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...really annoyed by sons school!

42 replies

honeyandsalt · 30/03/2011 22:56

So, my son is 3 and we've just moved house, and he's been ill with a bad cold & cough. Surprisingly though, when I started him at nursery school a few weeks ago he seemed to settle straight in. Great! Until last Thursday that is, when the wee man just had a day when he was genuinely too knackered to go in - with no answer on the school's phone we nipped up to say he wasn't going to be going (we live 50 yards away). He was upset and thought he was going to be left, but we went home, he had a sleep, no great drama.

The next day, friday, he really started displaying seperation anxiety, crying if I tried to leave and so on. I gave it half an hour to try to settle him, then left him (in tears) for five minutes - when I returned he seemed to have calmed so I left again without upsetting him by reappearing in class. Not for long though, as when I get home I received a phone call within a few minutes to say he was still upset.... so I went to collect him to find him playing quite happily. Well, ok then I thought, and took him home for the weekend rather than confusing him by coming and going.

Monday comes around and my husband was off and went with him to nursery, only to return, with child, 15 minutes later. Apparently he was getting really upset and said he was too tired, a member of staff just tried to grab him and so my husband simply said he was too tired and took him home - except, he wasn't really too tired this time as he patently had been the previous Thursday.

Now, the wee man has developed seperation anxiety before, in his old nursery, and a similarish sort of thing happened. We tried leaving him, it didn't work, and in the end my Mum who was looking after him during the day at that time simply stayed around in nursery for a few days, and fairly quickly he got his confidence back and was able to return to normal without the trauma of the "dump them and run" approach.

So we decided that a similar tack would probably work this time, and I turned up with him the next day and explained that this had happened before, what we did to resolve the situation, and that I would stick around to ease him back in - he was still very clingy and unsure about being there where he had been confident and happy to go before. The teacher was clearly unhappy about this tack from the start, and tried to persuade the wee guy that Mummy had to go because they had a special secret thing to do she couldn't possibly see (making Mother's day card obv) - I couldn't have been happier if he'd taken the bait and been fine for me to leave at that, but he just wasn't for having it, and stuck by close for the day, starting to strike out on his own gradually and even not wanting to leave nursery at the end of the day, so progress was being made. Which is when both his teacher and the headmistress of the school, who had been around that day, tackled me saying they weren't happy and he just had to be left, he would start to expect me to be there (yet their literature encourages parents to come in and help out?!), he was just crying to upset me (?!?!?!) it was the best thing for him etc. So I was basically railroaded into changing tacks and leaving a sobbing wreck the next day - thankfully he did calm down through the session, but I do think in this instance the approach was unduly harsh and unkind. Not to mention all the sideways glances and comments from the nursery staff implying that the whole problem was with me.

Am I being unreasonable in feeling annoyed and humiliated by the whole situation?

OP posts:

MsToni · 30/03/2011 23:06

I don't know darling...[hugs] I get your point. On the other hand, you cannot stay with your little one 24-7 until he's happily settled, inevitably, there will be some tears and sometimes, it best to let the tears happen and let him get on with it. He'll cry and act up if you are there and wont settle. As long as he knows you are coming back, a few minutes of tears wont hurt him.

Does he have a key carer @ the nursery? Perhaps if he bonded with her, he'll be less upset when you have to leave?


Al1son · 30/03/2011 23:12

YANBU. If they have a policy of inviting parents to stay and help out I really can't see what the problem is with you being there.

Parents can have very different views on how best to settle a child and so can Early Years Practitioners. It is generally considered good practice to allow parents to decide how to settle the child but some staff members feel uncomfortable with the child being in control as they perceive it. I'm not sure why TBH.

You need to decide how far you want to push it. In your position I would decide how I was going to settle him and then tell them that this is how it's going to be. I've followed my own instincts in this way before and been proven right each time so I would happily insist on doing it again.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

I am a childminder BTW and always allow parents to lead the settling in process.


bubblecoral · 30/03/2011 23:18

How old is is your ds?

Tbh, I can see why the nursery would encourage you to leave if he has previously been settled for weeks. If he's been fine there without you before, he should be again, unless there is another reason.

You could be perpetuating the problem slightly by sending the message that he has something to be worried about, especially if he was there and back within 15 mins with your DH.


honeyandsalt · 30/03/2011 23:24

Cheers guys!

@MsToni - thanks for the advice, unfortunately they have not assigned a key worker but he does seem to prefer one of the helpers, hopefully she'll be in tomorrow.

@Al1son - thanks, I appreciate the vote of support! I am probably more annoyed with myself for allowing them to railroad me into this than anything, I should know to trust my own instincts by now and not to defer, but now I feel like if I insist upon doing it my way again it'll cause more drama and upset then being consistent about leaving him. At least he did settle down today, so I suppose their approach did work in that sense (and don't they look smug about it! lol). I don't see the problem with responding to their needs either, personally, he is aware of who's in charge of setting the rules of good behaviour, and he wasn't being naughty, just worried.

OP posts:

honeyandsalt · 30/03/2011 23:39

@bubblecoral - that's a good point. I did simply leave on the Friday, when my husband took him home again on the Monday I agree it probably wasn't helpful, by Tuesday I just wanted to stop the mucking about and get him through a day of nursery - he was less anxious about nursery by the end of the session. I've done a lot of positive talking about nursery, bigging up how much fun it is, what he'll do, how much he likes his friends and the grownups there etc.

OP posts:

sunnydelight · 31/03/2011 04:53

I have one child who had real separation anxiety issues both at nursery and school, so I am not unsympathetic, but having one child's mum sticking around can be really unsettling for other children. Given a choice most of those three year olds would probably like their mum to stay too so I can see why the staff may be encouraging you to leave at the same time as I can see who you want to stay.

Is it a private nursery or a nursery class attached to a school? If it is private I would insist on being allocated a key worker who should be available and willing to be there for your son when he arrives. If it's a nursery class it's more difficult, I actually didn't send my anxious son to one as the staff:child ratios weren't as good and I wasn't sure they would be as sympathetic as his private nursery. DD did go and it was much more of a "school" environment; they occasionally asked parents to come in and help with specific things but generally I got the feeling that they preferred us to stay away.


MrsJamin · 31/03/2011 05:21

To be honest you do seem to be a bit clingy and I believe in not lingering over goodbyes. It does seem v odd that you went back into the nursery after leaving him on the Thursday, couldn't you have phoned them? Surely reappearing would have been unsettling. I would say that the parent helper thing is only normally encouraged after your child is totally settled at nursery school, it would not be advisable if you're still having leaving issues.


whatsallthehullaballoo · 31/03/2011 06:13

I dont think YABU to want to stay...but in the long run I have found that it does more damage than good (childminder). On the whole children usually quickly adapt to being in a routine and this is being seriously undermined by you staying. With regards to the other children - it is unsettling for them and they may well start the same behaviours hoping that their parent will stay too.

I always think a good kiss and a cuddle and a reward of some description on pick -up works a treat after a few days and collect only if they are seriously distressed. I hope he settles soon though because it is a very upsetting for you as a parent to see.


PonceyMcPonce · 31/03/2011 07:09

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bubbaluv · 31/03/2011 07:22

Oh you poor thing. I think this is a really common situation and it is so horrible to leave them while they are screaming. It seems to be pretty standard, though, that they scream for 5-10 mins and then just get over it and get on with their day. It's almost a cliche.
I think the idea of having parents come in and help out is great once the child is happy to be there without you, but could be very counter-productive if they are not yet totally settled.
They aren't telling you to go to be mean, they really are trying to help.
So I guess YABU but understandably so - it's tough.


teertornado · 31/03/2011 07:47

I do understand how you feel but I think YABU.

As a teaching assistant in a nursery I can assure you that the 'dump and run' technique as you call it is not a trauma and is by far the best way. In my experiance those parnents who hang around just make the situation worse asit confuses the child as to what to expect when he gets to nursery.

As difficult as it is (and I know it is) tell him that you will be leaving him at nursery for a little while whilst you do your mummy jobs but you will be back at the appointed time. Give him a kiss, hand him over and then (the hard part) go. He may kick, he may scream and you will probably sob your heart out but after a few minutes he will settle.

We always call parents after a few minutes to assure them and I'm sure your nursery will do the same. Also, you could come back after an hour the first few days and gradually build the time up that he stays.

Please be assured that this is a situation that has happened many times before and the practitioners have lots of experiances.

I know it's difficult and I really emphasise with my parents who go through this as my own son took ages to settle into nursery and I used to come home in tears but being firm is the best way.

Take care and I hope all goes well.


Diamondback · 31/03/2011 07:56

Is this separation anxiety, or has he just learned that if he cries long and hard enough, you take him home for cuddles? I know it must be heartrending, but I'm with the nursery staff on this one - the more you hang around and disrupt the nursery routine, the harder it will be for him to adjust. They are experienced in dealing with upset toddlers and probably know from experience that if they set a constant and firm routine, he will soon settle down and be happy. Don't let your own anxiety lead to upsetting your son.

Best of luck.


Skinit · 31/03/2011 07:57

I am also incined to think YABU....but having been more or less rightwhereyou are now, I totally understand. I think yourDS has got confused over it all...going, not going, coming back.....many toddlers find it hard when their nurssery routine changes...myDD had ral difficulties if we went in the wrong gate!

I also think dump and run is better....though I wouldn't have said that when I was going through it! In retrospect hanging round makes it tougher.


iamjustlurking · 31/03/2011 08:00

I think "dump and run" definately the best way. My DS struggled to settle at Nursery (He used to cry saying he missed me) so I got two little fabric hearts, gave him one and I had one. Put it in his pocket and told him when he missed me to give it a hug and it was like a mummy cuddle.

Nursery and I also explained the routine that after story time I would be there to pick him up. I was always on time so he could see me as story time finished.

Neither of my older DC cried when I left them so it was all new. He was totally fine when he started Primary school


southeastastra · 31/03/2011 08:01

i 'dumped' and ran and wish i had stuck around - 3 is so small :( don't think having another mum around is disrupting is it


Skinit · 31/03/2011 08:03

It IS smallSoutheastastra....but how does prolonging the seperation make it easier?


onceamai · 31/03/2011 08:05

I think you are having a difficult time with this but ultimately I think you have to be very firm with your ds. Last Thursday, when he was too ill has confused him. You should not have taken him there only to bring him home again; the school would eventually have answered the phone. From now on you have to gently make it clear that you will take DS to nursery, say goodbye and leave. I would also suggest that you arrive as the bell goes to avoid any hanging around/tension build beforehand. You also need to keep your own emotions in check so your ds doesn't pick up on anxiety.

Of course you can't go in with him, if you do other children will want to know where their parents are and get upset and the work of the staff will become totally unmanageable. If every parent went in there wouldn't be room.

It's hard I know but I think you need to toughen up about this for the sake of the


honeyandsalt · 31/03/2011 09:42

@iamjustlurking - the fabric hearts idea is so sweet! We'll def do that today.

Thank you for your perspective everyone!

OP posts:

piedpiper4 · 31/03/2011 10:04

OK, so I'm going to go against the flow here. Whilst I agree in priniciple that the dump and run technique is best for most children, in my opinion it isn't for all.
We moved back to the UK 3 years ago and my then 3 year old dd started in pre school. I wanted to stay with her for the first session, but had a very similar experience to the OP. I can still see the fear in dd's face now. She didn't scream or cause a fuss, but shortly after developed social phobia and selective mutism.
I know that this is an extreme example and don't for one minute think this is going to happen to the vast majority of children, but my point is parents know their own children best. I know that if I could turn back time I wouldn't leave her again as I believe very strongly that this was the point that caused her problems to surface.
Oh, and I'm a trained early years professional and still allowed myself to feel intimidated.


lazylula · 31/03/2011 10:04

TBH, I would say the dump and run technique is the best route to take and have had to do it with ds1 and will do it with ds2 if necessary! That said I do not think the nursery have helped the situation by sending him home so soon on the Friday, they should have persevered for longer. Before being a sahm I was a nursery nurse for a good few years and we would discourage a parent from volunteering until their child had fully settled into school, so if there were settling in issues the teacher would explain to the parent that the best course of action was to wait until child was more confident as it was fairer to the child that way.


Onetoomanycornettos · 31/03/2011 10:18

I also used to leave a note in my daughters' coat pockets, with a love heart or message on it, so they would be able to have that if they felt sad or were missing me.

I think you have to go with the policy at the nursery. If he genuinely is too little to go on his own and can't manage without you, why not leave it a bit and try him again a bit later on (if you don't need him there for childcare reasons)? Alternatively, if he only fusses for 5/10 min at the point you leave, then it's best to leave fairly quickly after a cheery kiss and cuddle.

As for helping, I know what you mean, but I never helped in my daughter's preschool for this precise reason, I knew if I turned up she would cling like a baby monkey to my leg, but if I wasn't there she was quite happy! So, I don't think the analogy with helping out really works.


orangeeyebrows · 31/03/2011 10:22

why does a three year old have to be left in a nursery all day?


honeyandsalt · 31/03/2011 10:56

@orangeeyebrows: it's not all day, it's a two and a half hour session in the afternoon which he generally enjoys. As we're new to the area he doesn't know any other children his age, and he's an only child so I feel that going to nursery is important for his social development, as well as providing play and learning opportunities. As the nursery unit is attached to the school, it also aids the transition to primary school.

@piedpiper4 - exactly - I am unconvinced the orthodox approach is trauma-free, or the only effective approach, and do believe that having dealt with the issue by staying to settle him for a short period as previously described (which did work, and without remotely disturbing the class) it would have worked again. I'm sorry about your daughter, I hope you and her have been able to work through the damage done?

OP posts:

worraliberty · 31/03/2011 11:04

It's a horrible situation but you have to remember the school will have been through this a thousand times and therefore have their own ways/policy in dealing with it.

The 'staying and helping out' is totally seperate though. Helping out in any class doesn't mean staying with your child, it means helping out in general and is not usually intended as a 'staying with your child' sort of measure if that makes sense?

In fact, the nursery staff at my local school positively discourage the parents of clingy children from helping out, until such time as their children are well and truly settled.

It's a rotten thing when your child is crying and has trouble settling, but really the staff do experience this all the time. They may know best in this case so hang in there and good luck Smile


Al1son · 31/03/2011 11:09

I think mothers' instincts tell us the difference between a child who is playing up for a bit of extra attention and one who is genuinely distressed. Some children will appear to be fine after a few minutes but of those children some will not be fine underneath. Their behaviour (and I don't mean misbehaviour) before and during the drop off can give parents a picture that the staff don't see.

It is easy push a parent to use the dump and run technique and I know that works for some children. However if a parent feels that isn't right for their child they must be listened to.

I used the dump and run for years because I was instructed to by DD1's school. She always appeared to be fine after I had gone. When she was 12 it all came to a head, she was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and the fallout from all those years was a severe anxiety disorder. She had not been fine on the inside. I knew deep down that dumping and running was distressing her but I allowed myself to be pushed around and I will always regret it.

I'm not suggesting that every child who can't settle has SN. I am saying that children all have individual needs and these should be met in different ways in cooperation with their parents. What happened to 'The Unique Child' in these settings who push parents out of the door ASAP?

I don't agree that the presence of parents unsettles other children. They are very accepting of this type of situation and of other children having individual needs. Nobody would worry about them being unsettled by a teacher's own child being part of the group.

OP keep following your instincts. You know your child better than anyone.

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