Thursday, November 29, 2007

Little Guy's Daycare is Making Me Feel Like Crap

Today, we received the following letter from Little Guy's daycare teacher.

I wanted to update you on Little Guy's week. This week Little Guy has had a difficult time following directions and completing routines and more often than not has needed a teacher's help to complete the direction/routine. Often Little Guy is looking right at a teacher and doing the opposite of what he has been told (for example, getting a toy out when we are cleaning up) or doing something unsafe/unclean (such as licking toys or putting his jacket over his face while on the stairs). As this seems to be intentional behavior to gain attention, we are trying to meet his need for attention in positive ways instead of when he is exhibiting negative behavior. When we redirect Little Guy's behavior we try to use as few of words as possible choosing instead to give him that attention at other times/. Throughout play times we try to engage Little Guy in conversations about what he's doing and also throughout the day we encourage and celebrate with Little Guy as he listens the first time or does something on his own. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks for your support.

We were already made aware, through a recent conversation with the teacher, that Little Guy has been stubborn at school - for example, he bangs his utensils at the lunch table even after the teachers tell him to stop. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, he also does this at home. We have been working on telling him to stop the behavior and then giving him a natural consequence if he doesn't stop (e.g., removing his spoon/fork and making him eat with his hands.)

So here's my question - isn't this just normal toddler behavior? At home, I've never been concerned about his behavior. In fact, I've always thought he was a pretty easy toddler to manage in that he can be fairly easily redirected and doesn't really throw major tantrums. Yes, he does things that he has been told not to do (e.g., tries to sneak cookies from the pantry) and yes he doesn't always listen the first time (e.g., continues to sneak cookies after I tell him to stop), but isn't that just normal? I practice redirection, distraction, tell him "no", and use time-outs if he doesn't listen after two warnings.

Am I not being strict enough at home? I don't know. I thought I was handling the discipline pretty well, but the daycare is making me feel like my kid is really hard to handle. And this is a kid that I have always found to be fairly obedient all things considered. I mean he is only two. He's not even two and a half yet. Is the daycare expecting too much from him or does it sound like my kid is unusually bad? This isn't the first time they have told me that he misbehaves and is disruptive. He is also very quiet at school and rarely talks, they've said, while at home he talks a lot. I do believe the daycare to be very good and I'm not really concerned about the quality of care. It was hard to get into this daycare because it is well-regarded and other parents love it. The teachers communicate to parents regularly through these letters home, which I like. I just feel bad that lately the tone of the letters have been pretty negative. How would you respond to this letter?

Social deviant or misunderstood toddler?


Blogger snarflemarfle said...

X-man's pediatrician asked me at the last appointment (that would be X-man's 18 month appt) if he followed directions "when he wanted to." I thought that was a pretty good description! Yes he follows directions, but not all the time.

Don't be too hard on yourself. Little Guy is still a kid and does what he wants to do. At least he's just banging his utensils on the table and not stabing them into other kids!

4:50 AM  
Blogger a happier girl said...

I think it all sounds normal. Or at least it's normal at my house. And maybe the letter was just to let you know not to really point out something that's wrong.

5:44 AM  
Blogger sam said...

It's completely normal. He's testing his boundaries and learning, he can't be faulted for that. He's a TODDLER.

Frankly, that letter pissed me off. Why would a teacher have a conversation with a parent and then write a letter which only describes a child's faults? - which aren't actually faults since he's so young.

I sense that this person doesn't have children of their own. I've noticed that at my child's daycare. The teachers who seem to complain the most are the ones that have no children of their own. Sure, they may have gone to school to learn... but it's not the same as being a parent.

Do not fault yourself and your parenting skills and do not take that letter verbatim. Seems to me like someone had to vent some frustration and went about it the wrong way.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Two Shews said...

OMG, I could have guessed Little Guy's age from the letter alone-- it is extremely typical for his age, and also for a kid probably just now adjusting to the ideas of preschool and the fact that his new sibling isn't going anywhere. Add to that the kookiness of this time of year, with the holidays, and it's going to get rougher before it gets better-- but something magical happens at about 30 months, and you're gonna LUV IT.

7:38 AM  
Blogger bubandpie said...

I think it's the formality of tone that makes the letter seem critical. Technically, all they're doing is reporting the behaviour and describing their response - which, I'm sure you expect them to do. It is absolutely normal behaviour for that age group (especially when there's a new sibling around), but they didn't actually suggest otherwise.

I always hate it when my students send me extra-polite emails after they get their essays back: there's nothing that comes across as an attack so much as unnecessary formality.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, this sounds completely normal for a two year old. If anything would be a potential red flag, it would be the idea that your child is 'out of line' or 'bad'.

The letter is pretty formal, which leaves a lot up to interpretation, especially since quite a few people are not great at conveying emotion through written words.

If I got this letter from my kid's school, I'd very warmly and politely as if there was some way I could come in and observe my child's behavior in school.

Then I would observe my kid and I would observe the teachers.

It is a lot of effort to do this, but it will probably clarify what the dynamic is for you. And then everyone will be on the same page as to what is going on.


anne at

8:37 AM  
Blogger Kyla said...

Maybe they just want to keep you informed of how he behaves at school and how they react to it. Maybe EVERYONE in the class got a similar letter.

It is VERY two year old behavior. You don't have a social miscreant. LOL. Don't feel badly.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

OK. BOTH of my toddlers do that - the 3 year old and the almost 2 year old. The difference in them is that the 3 year old listens at daycare and school. Holden, my 22 month old does not listen at daycare. It's a personality thing. Totally normal.

I hope they were just trying to keep you informed. Really, it's nothing you're doing wrong.

9:18 AM  
Blogger kgirl said...

well, if it's not normal behaviour than we probably have an epidemic on our hands. bee's behaviour can be embarassingly horrible sometimes. (embarassing because it seems like i am completely ineffectual.)

but sometimes i think that it is our expectations that need managing, not their behaviour.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

Umm that child looks well under 6-7 years old.

In which case, he sounds TOTALLY normal.

Are these their expectations, that he won't do this???

I'd have some questions of my own for the daycare.

I don't think it sounds like they have reasonable expectations or a creative growing environment and I know I can't get that from ONE note and shouldn't even say anything, but in case your gut is whispering (or yelling) just wanted to let you know you aren't alone in it.

Using My Words

11:03 AM  
Blogger The Flip Flop Mamma! said...

I agree with everything Sam said. Also, I think sometimes people at daycare have their hands so full that they only notice the negative behavior. I worked at a home daycare for 7 years and it sounds like normal toddler behavior to me. But in a bigger setting it may be harder for them to handle too many toddlers?

4:06 PM  
Blogger Student of Life said...

I'm the mama of a very spirited three year old boy. I have gotten feedback like this from teachers in the past. It was hurtful and made me question my competence as a mother. I am now learning that just like with adults, not everyone's personalities mesh. Unfortunately, the parent/teacher relationship can have long-lasting effects. A different teacher might think that your son is energetic, imaginative, and totally normal. The right chemistry can make all the difference in the world. I think I'll be trying to find this balance during my son's entire education. I have accepted that this is one of my jobs as his mother, and I will do what I have to to make sure he's in the best situation possible. It's not always easy. Take a closer look at what's going on in that classroom, then trust your gut. That's my cents.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Domestically Challenged said...

Holy nitpicking! He sounds COMPLETELY normal for his age! I have a 3yo who is still doing all of that, at 2 I was lucky to ever get them to hold utensils much less actually use them for feeding!

We had a few similar issues earlier this fall when my kiddo started preschool. I blamed myself for being such a free and laxed parent. But what I realized is preschool (and I'm sure daycare too) is all about structure. So much so, it often takes kids a while to adjust. Our teacher told me 3-4mos at least. Hang in there and don't blame your parenting!!

9:59 PM  
Blogger Jill Urbane, The Mentor Mom said...

I just love two year olds! What a bonus that I get paid to be around them for my day job ;)

Your little guy sounds COMPLETELY normal. These types of behaviors and testing are to be expected at this age. You can check out a post I did on two year olds here:

I'd be ticked to get a note like this myself. I would try to find out what there intent was in sending it home, i.e., was it meant to be informational, do they feel that these behaviors are uncharacteristic of a child this age, etc. This might help flush out where they stand on these behaviors.

I agree with student of life. It sounds like a personality thing. I see this frequently at the preschool with the teachers -- one is really bothered by those "naughty boy" behaviors while the other just loves them (as do I)! It is all about ones perception of those behaviors. I see those testing behaviors as signs of brilliance -- they really get what is going on around them and they want to figure it all out. Pure genius :)

Please, please, please don't be so hard on yourself. Sounds to me like your little guy is exactly on track. He is going to go far in this world!

12:12 PM  
Blogger Bronie said...

don't be so hard on yourself. how could something so cute be any trouble! sounds like typical toddler behavior to me. the daycare needs to "chill."

it's a 2 year old's job to test things out (including boundaries) to learn about the world around them. it's not always easy, but normal? oh yeah!

4:15 PM  
Blogger Miss Elimy said...

Trust a preschool teacher on this one, if he was being unreasonably difficult you would have gotten a much less pleasant note than that. Those are all normal toddler behaviors though. Basically he's really discovering that he can have some control over what he does and when, and he's testing how much control he can wrangle away from the teachers.

6:16 PM  
Blogger myminivanisfasterthanyours said...

I guess this comment makes me the cynical one who thinks they put this in writing so if they ever feel they need to take an action (such as sending him home or put him in a different setting or whatever) they have a paper trail.

Too many lawyers in my family, what can I tell you?

But who cares anyway because obviously this kid can get by on his looks if need be!

7:38 PM  
Blogger Miss Elimy said...

Hah! They better not send him home for behavior like that! Of course, it could be more of a disclaimer for why he fell down the stairs with his coat over his face. I'm one of those rare teachers who realize that children enjoy being sent home for their behavior. The only time I ever sent a child home for behavior related reasons was an almost five year old, who walked up and bit me, without provocation, and in my eyes at least, she was sent home for her own protection! And don't let them get away with making you feel like crap. 9 times out of 10, the blame for a behavior problem in school rests solely with the teacher and his/her discipline policy.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Melinda Zook said...

Wow, I can't believe they sent a letter like that and we are talking about a 2 year old? Yikes, I say. I sent my child to a great daycare as well and they would have never handled it this way. A letter? And he is so young. I mean, that is what toddlers do, test boundaries. It sounds like the daycare doesn't seem to know where their boundaries are. They should be able to handle this without alarming you. I would seriously consider discussing this with the Director of this place!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Thanks all for the great comments. Your comments made me feel SO much better. And...I spoke to the teacher and it really helped. She said that they are working on something different with each child and that they just want to keep us informed of what they are doing with him. We traded ideas on how to work with him both at school and at home so we are being consistent. I felt much better after the phone call. She said he is normal, although I guess he is a little challenging for her sometimes. I just wish she would have said a few positive things along with the other stuff, but at least they are communicating with us. I guess that's good.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I'm sorry. Have they said anything recently? This is pretty normal toddler stuff. He is finding out what the limits are. If he didn't, that would be weird. How are things lately?

7:51 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

OH, I wanted to add, the jacket over the head thing was funny. If a 2 year-old can't do that,then who can?!? That's like stereotypical toddler stuff. Let's see what happens if I put this coat over my eyes while I'm standing on this scary high step.
I bet it was cute.

7:54 PM  

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