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My question is similar to a previous one in that my 21-month-old boy cries miserably at the door of his daycare room every morning. The difference is that the crying continues all morning—at least until mid-day nap time. If he sleeps, sometimes the afternoon is then OK. Once or twice he's had a miserable afternoon too. This has been going on for about two weeks.

He has been going to this daycare from the age of 3 months. He was OK in the infant classroom, then, several weeks ago his initial week in the toddler room was reportedly great (at least, someone told me, "as great as it ever can be when you share a class with [insert name of disruptive child who upsets everyone]"). Then there was a break of nearly two weeks, during which there were also some staff changes, and when we resumed... misery.

What to do? My instinct tells me to try to minimize the drama (we try not to make a big deal about going to school and always talk about it positively) but then power through it so that he has an opportunity to learn to be less sensitive to whichever aspects bother him (the separation? the problem kid? the new teachers? ...?) My wife has endured this up to a point, but has now started taking him home again and staying there with him when it gets really bad (a couple of days so far). I worry both about the inconsistency this presents to him and also about the message it sends that crying gets you out of things you don't like.

Consultation with the daycare director seemed like a good way to get more insight. We were reassured that this is probably a natural "bump" and a frequent occurrence and it'll work itself out. Without disagreeing with this outright (it might be right, for all I know) we tried to get more detail/advice but were rapidly treated as if we were the problem and the wagons started defensively circling as if we were complaining (which we were not) unreasonably (which we are not). So probably nothing more constructive can come from that avenue.

Help?

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    I find the attitude of the director/staff problematic. Your concerns look genuine to me, and brushing them off is unprofessional. Maybe you could try talking to them once more and try to get a productive discussion going? – sleske Sep 23 '16 at 8:20
  • We weren't on the same wavelength at all, but in the end I don't think they brushed the issue off. I overheard the director discussing it with one of the toddler staff the following day and it seemed like she was taking a constructive attitude. It may have caused tension with the toddler staff though. There seem to be serious workplace issues at this place, but up till now, at least with infant and previous toddler staff, we had the impression that the stress didn't filter through to affect the children. – jez Sep 23 '16 at 11:42
  • In the end I'm prepared to take their assessment (basically, "it's not so abnormal, don't worry so much, it'll get better") at face value but I am looking for further input about whether you think the degree of distress (crying all morning for weeks) really is still within don't-worry-so-much country. – jez Sep 23 '16 at 11:46
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Our two boys (4 years and 18 months) have been going to daycare since they were 3 months old, and have generally been good at daycare dropoff time, just as you describe your son was before the new toddler room.

But

over the winter break this year, they were out of daycare for two weeks, and each of them turned into a complete disaster at dropoff time for 2-3 weeks after they returned to daycare. (I think they just get used to hanging out with their favorite people—their parents—and then having to go back to the daycare routine is upsetting; they'd rather keep spending all day with you.)

What worked for us

was to just keep to our normal routine at dropoff time, rather than adjusting to the new crying. We'd hug and kiss them goodbye, say we'd see them at the end of the day, and we'd just leave. Yes, they'd be crying and distraught, but we always just left. And yes, the teachers were able to redirect them to something else eventually. After 2-3 weeks of this pattern, we had a good dropoff day, and another, and we were back to normal.

My advice

is to follow your instinct that you shouldn't take him home when he's upset. These are highly adaptable little people, and given time and, critically, a regular routine, he'll adjust to the routine. I remember when our older boy was in a toddler room, there was a new girl who joined the room, at about 20 months old, and she had never been to daycare before. Every time I saw her for the first month, morning or afternoon, she was crying, and then suddenly: click, she was fine just like any other child. So stick to the new routine, ride it out, and he'll adjust. (Probably. Every kid is different.)

All that said,

a critical component is that his teachers are trying to help redirect him, calm him, and so forth. If the teachers aren't working to make things better, then you really should have another conversation with them and/or the director.


One other quick suggestion: give him something to look forward to after you leave daycare. So for example, if he likes crackers, make sure his teacher has some crackers that he can only get after you leave. "Bye, and don't forget to go get your cracker!" Or stickers, or whatever. This will give him a little positive experience to look forward to after you're gone.

  • Thanks for a great answer. This very much parallels our experience. We switched to a mode in which I exclusively took over the drop-off duty, and have been lucky that the staff he likes more have been available to take him in, rather than the staff he likes less. Over the last few days, things improved to the point that he started crying at the door but only continued for minutes rather than hours (a pattern I had previously thought of as "normal"/nothing-to-worry-about). Today for the first time he went through the door happy and under his own steam. So, touch wood, and on to the next thing. – jez Sep 28 '16 at 16:34
  • @jez Glad to hear it! And as always, until the next thing. We're gonna miss a week of daycare around Thanksgiving, and I'm already prepping for the inevitable difficult return. – Dan Russell Sep 28 '16 at 17:18
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Like any other parenting problem there are a lot of theories and such surrounding how to deal with those early days of daycare. Not every kid goes through this, but based on my daughter's daycare/preschool that we started her at when she was 24 months old, I would estimate the tough drop-offs to occur in well over 70% of two year old(ish) kids for about 2 weeks.

Now in our case the crying primarily happened right at the dropoff time, and by about a week in she was fine within a short time, but it did continue for at least a couple weeks. We also possibly approached things a little differently I think, and it's very possible that the program/teachers taking care of her are just particularly skilled in distraction. Its a tough balance to strike but I think we didn't try to push off the crying as a thing being used to manipulate things (I think it's a really different thing than it appears to us at that age), but rather treated it as a valid expression of how she felt about the situation. That said, we also didn't bring her back home, and after a while it seemed that a fairly quick drop-off was better, as long as we still acknowledged that she was not happy with it before we left her there, but assured that there would be lots of new and interesting experiences that day.

Each morning on drop-off I would pick her up (crying) and then say hey look at all these fun things to do: "so and so is painting, so and so is feeding the fish", etc.. Then I'd make sure to let her know that her mama would be there to pick her up later. We also are fortunate to have great teachers that would then pick her up themselves and walk around with her showing her all of the things that were new that day while I kind of snuck off once her attention was vaguely diverted.

Given all of the possible variables I couldn't tell you if this particular case is due to the people and specific program or lineup of daily projects not really speaking to your kid, or part of the drop-off process needing to be more hands on and then easing into distraction, but those are the things that seemed to work for us if I had to guess at what had the most effect when I thought she was just going to scream all day, every day for as long as we dropped her off there.

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This is one problem every parent goes through at some point in time. 21 month year, according to me is too small to adapt to the environment. You have said he was normal in the beginning. May be he is growing up from being a baby and he gets to know things. You have also mentioned staff change before all these started. That could be the reason behind it as well. U have also mentioned the daycare authority being non cooperative. If he is a talkative boy, talk to him out, cajole him out the reasons for this. See for sometime If it gets any normal. Even for a couple of months. If not I would positively suggest you to change to a new daycare if that is feasible and possible. Because the mental and physical health of the child is almost important. And we should not take chances with it . Meanwhile in some time he might become normal, which might be well and good and most expected. I have experienced this issue and I know how depressing it is. Please think from the kid's perspective. He is too little to even express his thoughts. Assure and give him all the support and love to him and make him understand the same.

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