A creche story that raises questions about a child's tendencies

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  September 28, 2012 06:00 AM

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[Ed note: creche is the word used for daycare in some European countries.This letter has been condensed.]

Hi,

I'm having a problem with my boy, Liam, who turned 2 on the 4th of August. He was home with me his first year and I then needed to start working so he had to go to creche. Of course this was harder for Mommy than him and surprisingly enough he was quite happy to go to school....

All of a sudden 3 months down the line (aged 1 and 3 months), he started changing. One night, I lifted my hand as to tap him on his butt -- I wasn't going to -- as he was doing something he wasn't allowed after asking him to stop. Now I've never tapped nor smacked my child before nor has his father and I don't leave him anywhere else, he then grabbed his head, his eyes went big, he was petrified, started shaking and went and sat in the corner and blocked himself from me. I then turned to my husband and started crying and said to him, what in the world just happened! Following that, he all of a sudden didn't want to go to creche again. When I'd drop him off, he'd go stand with his face in the corner, ...and run away from them. This reaction upset me terribly. I knew something had happened and ...I needed to protect him and decided to take him out. I then kept him home for two weeks.

My boy stopped sleeping through the night from 6 months old and his sleeping has just gotten worse.... I cannot blame this on the creche incident as he only started creche 6 months after. [But] after having him home for two weeks, he went three days in a row without sleep.

[Then] I found a creche three houses from me and started with baby steps, first, every second day for an hour, then just a little while in mornings, then he went full day... [He continues to not] sleep at night ...[In the mornings,} when we turn in the direction of the creche, he screams and turns around, I literally have to drag him there. Once we get there, he's crying terribly, they say I must put him down and turn around but this kills me....The lady says once I'm gone, he stops.

I can't deal with doing this to him every morning, it's been going on for 7 months. Now I don't work, I am home so I've made the decision to take him out and keep him by me. Is this best for him? I try make all the right decisions but feel as a mother, I'm failing at everything at the moment.

From: Debbie, George (UK? France? Debbie doesn't say)

Dear Debbie,

This is a very sad story, indeed, for you and for your son. But I would say you've made good decisions along the way, so don't beat up on yourself so much.

Your conclusion that something happened to frighten him at the first creche seems reasonable, but is it possible there are other ways to interpret his reaction? Liam's a poor sleeper. Is he highly reactive to noise? To other sensory input? Is it possible that you had an angry look on your face that frightened him -- and that the look is what he reacted to at daycare, as well? Did you tell the folks at the creche about your conclusions and why you were stopping there?

Had I been in your shoes, I would have taken him out of the creche, too. Keeping him home for a while was another good decision, and so was finding another creche (which I hope you vetted by visiting a few times so you could observe teacher-child interactions, including how they discipline. Observing once means teachers can always put on their best face; if you go many times, you are more likely to get an accurate reflection. And if they don't want you to observe at all -- well, that's a red flag. )

Now he's reacting -- quite strongly -- to a new creche. That this is happening again makes me wonder further about his sensitivity. Some kids have a low threshold for noise, including the noise others kids make when they are playing. Talk to the teachers and the director. Tell them the full story. What thoughts/ideas do they have?

It sounds like you're worried that not having him in day care puts him at some kind of disadvantage, and that would be true if he were 3 or older and had never been in social settings with age mates. So feel comfortable keeping him at home for a while, but do get him out and about to be with other kids his age.... Story time at the library, the local playground, an organized playgroup. And then try creche again in a year or so. In the meantime, observe his reactions in social settings. Is he slow to warm up, hanging on the periphery and easing his way into the social mix, or does he prefer to be by himself? I'm not suggesting there is something wrong if that's the case, just that it helps you as a parent to know your child's tendencies so that, down the road, you can feed into his strengths and help him work on his weaknesses.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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4 comments so far...
  1. I would agree that the mother's instincts were right in pulling the child out of the original creche. With a child that young, who can't tell you what's wrong, you have to go with your gut.
    At this point, however, his reaction to creche could be for completely different reasons. Could be something Barbara mentioned, could be simply his age now. My daughter never once cried at daycare dropoff until she was 18 months old (and then, luckily, only for a few days). Could be that this child is simply upset at dropoff now because he's older and has normal separation anxiety or something along those lines.

    Posted by Fram September 28, 12 10:10 AM
  1. "And if they don't want you to observe at all -- well, that's a red flag."

    I disagree. As a teacher, I am generally open to observation by parents when boundaries are respected. However, there are some cases in which that's not practical. If, for instance, Liam really does stop as soon as his mom leaves and is happy the rest of the day, then having mom in the room is going to cause him to continue to tantrum. That is frequently the case with kids with trouble transitioning--Why drag out the transition and make it harder for them? I've also had parents want to camp out in my room all day, as well as parents who want to come for an hour to 'watch' but they make noise, use their phones, or try to interact with students ('help' the kids by telling answers, 'help' me by disciplining other people's kids). All three of those scenarios prevent me from doing my job.

    I'd be wary of a school that discouraged observation, but I wouldn't immediately pull my child. There are very good reasons for it, some times!

    Posted by PubSchTeach September 28, 12 11:03 AM
  1. Barbara was talking about observing BEFORE she chose a creche (childcare center). Parents should ALWAYS observe before they choose a center.

    Posted by CT.DC September 28, 12 07:35 PM
  1. I also think that any parent should be able to randomly stop in and observe. My kids daycare welcomes that and I too, would be extremely weary of anyone who did not allow it. Why would I leave my children in the care of someone who doesn't allow observation? How do I know what goes on behind closed doors? The fact is anything could be happening. Therefore, any daycare who does not allow for observations immediately was scratched from my list (there was only one or two that I came across that didn't) when I was looking. Mine welcomes random observations. But the one I chose for my kids, I love, they are fabulous. I wish you luck.

    Posted by jd October 2, 12 08:22 AM
 
4 comments so far...
  1. I would agree that the mother's instincts were right in pulling the child out of the original creche. With a child that young, who can't tell you what's wrong, you have to go with your gut.
    At this point, however, his reaction to creche could be for completely different reasons. Could be something Barbara mentioned, could be simply his age now. My daughter never once cried at daycare dropoff until she was 18 months old (and then, luckily, only for a few days). Could be that this child is simply upset at dropoff now because he's older and has normal separation anxiety or something along those lines.

    Posted by Fram September 28, 12 10:10 AM
  1. "And if they don't want you to observe at all -- well, that's a red flag."

    I disagree. As a teacher, I am generally open to observation by parents when boundaries are respected. However, there are some cases in which that's not practical. If, for instance, Liam really does stop as soon as his mom leaves and is happy the rest of the day, then having mom in the room is going to cause him to continue to tantrum. That is frequently the case with kids with trouble transitioning--Why drag out the transition and make it harder for them? I've also had parents want to camp out in my room all day, as well as parents who want to come for an hour to 'watch' but they make noise, use their phones, or try to interact with students ('help' the kids by telling answers, 'help' me by disciplining other people's kids). All three of those scenarios prevent me from doing my job.

    I'd be wary of a school that discouraged observation, but I wouldn't immediately pull my child. There are very good reasons for it, some times!

    Posted by PubSchTeach September 28, 12 11:03 AM
  1. Barbara was talking about observing BEFORE she chose a creche (childcare center). Parents should ALWAYS observe before they choose a center.

    Posted by CT.DC September 28, 12 07:35 PM
  1. I also think that any parent should be able to randomly stop in and observe. My kids daycare welcomes that and I too, would be extremely weary of anyone who did not allow it. Why would I leave my children in the care of someone who doesn't allow observation? How do I know what goes on behind closed doors? The fact is anything could be happening. Therefore, any daycare who does not allow for observations immediately was scratched from my list (there was only one or two that I came across that didn't) when I was looking. Mine welcomes random observations. But the one I chose for my kids, I love, they are fabulous. I wish you luck.

    Posted by jd October 2, 12 08:22 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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