Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Story With Handsome Man.

At least if I'm up at 3 in the morning I might as well catch up on some blogging. Work has been busy (which is a good thing--considering the economy) with wedding season in full swing. But that means I haven't had any time to my self these days to bloggedy-blog.

I don't know if anyone out there is still checking in since it has been over a month since my last post.... but here's what's up:

Handsome Man:

So in early June he was "kicked out" of the daycare that he had been attending since he was 10 months old. I came in to pick him up one day (on a Friday) and was told by the owner of the home-run daycare that she could no longer care for Handsome Man due to his 'behavior issues.' (Insert sound of loud gong going off in my head here). I was in shock but at the same time not totally surprised. (Which is totally contradictory I know). For a few months he'd been having some real problems with temper tantrums. We'd been working on it at home, but it had been even worse while he was in daycare. Now the thing is, my son is a BIG KID. As in, tall, muscle-y, strong. So when he's having a typical two year old tantrum, he can get pretty wild. It's like he doesn't know his own size and strength--so he'll just push over that chair, side table, plant, whatever is close--just to let you know how darn angry he is. I thought it was all just typical two year old stuff, you know. And I was worried about his acting out at daycare, but I had talked to the owner about it and I thought we were working on it together. She asked me how we disciplined him at home and I told her time-outs. She had even said several times herself, that 'oh it's just a phase it will pass' sort of thing. At this time he was also having a hard time sleeping; waking up screaming, crying wanting me to comfort him, as well as a real separation anxiety with me that I had never seen with him before. As I read in all 'The Books'--all normal stuff for his age. Anywhoo--I still had a feeling deep down in my gut that something else might be going on, that maybe it was more than surface deep, and I should have trusted my instincts from the get-go, but again I thought these problems were transitional and he would adapt. But here's what was making me go, hmmmm....

1. The daycare lady had an assistant. (Miss K.). HM was totally bonded to Miss K. She was the one who took care of him when he was a baby, and when he became a toddler she was the one who would tickle him, cuddle and rough house with him. He Looooovved Miss K. Then, Miss K became pregnant (wha) and started spending less and less time with the toddlers as her pregnancy grew, and more time with the infants which was a little easier on her physically, I'm sure.
2. His one friend that was his same age at daycare left the daycare.
3. HM turned 2--opening up another slot in the daycare for an infant. And, with his friend also gone, 2 more infants came into the daycare. So there were all these infants, and then a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds, and no one Handsome Man's own age. So they 'threw him in' with the 3-4 year olds. Then, suddenly, it was: no more crib at nap time, you sleep in a cot, no more bottle, no more highchair, etc. All good things for sure, but probably A LOT for him to adapt to, considering everything else that was going on.

Add to all the above that he was not up to speed verbally next to the 3-4 year olds, but expected to act and behave like they do, well, I can only imagine how FRUSTRATED he must have been on a daily basis--leading to, well, terrible temper tantrums.

It seemed like over the weekend Mister and I would work with him and work with him and his behavior would be much improved by the end of the weekend, through Monday, and then as soon as he went back to daycare on Tuesday it would slide back down hill again.

Of course I doubted myself and thought I was imagining things.

Now, the daycare owner (Miss C.) saw the situation differently. The last conversation I had with her went something like this:

Miss C.: Jennifer I don't know what is causing HM's problems, but the time-outs just aren't working.

Me: What else would you suggest trying?

Miss C: Well, I can't speak to that--I don't want to sound like I am trying to tell you how to raise your child. But, your parenting style is totally unique.

Me: What do you mean by 'unique'?

Miss C.: Well, I just see the way you pet and coddle and cajole him--and the time outs just aren't effective. Placing him on the couch or whatever and leaving him alone for 2 minutes just doesn't do anything. He just thinks it's funny.

Me: Okay, well what would you do differently?

Miss C: Well, I can't speak to that. But the other parents don't have these problems. None of the other children have these problems.

Me: Okay, well, what are these other parents doing that you see that I'm not doing?

(And I was being serious--I really wanted to know! Was there some discipline measure that I had overlooked? My 'unique' parenting style included time outs, but also getting down to his level and trying to talk to him about why certain behaviors were not okay--and trying to urge him to communicate with me when he was upset rather than throwing things or whatever. But I was struggling, for sure, and very open to hearing whatever the other parents were doing! If something else would be the magic bullet to solve the tantrums then by all means, lay it on me!)

Miss C.: Well, I can't say....but the other parents would NOT STAND for that behavior.

(By this point I felt like I was taking crazy pills.) Let me also state that at this point my son is clinging to me, his arms wrapped tightly around my neck with his head buried in my shoulder.

Let me also state as a side note, that in addition to the tantrums, he had recently started *hitting* which seemed to come from nowhere.

At this point in the conversation I can't remember what was said next, but I think my brain was starting to boil. But I seem to recall a bit more condescending about what a terrible parent I was and what an out of control child I was raising. A child that required some sort of mystery discipline technique that the other parents were using, but which I was not privy to.

As I walked away toward my car with my child clinging to me, a thought crept in through the back of my mind: Is she suggesting I should HIT MY CHILD?


I mean, where did all this stem from all of a sudden, especially Handsome Man's hitting behavior?

I will never know. But I feel sick at the thought of the possibility.

Still, I worried that I was being hysterical, and that the problem really did lie with me. I thought-- wow! In two short years I've managed to totally screw up my child! My Parent-of-the- Year Award should be arriving in the mail any day now!!

So--I took Handsome Man home with me. I brought in the help of a good friend to help me juggle work and watching Handsome Man with no daycare. My friend Jess was a total God-send. And Mister and I 'brought down the hammer' with a no-way policy on 1.Hitting, and 2.Throwing (objects). We knew he would still throw tantrums, but he needed to know that hitting and throwing were not okay. And what did we do? Our unique parenting style of time-outs, and I suppose more "coddling and cajoling" with trying to get down to his level and communicate the reasons for the time outs. But the other thing we did--the thing I think he was starved of at his daycare--was give him lots and lots and lots of POSITIVE reinforcement. He did something we liked? We showered him with praise. He got angry but didn't throw his toys? Good Job, Handsome Man! He said "please"? Oh! I really like the way you said 'please'! We were pretty over the top with it. We probably sounded like idiots to anyone who heard us. But you know what? It worked.

Within a week or so the "bad" behaviors had diminished by about 80%.

And I started looking for a new daycare. After all, I couldn't keep up the working (in the middle of my busiest time of year!) and keeping HM home. But I worried: What if he gets kicked out of the new daycare within a couple of weeks? What will I do?

I thought maybe, just maybe if some of my instincts were right, then perhaps a more structured setting, where he would be in a "class" with just kids his own age, might be better for him?

I interviewed one of those "corporatey-franchise" places that was near my new office. I explained everything to the director of the school, and she seemed very open on working together with me and Handsome Man on any issues. She assured me there would be ongoing, continuous communication between the teacher and me, and I would definitely have warning if it got to the point that Handsome Man would be asked to leave the school.

I asked her how they handled discipline. This was very important to me. Guess what? They stressed getting down to the child's level, explaining why something was not okay, and if necessary, time-outs. They stressed building communication between the kids, too. So if one kid grabbed something from another kid, for instance, they would first tell them no, then explain why, then see if they could get the kids to play together, or share, etc.. WOW! Kind of sounded like what I was already doing at home: me and my 'unique' parenting style. Hmmm....

So he has been in his new "school" for over a month. His behaviors have disappeared. He is happy, smiley, and excited to go to school to see his friends and his teacher. He loves Miss L., his teacher. At first he would cry when I dropped him off in the morning, but his teacher assured me it was only for a few minutes and he was quickly involved in play and activities. Now he runs down the hall to his class, and usually the other kids will run up to him and give him hugs. It is so cute! His teacher says he is doing great. And it's 5 minutes away from my office--between my office and my house! Yay! I love it! He's happy, so I'm happy.

I'd like to go back to the old daycare and punch that lady in the face--but that's just me.


Tracy said...

Oh my gosh. I was just sick reading your post. As you explained your "unique" parenting, I couldn't help but think, "but this is how I envision us parenting Evan and Rowan!" I can't stand to think about what HM must have been experiencing there, poor little guy. I'm so glad you have him somewhere new, somewhere where he can be happy.

Glad you're keeping busy.

Just me said...

My mom is the director of a large day care center.

About five years ago, I worked at the day care center in the local JCC. One of my last weeks there, I had an "evaluation" where, among other things, the woman doing my eval told me that I "don't use appropriate language with the children." When I asked for an example (since I was stunned- what did she think I was saying to these kids???) she told me that she had overheard me during 'circle time' telling my group of three year olds "Today we are going to be doing different activities" and that language was too difficult for the children.

I was enraged. I called my mom in tears on my way home from work- I was under the belief that children learned how to USE language by hearing adults SPEAK that language. She told me that, clearly, this center had a "different philosophy" than either she or I had.

The things that has stayed with me is how hard it will be to choose a day care for my own kids. I clearly have a very specific set of philosophies, and it will be important to me that whatever child care I use will need to mesh well with that.

Obviously, Miss C had a very different philosophy from you. (She also kind of sounds like a bitch, but I digress.) I think it's great that you've found a child care situation that works for you and HM and that he is so much happier!!!

Kami said...

Way to go Mom-of-the-Year! Good for you. I hope I will be so intuitive.

I also hate to think that your parenting style is unique and not the norm.

luna said...

yikes, I hate to think about what other parents do to their children? wait lemme guess, no nintendo for a week?

so glad you found a new place for HM to be boy. good to hear from you too.