3 year old crying when left at preschool--why isn't this CIO? - Mothering Forums
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The Childhood Years > 3 year old crying when left at preschool--why isn't this CIO?
marincarrie's Avatar marincarrie 09:33 PM 08-21-2006
My son starts preschool next week, he just turned 3. The school I chose is very small--it's in home, one teacher and 6 kids. She's very gentle, etc. I think it's the best possible situation for putting him in school. He'll go twice a week for 4 hours.

My dilemma is this--he's never been left to cry, and I'm having trouble reconciling in my mind the idea of leaving him there if he's crying. Won't he interpret this as abondonment? Originally I thought I would just wait if he seemed upset, until a friend of mine that teaches 1st grade said that there are many kindergartners who cry on the first day of school. So waiting won't necessarily mean that he won't cry!

I'm just wondering how the rest of you view this--of course, he'll have the teacher there to comfort him, but if he wants me to stay and I leave anyway...this just seems wrong to me!

Thanks for your advice/comments...
Carrie & Boden (8-19-03)

momma2mingbu's Avatar momma2mingbu 09:36 PM 08-21-2006
If there is someone there to comfort him, then he's not being left to cry it out. To me, crying it out means you're left on your own with no one to comfort you and you have to get through whatever it is all alone. He won't be all alone as he'll have a loving and gentle teacher (and probably the other kids!) to comfort him.
sistermama's Avatar sistermama 09:47 PM 08-21-2006
First of all, maybe he won't cry! That said, my son cried for several days when he started preschool. Can you ease him into it if he does cry? My son's school had me bring him for only two hours the first couple of days and then we increased the time over three weeks until he was attending the whole 4.5 hours. After we got over that three weeks, he absolutely LOVED school.

I am now starting to go through this again with my 2yo daughter. Even though the playschool they are now attending is run by one of my best friends, she still cried her eyes out this morning and I had to go and pick her up. So I'll be starting her an hour at a time on Thursday.
marincarrie's Avatar marincarrie 10:56 PM 08-21-2006
True, there will be a teacher there to comfort him--but I can't help feeling like this will be the first time in his life when I basically ignore his needs. I'm afraid this will be some kind of breach of trust.

I know this is no big deal to lots of people, but I'm really having a hard time...!! I just can't imagine saying "I know you're completely freaked and don't want me to leave, but I"m going to do it anyway."

I just hope that if he is upset, it's shortlived. I can handle a day or two but beyond that, and I may have trouble!

Thanks,
Carrie
octobermom's Avatar octobermom 11:24 PM 08-21-2006
My mother is a home preschool teacher (6 kids a class 2.5 hours each) so very similiar to what your son will enter. I will honestly say over the almost 30 years of seeing new first time ever away from the parents yes their are some tears and with extremely few exceptions (ussually kids with other more medical issues) all are very short lived, many have a harder time leaving (lots of toys). I'd really encourage you to let the teacher do her job and help comfort him if needed. Was he allowed to go see the preschool before, if not that will be good it wont be so new and scarry, can he bring something "special" from home that can help.
mother culture's Avatar mother culture 11:27 PM 08-21-2006
I think that the difference is he is not a infant who can't express his feelings in words. If he can get you to stay he will. I think you should be lovingly firm and confident in the new caregivers to meet his needs. He will take your cue.
Twocoolboys's Avatar Twocoolboys 11:31 PM 08-21-2006
I would not assume that he will cry. Many kids don't cry the first time, or any time, that they go to preschool. My son did not cry at all. He was more than ready and loved it from the start.

I would just make sure that you are not communicating to him, either verbally or nonverbally, that you are expecting him to cry and be upset. You don't want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know?

And, I wouldn't look at sending him to preschool as a breach of trust. I would look at it as a chance for him to learn some interesting things, play with other kids and have fun! I think a general positive attitude about it will go a long way to helping the transition be good for him.
chefpaige1's Avatar chefpaige1 11:32 PM 08-21-2006
If your instincts say don't leave, follow them! Is there really anything wrong with the teacher having an extra pair of hands for a month or six month or a year so your son will not lose the trust you've created?
mommy68's Avatar mommy68 11:37 PM 08-21-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by momma2mingbu
If there is someone there to comfort him, then he's not being left to cry it out. To me, crying it out means you're left on your own with no one to comfort you and you have to get through whatever it is all alone. He won't be all alone as he'll have a loving and gentle teacher (and probably the other kids!) to comfort him.
I agree.

IMO it's considered CIO when a child is left in a dark room totally alone and no one at all goes in to comfort him when he cries out or screams excessively. Your child will have someone to comfort him and he won't just be left somewhere totally alone when you leave him. When you leave him you are allowing him to learn to trust other people other than yourself. He won't be the first child to cry a little when mom/dad leaves him at school. It's harder on us as the parents than it is the child usually.
UrbanPlanter's Avatar UrbanPlanter 12:17 AM 08-22-2006
my son cried until Thanksgiving when he started preschool.
It was absolutely awful. I sat in the hallway day after day, but they would not let me in the room with him and discouraged me from taking him out or bringing him home. They didn't even want me in the hallway.

I feel like he cried it out. I wish I had followed my instincts to pull him out of there. He wasn't ready.

Make sure you do what you feel is right for your child. If the crying is disturbing, the separation anxiety might be too great.
mummy marja's Avatar mummy marja 12:20 AM 08-22-2006
To me, leaving a child to cry at preschool is the same as leaving him with a babysitter he doesn't know. When my dd was a baby, everyone told me that I had to do that, and eventually she would get over it. That never felt right to me--even though i knew she was with people that cared about her and loved her, she wasnt' okay with it--so I wasn't. It was more work, but I only left her when I knew she was happy with the person I left her with.

If it's at all possible, I would gently ease into the situation by staying for a while, for a few days or weeks if that's what he needs.
LynnS6's Avatar LynnS6 12:37 AM 08-22-2006
I think it depends on how long he cries and what the teacher does. Does he cry for a few minutes and then is OK? That's not CIO, that's a healthy expression of sadness at separation, with someone to comfort him.

Does he cry for an extended period of time and can't be comforted? Then he's not ready.

For most kids, the IDEA of separating is difficult, but once they're through the transition, they're OK. I don't think that a rough transition will destroy trust. I do think leaving him to cry for an extended period of time might.
wifty's Avatar wifty 01:05 AM 08-22-2006
I was worried about this too.....that for the first time, I was abandoning my child when I really didn't need to since I am a SAHM.

But I knew that she needed the extra stimulation and so I prepared myself for tears.

You know what? She didn't cry. In fact, she went right off and started playing with something. I introduced her to the teacher, told her I loved her, she blew me a kiss....and that was it. My little one was doing her first flight alone and I had been the one that helped her have those wings!!! I felt glorious that she was so strong.

Hopefully, you will find the same thing....you have prepared him for this step....trust that he will do what is right for him. That might be that he isn't ready.....but have hope. :-)

Btw, just to be totally honest, Fiona did cry for a couple minutes the second week that I left her, but was done by the time I got to the car. And, they do let her take her Pooh bear with her in the classroom.

It might be better then you think. :-)
aisraeltax's Avatar aisraeltax 01:12 AM 08-22-2006
i dont consider it CIO.
but having read these threads, i wish i had some of your kids.
my ds1 never cried when i left him. he was very independent.
my ds2, OTOH, cried every day at preschool...every. day. that was hard. i had to go to work though. i stayed for along time with him, but if i left he cried. i called 10 minutes later and he was playing with the other kids. even if i stayed for 2 hours, he cried when i left. if i stayed for 15 minutes, he cried when i left.
i think you have to have really good communication with your child care provider and make sure you guys are on the same wave length.

good luck. and true what pp said..dont expect the worse. but i would spend some time "transitioning" him into the new place.
*Lisa*'s Avatar *Lisa* 09:18 AM 08-22-2006
I would not be comfortable leaving a crying child with somebody he or she just met. If you were very upset, would the presence of a stranger be comforting? If your child does get upset (and, as others pointed out, he may not!), I second the idea of staying with him for a while if that's a possibility. As he gets to know the teacher, it seems as though it would be easier for him to trust her to provide some comfort if it is needed.
saritabeth's Avatar saritabeth 10:33 AM 08-22-2006
I don't consider that CIO. Not at all. It's okay that our kids are sad when we go...they love us! Its okay if they aren't sad. I really believe that children should be allowed to have their feelings. You are not abandoning your child by giving him or her the experience of education. Its not like you are leaving your child on the doorstep of some random place with people you don't trust!

I think it is hard for all of us to leave our kids the first time or that first day of preschool. Obviously if there is a more significant transition problem going on it needs to be dealt with. But you are not being unloving by taking your child somewhere new that you have researched and trust!

I also really believe that if mama is feeling guilty or unsure about the drop off that the kids pick up on that. That is very true for my me and my daughter.

Anyway, best of luck for a tear free first day!
mommy68's Avatar mommy68 11:17 AM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by saritabeth
I also really believe that if mama is feeling guilty or unsure about the drop off that the kids pick up on that. That is very true for my me and my daughter.
ITA :

I know that if I have a positive attitude and I didn't give in to my child's crying then it made it better. However, with my oldest child some 8+ years ago he was very hard to leave anywhere, not just preschool. It was just him. That's how he was. He had huge separation issues. But it helped him that I would make him stay, even if I stood out in the hallway and listened to him stop crying after about 2 minutes (he never cried long once I was out of sight). It was easier to leave my son places by the time he was 5/6 years old because he learned earlier on that mommy will be back. It's just a part of life sometimes to have to go somewhere and stay. If I trusted the teachers then I knew he would be okay and he just had to eventually learn that himself.

I never would have left him in a place that I "personally" or as a mom felt bad about inside my gut, so that wasn't even the issue and I never would have yanked him out solely because he had an adjustment period to get through. He just had separation issues, plain and simple and he would have had them at 2, 3 or even 6 years old had we not dealt with it at some point.
Dolphin's Avatar Dolphin 11:33 AM 08-22-2006
I'm really surprised that most of you think it's ok to leave a 3 year old in a situation where they are obviously distressed. I think a 3 year old is still so little. I wouldn't expect a child that young to tough it out in a new and strange situation without mom or dad there, unless he or she were totally ready (and some would be, I know). But several days, weeks or even months of crying would signal to me that the child was not ready. I realize some mamas have no choice, but if you do, how do rationalize that?
saritabeth's Avatar saritabeth 12:01 PM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dolphin
I'm really surprised that most of you think it's ok to leave a 3 year old in a situation where they are obviously distressed. I think a 3 year old is still so little. I wouldn't expect a child that young to tough it out in a new and strange situation without mom or dad there, unless he or she were totally ready (and some would be, I know). But several days, weeks or even months of crying would signal to me that the child was not ready. I realize some mamas have no choice, but if you do, how do rationalize that?
She has not left her child yet. She is worried he may cry. I don't think anyone is saying that weeks or months of crying are normal. It is normal for a child to be sad at first, but 'mama always comes back' is an important thing to learn. Mama only leaves you with good safe adults who will meet your needs is also equally important. I am assuming here that she feels confident in the care her son will receive.

No one is saying tough it out either....This is a teaching moment. Besides, if he really isn't ready she can always change her mind. I think it is poor adivce to equate a child being sad you leave preschool the first week with CIO. If the child cries for more than a few minutes and doesn't bounce back once mama does leave, then yeah, maybe the mama would need to rethink the fit or timing. It isn't a reason not to try at all.
MotheringHeart's Avatar MotheringHeart 12:11 PM 08-22-2006
I think it is completely wrong to leave a 3 yo if they are obviously distressed. I believe that crying is their way of letting you know that they aren't comfortable w/the situation. I do believe it is CIO. A three yo is still learning about their place in the world. They are still discovering that they are seperate from mom and dad and can be okay with out them. In fact, it makes me really upset to see children crying hysterically when they are left at school. Preschool is designed so that kids can get used to the idea of going to school and so they can see school as a fun and safe place. How can it be a fun/safe place when they are being left so upset everyday?

When my oldest was 2.5, she wanted to start school. So we started her in two days, which she loved, and then she wanted to go more, so we moved her to three days. In the middle of the year we moved to a different state. When we got to the new house, we told her that she could let us know when she was ready to start school. Within a week of move in, she was asking to go to school. But when the time came for her to actually be left there, she was hysterical. We tried for three days, but I ended up believing it wasn't time for her. Last year, we registered her again and she was TOTALLY ready. She did want us to come in and drop her off at her classroom and hang out for a bit; which we always did. And then in the middle of the year she decided she wanted to be dropped off in car line. I took her direction as to her comfort level and I think it worked out beautifully. She is really independent and very comfortable in new situations.

IMO, preschool is just preschool. If your child isn't ready, they'll let you know. I believe (like all other AP choices) parents should be sensitive to their child and not abandon them while they are hysterical at school.

ETA: I don't think that the OP should not try because there is the possibility of the child crying. I just think that she should go with her gut and not allow teachers (who often mean well, but encourage the parents to just leave a crying child) to run her over.
Rainbowbird's Avatar Rainbowbird 12:11 PM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dolphin
I'm really surprised that most of you think it's ok to leave a 3 year old in a situation where they are obviously distressed. I think a 3 year old is still so little. I wouldn't expect a child that young to tough it out in a new and strange situation without mom or dad there, unless he or she were totally ready (and some would be, I know). But several days, weeks or even months of crying would signal to me that the child was not ready. I realize some mamas have no choice, but if you do, how do rationalize that?
I agree. Yes, they are older, but the situation is notched up a bit--they're leaving home and left with strangers,not in their own bed. So it's all proportional if you follow, in terms of anxiety.

My son is starting preschool two days a week next month at age 3.5. I expect there might be a transition period where I need to stay in the classroom for awhile with his baby sister along! The teachers are great and let parents stay for as long as they want. For that matter, I could drop in every DAY unannounced if I wanted, they are fine with that. It's a coop and very family-oriented, which is one reason we chose it.

I think if a child needs the parent to stay to ease the transition, there is nothing wrong with that. We shouldn't expect that they can magically cope alone just because they are now in preschool. It's a process, IMO.
Roar's Avatar Roar 12:13 PM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by saritabeth
It is normal for a child to be sad at first, but 'mama always comes back' is an important thing to learn. Mama only leaves you with good safe adults who will meet your needs is also equally important. I am assuming here that she feels confident in the care her son will receive.

No one is saying tough it out either....This is a teaching moment. Besides, if he really isn't ready she can always change her mind. .
YES! I agree. My son attended a co-op preschool and he had some special needs so I stayed for the first month. It gave me a chance to see kid after kid separate. Some kids didn't cry at all. Some cried for a few minutes. During that time the teacher would hold them in a rocking chair, emphasize "your mom will be back after snack" and then transition them into another activity. Nearly all the kids were over it in a couple of minutes and it was absolutely nothing like a baby alone crying in a room in the dark.

Really, on some level I think people need to have more confidence in their parenting. If you've built a strong attachment with your child that isn't destroyed by being in the care of another caring adult for two hours. If the child isn't ready, the school isn't a good fit or the adult isn't caring that's something else. But, for most kids this really isn't a problem. Moms tend to cry more than the kids!
saritabeth's Avatar saritabeth 12:34 PM 08-22-2006
I am finding it sad that the assumption is that those who think some crying is normal is translated to: the child crying uncontrollably every day the whole year of preschool without comfort or support from the parents.

Im not sure why the need to take this to such extremes. I think most kids make the transition well with the love and support of their parents and teachers. If they aren't then its time to rethink it. No one is saying that she should torture the child and ignore his feelings.
katallen's Avatar katallen 12:39 PM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dolphin
I'm really surprised that most of you think it's ok to leave a 3 year old in a situation where they are obviously distressed. I think a 3 year old is still so little. I wouldn't expect a child that young to tough it out in a new and strange situation without mom or dad there, unless he or she were totally ready (and some would be, I know). But several days, weeks or even months of crying would signal to me that the child was not ready. I realize some mamas have no choice, but if you do, how do rationalize that?
It does help to go a few times and stay for a while to get the child used to the provider and to reassure yourself that your child will receive good care, but crying is normal even for children who have been to child care all their lives. My child cried when I dropped her off at school but her teachers always held her when I left and they would tell me that it only lasted for a minute. I didn't believe this at first but then I witnessed a child who had been in care his whole life doing the same thing when mom dropped him off and it really did last only a minute, the second the mother left he stopped crying and pushed himself out of the providers arms and went off to play. After a few months she would just walk in without even the one minute cry. There was only one time that she was inconsolable and they did call me to get her and I was able to come and have her with me.

I would touch base with the provider often to be sure that your child is adjusting and explore other options if he isn't, but it is very normal for some separation fuss and as long as your provider is loving and you trust her I would give it a chance. I would also encourage you to talk up going to childcare and not speak about any bad parts before hand as this can create fear in your child and cause him to not want to go to childcare. It will take you a lot longer to adjust than it will take him. It took me a year and her mood at home improved after the first day and she adjusted very quickly with only a show of fussing.
Dolphin's Avatar Dolphin 12:46 PM 08-22-2006
"Really, on some level I think people need to have more confidence in their parenting. If you've built a strong attachment with your child that isn't destroyed by being in the care of another caring adult for two hours."

While I agree that the attachment won't be destroyed in a few hours, I think if there is a strong attachment, the parent would know whether the child is just having trouble transitioning for a moment or is really distressed at the thought of being left without mom in a situation he is uncomfortable with. Is it really necessary to arbitrarily "teach" a child the lesson that mommy will come back? Isn't an equally important lesson that "mommy is listening to you and respecting your comfort level"? I don't know - it just seems like, at some point, without having been taught the lesson, every child will be ready for this level of independence on his or her own time. I'm not equating this situation exactly to CIO, but it still doesn't feel right to me. And BECAUSE i'm confident in my parenting, I listen to those instincts - they are there for a reason. If the OP is feeling something isn't right about it, there is a reason.
saritabeth's Avatar saritabeth 12:56 PM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dolphin
[I Is it really necessary to arbitrarily "teach" a child the lesson that mommy will come back? Isn't an equally important lesson that "mommy is listening to you and respecting your comfort level"? .
Dolphin, these aren't mutually exlcusive ideas. It isn't arbitrary to teach a child that you come back. That is part of a firm attachment. It really isn't arbitrary if you have to leave your child for a job or some other reason.

No one is telling her to not listen to her child or disrespect his comfort level. You are taking this to an all or nothing extreme that isn't helpful to a mama that is trying to figure what it is she needs to do with her child.

if you have read any of my posts you would have seen that I specifically said she is the mama and has to know her child. There is no signing your name in blood when trying out preshcool. If he hates it or she doesn't like it they can change. Thinking your child may cry isn't a reason to not take him to preschool.

Sheesh!:
aisraeltax's Avatar aisraeltax 01:41 PM 08-22-2006
well, after reading that some of you consider i ignored my son when i took him to preschool each day, i have to add that my son loved his preschool and loved his teachers. he hated "separating" from me. he would cry regardless of how long i stayed at the preschool or what time of day it was. he just HATED being separated. once separated, though, he was fine within a few minutes. i know b/c i was usually right outside or if i couldnt be, i called within a few minutes to see that he was OK. when i picked him up, he was all smiles and giggles.
i felt (and still feel) very connected to my son and do not feel he was treated badly at any point in his preschool years. work at that time was not optional, but childcare was in the sense that he could have gone anywhere for childcare and we chose the place he was b/c it was the best for him.
i posted simply to provide a perspective that some kids just dont like that separation. and may cry every day. OTOH, some may never cry (like my first son).
Dolphin's Avatar Dolphin 01:42 PM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by saritabeth
Dolphin, these aren't mutually exlcusive ideas. It isn't arbitrary to teach a child that you come back. That is part of a firm attachment. It really isn't arbitrary if you have to leave your child for a job or some other reason.

No one is telling her to not listen to her child or disrespect his comfort level. You are taking this to an all or nothing extreme that isn't helpful to a mama that is trying to figure what it is she needs to do with her child.

if you have read any of my posts you would have seen that I specifically said she is the mama and has to know her child. There is no signing your name in blood when trying out preshcool. If he hates it or she doesn't like it they can change. Thinking your child may cry isn't a reason to not take him to preschool.

Sheesh!:
Saritabeth: No, it isn't arbitrary to teach a child that you come back. That's something that life and your relationship teaches. IMO, dropping a crying, visibly upset 3 year old at preschool in order to teach him that mom will come back IS arbitrary. And yes, if you have to do daycare or preschool for work, you do what you have to do. But the idea that a 3 year old needs a preschool education is absurd to me, so we might just have to agree to disagree. Preschool should be for fun, something a child wants to do because he enjoys it and is ready for it. Period.

Reading back over my posts, I haven't ever said that the op should never even consider taking her child because she is worried that he may cry. I'm saying if she takes him to preschool and she feels in her heart that he isn't ready because he is crying and really upset, then she should follow her instincts. I think she will know whether it's an "I'm a little uncertain but ready" cry or an "I'm totally freaking out because you're leaving me here" kind of cry.
Roar's Avatar Roar 02:01 PM 08-22-2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dolphin
While I agree that the attachment won't be destroyed in a few hours, I think if there is a strong attachment, the parent would know whether the child is just having trouble transitioning for a moment or is really distressed at the thought of being left without mom in a situation he is uncomfortable with.
I didn't hear anyone suggest that the parent leave a child who isn't ready in preschool or that the child leave the parent with a teacher they don't have complete confidence in.

Also, I think we really would benefit from being honest for a minute. Hasn't nearly everyone here at one time or another underestimated or overprotected their kid in ways that really weren't helpful? I know I have. For me it takes mindful attention to let go a bit.

I've known moms at LLL who wouldn't even leave the child with the dad for 10 minutes to take a walk alone and viewed that the same as crying it out becuase the child may not be happy about it.

I think we benefit as moms from taking a good long hard look at the situation and being honestly that sometimes the worry isn't really that the kid will be hurt or not feel attached, but that it is really about us. Given our role with our children it makes perfect sense that this would be the case, but it is important to be mindful of where that crosses the line into something that really isn't good for all of the people involved and I'd say when a parent fears leaving a child who hasn't even cried yet and sees it the same as leaving an infant alone in a room, it has crossed the line.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dolphin
Is it really necessary to arbitrarily "teach" a child the lesson that mommy will come back? Isn't an equally important lesson that "mommy is listening to you and respecting your comfort level"? I don't know - it just seems like, at some point, without having been taught the lesson, every child will be ready for this level of independence on his or her own time.
I would suggest we need to realize that kids are learning lessons all the time whether we try to teach them or not. If a kid is absolutely never without their mom for a few minutes they may well be learning the lesson that it isn't safe to be without mom, that I can't trust people other than mom, and that mom has no needs separate from me.
mightymoo's Avatar mightymoo 02:02 PM 08-22-2006
I haven't read all the posts, but I wanted to add my thoughts. It isn't cry it out (well hopefully) he will have someone to comfort him.

I think it is something the mom needs to judge for herself. My daughter loves preschool, she begs to go sometimes won't leave! But I'll still have days when she cries upon seperation. I do my best to make this easiest on her. I've found if I come in and sit down and chat with the teacher and leave once she has engaged, she is less likely to get upset for example. But on the other hand, I know my child well and I know that on the days when I leave and she is crying she doesn't cry long because she really enjoys the activities. Usually the crying is a result of other things - like a too late bedtime the night before.

I am nervous though about her new school she starts in the fall - because the routine is that the teacher takes the child out of the car and walks them into the building. I'm worried this won't give her enough transition time, but we'll just have to see how that goes.
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