time. I assume he doesn't actually have a hearing problem - and you can easily check that out - some kids have lots of wax build-up and hear
everything as if under water, so mostly it is meaningless noise. Some kids of course do actually have hearing problems, so it would not hurt to get him checked. It is totally bewildering to kids if they are told off and yelled at when they actually did not hear clearly what was required.

When you want him to do something - if possible, go up to him and crouch down and look him in the eyes - that engages his attention, and you can also see if he is registering what you are asking. Then give a simple friendly request
and try to engage him in a response:
It's nearly dinner time, what do we need to do before dinner?

If you have a situation that often seems to be a conflict, turn the energy around.

Make a game out of it - "What do we need to do before dinner? Umm, stand on our heads? No........ Get into bed? No......... Cuddle Mom? YESSSS!!" "What else would be a good idea?"

My son needed time to complete his projects - or at least get partly finished. A timer works really well - Tell them: "We have 10 minutes and it will be tidy up time. When the buzzer rings, I'll come in and help you. Or sometimes you might say we will have two rings, as a reminder: "5 more minutes" (don't extend it though!)

Make tidying up exciting, have a race, count toys as you go, find all the red toys, how many cars are there etc. Or if you are busy, I bet you can't get all that Lego in the box before I count to 20 (or higher if he can reach twenty) Build it up, make reaching the final number exciting, not threatening.

This age is great for fun teasing and challenging - "Can you do that all by yourself?" "I bet you're tricking me!" "Show Daddy how fast you can run upstairs and put your PJs on!" Engage their excitement and enthusiasm, instead of coming head on with threats of punishment or demands.

Good luck with the Daycare, without actually observing, I can't pass judgement on their competence. But I would certainly be concerned at how they are handling the situation, and I would want to know if they noticed anything that he
did well!

If you do change to a new center, then you can expect some reaction from your Son. I would NOT inform the new Daycare of the issues. Let him have a fresh start without any bias.

Have fun with him, it is an exciting stage, full of confidence and challenge!

Annie Desantis

RE Three Year Old Boy At Daycare
by: Anonymous

Thank you very much for all your good advice and yes they did speak to me about his behavior when he was present. It was the same day I turned to this website for advice. I have to admit I did punish him when we got home.

So now I know not to do that from what I have read, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read my comments and for the feedback. They told me they were going to try different approaches and see if he needs to be moved up to a different classroom, after that day as he has been acting good.

I don't know if it's because I told them I didn't know what to do anymore and that I was considering a new daycare or if is it because the caregiver from his room left for vacation and hasn't returned, so other caregivers have told me he has been great for a whole week and half the time his teacher has been on vacation.

I have seen other Daycares and they are okay, I just keep finding something wrong with each one of them I don't know if it's because I just don't want to move him to another daycare fearing he is going to have to start all over again and make new friends and what if I make a mistake and end up disliking the daycare, it's just one fear after another. So I have left him at the same daycare for now and have received good news about him from the time I wrote to you till now.

So I don't know if I should continue for my search for a new daycare or just wait and see what happens. What do you advise me to do?

Thank you again and I greatly appreciate all the help.

Re Continue New Daycare Search?
by: Annie Desantis

It is always good to know there are other options available. But be guided by your son too, is he happy to go off to Daycare? Does he talk about other children? Is he starting to make special friends? You are right there is always other factors to balance.

I am very interested to hear he has been fine while his carer has mostly been on holiday. I wonder if the main issue is a personality clash with her?

Unfortunately in cases like this the child is often blamed. But it really is nothing to do with blame, it is simply unrealistic to expect a carer to bond with all the children she is responsible for. Often there is no choice, that is the person assigned to that age group. But if there is a choice and you think this maybe a contributing factor, then it might be worth changing classes.

However, he does still have skills to learn about appropriate behavior, but he will learn quicker when he is happy with the adult interaction.

It does sound like you agonize over everything - so just a word for yourself, relax about it all! Of course we all want the absolute best for our children, and it is terribly hard when we see them in difficulties. But nothing is perfect, whether he was home with you, with a Nanny, in an amazing Daycare, there are always going to be challenges in life. Learning to cope with difficulties is actually good for him. If you give him the opportunity to talk at home (and now you know double punishment is not a good idea!) you can help him deal with situations that are not easy. We can't pave the way for our kids to have a carefree easy life. If they don't have tough times, they don't learn the resources to be able to cope. Let's face it, life just simply is not always easy.

So stop worrying and just trust that he will be fine, your love, concern and interaction with him really is the most important aspect of this whole situation. Your worry and stress, actually doesn't help him at all!

Take care, and have FUN
Annie D:)

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