Recently I went through the difficult process of withdrawing my son from preschool. There had been red flags all along but I told myself that I was being neurotic, over-protective and crazy. I went against my gut. I think that because I was a first time mom I didn’t trust myself. Now, a year and a half after he started he is out of that awful preschool and I have gained a good bit of knowledge about the whole process. I would like to share these *red flags* that you may notice with your own children.
Perhaps one of the first situations I found to be very strange was this preschool’s potty training policy. When signing my son up for school I was told that the preschool would work with my son on potty training and that most kids were potty trained within a few months! I was excited about this. As the months went by he was no closer to our potty training goal, in fact, he was more removed from it. It was concerning. I decided to try to send him to school in underwear since Pull-ups were confusing (they are just diapers) and he was actually allergic. I was told that he couldn’t come to school in underwear because it was a health hazard. A health hazard? I’m not sending him to school with violent diarrhea. He wasn’t going to go poop on people. Sigh. I strongly believe that his hiccups with potty training (at almost 4 years old) are in large part due to the way potty training was handled at preschool. Make sure the potty training policy is clear at the school that you choose. Make sure the teachers and staff are willing to work with you and your son or daughter. Make sure they are encouraging as potty training can be a very difficult time!
Closed for every (no good) reason.
I believe my son was not in school more than he was in it. Every time I turned around the school was closed for some reason. Mostly this was due to weather. This is understandable… however, they would drag it out as much as possible. They wanted to go by the local school system, which is generally a pretty good rule, except public school students HAVE to go to school and they live all over the county. We pay for preschool. Even this I can get behind I guess… but the early dismissals. If the school system dismissed early (even for just an hour!) …preschool would close at lunch. Same with delayed openings. They didn’t even start until 9:45! If the local school system delayed (they start at 7:30/8), preschool would delay the same amount of time. I’m sorry but your start time IS a delay!! Who starts at 9:45?! ::eye roll:: Make sure, when looking for a school, that the school wants to be open! The staff should love what they do, and shouldn’t look for excuses to shut down for the day.
Won’t let you observe
Listen to me. If you get nothing else from this, please understand that if a preschool denies your request to observe… or just ignores it- as if you didn’t even ask… GET OUT. There is a reason they don’t want you in the school. You should ALWAYS be able to observe your own child, especially if there are problems.
Change in behavior
If there is a change in behavior in your child the preschool could be to blame. Sure, kids grow and change and they go through different spells and tantrums, but if things get worse and the teachers seem discouraged or even mean… there could be more going on than is easily noticed. For my son, he was a great kid the first year. I always got a great report. When he went to the next class with a different teacher, he was criticized from the very beginning. Each day resulted in more troubling behavior from both my son and the teacher. Our little ones don’t always know how to tell us something is going on… sometimes we just have to read between the lines.
What your kids DO tell you
Every once in a while your kid will pop up with a statement that makes total sense. I hear my son tell me all sorts of stuff in a day. “Preschool was fine and good.” “Gigi’s house is far away.” “I’m going to poop out of my head.” “My paci’s name is Harold.” Some things make sense, others don’t make a whole lot of sense and its easy to just say “oh okay… great… sure… that’s awesome,” at the ramblings and go about your day. However, every once in a while if you really talk to your kid and listen, they’ll say something that you can’t just ignore. I asked my son, for example, if he liked his teacher and he told me that he did. I asked if his teacher ever got mad at him and he said that she did… when I asked him why… he replied, “Because she is pissed.” I don’t know if she said those words to him or not… but I know that he felt that anger and disappointment and that was enough for me. If you ask your child a question and they reply with “things are fine,” “it is good,” “I like it,” — dig a little deeper. See if you can ask your questions in a different way. Sometimes the answers are worth the extra work.
The way a school handles misbehavior is very telling. The first time my son was scolded at school he was removed from the playground and had to spend the remainder of play time in the director’s office. He was 2 years old. He ran out of the gate during recess and wouldn’t come back after being asked to. I found out later that he was taken into the director’s office where they shut the door and had a conversation with him. I spoke up at the time and have no regrets about the fact that I informed them that they would NO longer be having any closed-door conversations with my 2 year old. It is always inappropriate. As time went on my son was removed from more activities. He was taken out of chapel, music class. Eventually he quit making art. I was paying for him to be removed from situations constantly, rather than redirected. When searching for a preschool, please pay attention to how the school handles discipline.
When taking my son to school I would chat with the teachers in the mornings. Usually this was harmless chit chat. Other times, I was shocked at how much his teachers were willing to share. I was told in casual conversation about a child’s custody situation. I was told that his mother had problems, he had behavior problems and he lived with his grandparents. I was told about several children’s specific situations. I always thought this was a bit odd as it was not my business…but then I realized that my son was not immune to this gossip. As I dropped my son off in the mornings I wondered what the parents knew about us. I wondered if they knew that my son had been struggling in school… or that I struggled with mental illness issues. I was horrified. Things I’d told to them in confidence were possibly on display for the whole school to know. A child or family’s personal business should be just that.. their personal business. I am sad that these teachers treated these matters as gossip.
Sick kid policy
When taking my son to preschool I was terrified of all of the illnesses he would be exposed to. I knew this was inevitable and trusted that the school would take proper precautions to make sure illnesses were contained to the best of their ability. Of course, without fail, my son picked up many illnesses his first year. He got throat infections, URI’s, stomach bugs, and even mono. It seemed he was ALWAYS out with something. It started to become unbelievable. I got to where I panicked when I saw a kid with a runny nose. I was very cautious with my son. I kept him home extra days just to make sure that he was recovering well and not a threat to other children. I felt guilty thinking that I could send him to school with an illness that could spread to other children and their little siblings! I realized that I was seeing more and more children at school with very runny noses that were lethargic with hacking coughs. I wondered if the school was abiding by its own stated rules in the handbook. One child seemed very ill and he was allowed to stay. Sickness in preschool is inevitable, but there are proper precautions that a school can take. If the school isn’t following their own policies, call them out on it.
Of course there are more things to consider when thinking of taking your child out of a school or choosing the right school for them. I think the most important thing that I wish I had done was trust my gut. I knew early on that my son’s preschool was perhaps not the best fit… but I ignored it. I told myself that I was paranoid and that no school would be the perfect fit. I should have listened to myself. Turns out, a “mother’s gut feeling,” is a real thing. I think it is a God given gift to make sure your babies are safe, happy and healthy. I pray that I can listen to it more and doubt myself less.
Previously posted on The Glimmer.