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I have two sons ages 3 and 1. We bring them to the daycare center every morning.

When we pick them up, my 3yo will say everything was fine and he liked it there and that it was nice playing with his friends. Sometimes he will say how this one other kid hit him. My son is generally rather friendly and usually not one to hit back, he tends to just get very upset and intimidated when other kids are mean to him. Either way, he'll say he's happy to go again tomorrow.

But in the mornings he'll ask right after waking up whether it is a weekday, and if yes, he'll try to do anything he can to not go. He'll refuse to get dressed, he'll say he's sick, he wont eat breakfast, he'll try to slip out and go back to his room. As these strategies don't work, he'll get more and more upset. When pressed, he'll say that the real reason he doesn't want to go is the other kid who hits him. Some days we manage to distract him and get going, but sometimes it'll end with one of us carrying him out the door while he's crying or screaming.

What can we do to improve this situation? At the daycare center they don't take it very seriously when we bring this up as they say that during the day everything is fine (I suspect they're not paying enough attention to notice the hitting incidents). As both of us have to work, we cannot take him out of daycare (and there is no other option where he could get a place within less than a year or so). Also, taking him out temporarily seems like a bad idea as breaks such as vacation have made the situation worse in the past, especially in the first few days after coming back.

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    Is there anything preventing you from changing daycare locations or from pulling the child out of daycare for a while? (E.g. both parents work/this is the only daycare in town/other…) Please clarify so that helpful answers can be given. Thanks. Commented Jul 7, 2022 at 17:19
  • @anongoodnurse I updated the last paragraph. Basically, those options either won't work at all or haven't helped in the past, unfortunately. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 5:32
  • Thanks for editing the info in. Would you accept a frame challenge? That is, an answer that doesn’t agree with your approach? Don’t feel pressure; it’s your question and your choice. You control the narrative here. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 11:12
  • @anongoodnurse Of course! Happy to hear any and all perspectives. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 12:54

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First, and most importantly, collect (and document) more data about the other boy's hitting behavior. You will need that to decide on the right strategy forward; it will help talk to the day care personnel and also to your son. Maybe you can establish some communication with the other boy's parents, make sure to meet them at drop-off/pick-up time, talk to them, let the two boys see that?

I am bit worried that the personnel has not picked up on the fact that your son often comes to daycare after a major meltdown at home. No matter what is the reason they should react on that! Communicate that to them every time it happens so they know!

In my answer, I am assuming that your son's reaction is not necessarily only due to the other boy and that you feel the daycare you have is safe and reliable!

  • I guess by now the negative mornings are a pattern for you and for your son. Spend some time brainstorming with your partner how you can break that pattern, how you could change something so that the day starts on a better/surprising note than a fight. Take a different route/type of transportation to daycare? Prepare a different breakfast? Eat before you dress or vice versa? Drop him off at the same time as a friend of his? Always talk about this to deflect any negative thoughts.

  • Do not ask theoretical, polite questions like "Do you want to go to daycare today?", "Will it be fun to go today?", "Are you ready to go?" but rather choice-questions where any reaction is okay or can be handled by you: "Do you want to take X or Y [clothes, food/toy if allowed] to daycare today?", "Do you want to put on shoes first or jacket first?" If the answer is "No!! None!!", you can say "Okay, then I get to decide.".

  • Do not wait for your son's weekday question in the morning but make clear casually in the evening (not bed time!) and at pick-up time that tomorrow is a daycare day ("Say 'see you tomorrow' to Danny.", "Tomorrow, I will drop you off and mommy picks you up".).

  • Be prepared (clothes, breakfast etc) and let the weekday morning be as calm as possible. Do not enter into arguments. Be clear that daycare has to happen and is not negotiable, do not lie. Stay calm (so easy to write!).

  • While collecting data and talking to your son about it, do not focus on the negative side of daycare but rather what was fun, what he learnt, what he did that he could not have done at home, how what he did was so much more advanced than what little brother is doing. Get help from the personnel if your son is not a great talker. Remind him casually of the fun in the afternoon, evening and weekend/vacation, but not during a meltdown-in-the-rising.

I hope something here is useful but remember that those suggestions are only appropriate for a reluctant-daycare-child, NOT in a bully situation!

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    This has been helpful, thanks. Some of your suggestions are tactics we had already figured out, like focusing on questions where he gets to make a decision. We found something else which works astonishingly well: when he starts to get upset, we just let him be (e.g., play instead of getting dressed) for a couple of minutes. Surprisingly, he will mostly calm down and start getting dressed by himself, and be much more cooperative afterwards. The downside is that we need to plan 15 or so extra minutes for getting ready in the morning, but it is very much worth it. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 19:33
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    We also managed to have a long talk with the people at the daycare center. What they told us suggests that he probably is just pretty bored there, and (according to them) he is smart enough to know that "I don't want to go because the mean kid keeps hitting me" is a good excuse (I can see how he learned that from our reactions as we take that much more seriously than any other excuse). Luckily, he will advance into a group with older kids this fall (right now, he's the oldest in his group), and we hope that will make everything better. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 19:38

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