April Moments

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

My need-to-know policy

When Elliot first started attending day care at age 2 and a half, the teachers and director there liked to tell me every little thing he did wrong. He wouldn’t stay on his carpet square at circle time. He took his meat off his sandwich at lunch time. During nap time, he lifted his feet in the air and then put them back down on the cot. He pulled the hair of another child. Remember, he was 2 and a half!

If you’ve followed my blog since that time, you know that day care didn’t last long. We switched him to a more established facility with a more laid back staff. The day care we chose has been equally as flexible, and we have been happy with our decision to enroll Elliot since he started there just before his third birthday.

Deciding how much to know about your child’s time at day care or school requires some treading in murky water. No, I probably do not need to know how many times a day Elliot picked his nose. Also, the number of green beans he ate is most likely not of paramount importance either.

However, if he exhibits a particularly troubling behavior, like beating up another youngster, then, obviously, I do want to know. In addition, if a problem becomes a trend, it is in everyone’s best interests to fill me in, so we can discuss the behavior and work on it at home too.

This issue came to a head a few weeks ago right before the conclusion of the sticker chart that determined whether Elliot would be allowed to go on the class bowling trip. (See last week’s blog for more explanation on “The sticker saga.”) On the very last day of that particular challenge, Elliot’s teacher called me while I was at work and told me that his behavior had not been very good for the past couple days. Despite his less than desirable days, the teacher still awarded his sticker on those occasions. She said if he didn’t obey the rules and stay quiet at nap time, he would not earn his sticker, therefore disqualifying him from the bowling trip.

While I appreciated being informed of the situation, I felt quite helpless. I was at work; Elliot was at school. There wasn’t really anything I could do at that point. If I had known that his behavior was not up to snuff on the previous days, I could’ve talked to him about it. The teacher said she would tell Elliot that she had talked to me on the phone and remind him that it was the last day of the sticker chart.

My feelings of helplessness lingered for a while after I hung up the phone, so I decided to call her back. I expressed my disappointment with not knowing about Elliot’s “bad days” until it was too late. “When I ask Elliot how his day was, he almost always says, ‘Good,’ so I don’t know differently unless you tell me,” I said. She understood and explained it’s a tough line to walk – deciding what and how much to report to parents about their child’s behavior. I understood and told her I don’t need to know every detail, but I asked that she let me know if Elliot has a particularly rough day or if any negative behaviors become a trend. She agreed that was a good strategy.

Yesterday was the first time I got any such note. It said Elliot had a difficult time listening most of the day. He was screaming in the bathroom after being told to stop and was disruptive during nap time despite repeated requests to rest quietly.

No parent likes to get that sort of note, but it was nice to know what had happened. My husband Mike called me immediately after he picked up Elliot, and we formulated a consequence plan for the evening. We decided Elliot would not be allowed any treats after dinner (he is usually allowed one if he eats well), and he would not be permitted to watch TV (he usually watches one 30-minute show in the evening). Elliot understood why these two privileges were taken away and cooperated with little fuss.

Yesterday’s occurrences made me feel like Mike and I were a team with the school. We didn’t necessarily “punish” Elliot; we just took away certain rewards that he enjoys. Obviously, I’m hoping he remembers what it feels like when those privileges are removed and behaves appropriately.

What’s your need-to-know policy when it comes to your child’s time at day care or school?

Originally published on ovparent.com.

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