April Moments

Maybe, just maybe, telling the story is just as important as the story itself

Bad days gone good

Several weeks ago, Elliot had a few bad days at preschool. Actually, from my perspective, the new school year started out a little roughly. It took him a while to adapt to the new teachers, room and routine.

This adjustment period was followed by a bout of aggressive behavior, during which the day care director told me Elliot was having a difficult time keeping his hands to himself.

The teachers tried taking away Elliot’s “dollars” as a consequence for his behavior. I am referring to the reward/discipline system they use; the dollars look similar to Monopoly money. As I blogged previously in “Everyone has a bad day now and then,” I don’t love this method, but I’ll elaborate on this a little more in a moment.

When confiscating Elliot’s dollars didn’t work, the teachers and director tried a different method. They sent him to the 3-year-old room! “It’s no fun in there with those babies! I miss my friends,” Elliot told me. We reiterated that hitting, pushing and pulling hair and not allowed. The director reassured me, “If we nip this in the bud now, it won’t be a problem in kindergarten. Just keep encouraging him to keep his hands to himself and remind him that if he doesn’t, he will go to the 3-year-old room.”

After a few short days of this tactic, the problem was solved. “I like having good days,” Elliot reports nearly every time I pick him up from school. “I’m going to have all good days now. No more going to the baby room.”

It seems the director was right. This problem, for now anyway, has been nipped in the bud. Which, inevitably, means another issue is lurking just around the corner, right? :)

I must admit, the staff at Elliot’s day care has been great. They are transparent and laid back, the latter of which I am not most of the time. It is refreshing to know my child is in very competent hands while his daddy and I are working. I’m even feeling a little bit better about the “dollar” system, and so is Elliot. He consistently has enough dollars on treasure box day to pick a prize, and he feels proud of himself.

During my recent parent-teacher conference, Elliot’s teacher filled me in on his progress, noting that he is successfully learning all the social, language and math skills that will prepare him for kindergarten. “He’s a really great kid. He’s smart and kind, and we like having him class,” she told me.

It was interesting. I know all of those things about Elliot. But, given the few bad days he had, I was carrying around irrational visions of him being disruptive, wildly flailing his arms and hands at his classmates most of the day. When I was a child, I remember seeing in my aunts’ bedroom a poster, featuring a picture of a mischievous puppy getting into trouble, that read, “The good things I do, you never remember. The bad things I do, you never forget.”

I cursed myself, wondering if Elliot felt this way about me and his preschool experience so far. I have always praised his good days and tried to use the “bad days” as teachable moments, but hearing Elliot’s teacher have no complaints about his behavior was a reality check, in a good way.

Originally published on ovparent.com.

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