What Can Parents Do If Their Child Dislikes Pre-School?

toddler crying at daycare

Does your toddler seem to hate pre-school? Is your child acting out, crying, and becoming downright miserable every morning before going to daycare or school? If there is truly a problem with your child's school or care provider, then the obvious answer is to change providers. But before jumping to any conclusions and immediately taking this step, parents should analyze the situation very carefully to find out "why" your child is behaving the way he is.

Ask yourself the following questions:
 

  • Is this negative behavior something new or recent? Separation anxiety is very common at the beginning of the school year. Give your child time to adjust.
  • Has your child had ample time to adjust to a new provider or setting?
  • Is there a change at the pre-school that could be causing this negative emotion, such as a different teacher, a change in classroom, new rules, or even different peers?
  • Is there a change in your child's life that could be causing this emotion? Has his or her routine been changed?
  • Does the center's philosophy and learning style match with what your child likes? Just because a center has a good reputation doesn't mean it is the right choice for your child and your family.
  • Has there been any type of incident that has occurred at the pre-school that could have impacted your child in any way?

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Schedule a meeting with the school to discuss how your child interacts with others, his likes and dislikes, and if there are any particular struggles or concerns that should be considered.

For example, it may be discovered that your child feels embarrassed because he is not fully potty trained or "hates" school because he doesn't like his assigned seating arrangement at lunch. Kids can become stressed over things that seems small to adult.

In addition, if your child is able to communicate, talk with your child about preschool.

Reading books about separation is another great way to ease children's anxieties. Ask for specific emotions and encourage discussion. Once you discern that the emotion is not due to the child simply wanting to stay home to be near family (a common reason) and have ruled out any true safety or abusive situation, you can develop a better plan of action. Work WITH your child's caregiver as a partner to try and get your child to enjoy pre-school and his home-away-from-home environment. Be nurturing but firm in explaining that his "job" is to learn and grow at preschool while your job is to go to work, but that you will be back together after the day is done. Then, be sure to be consistent in your approach and not give in to the wails. With time and lots of love and praise, the "hates" will typically pass. If not, you may have to consider the possibility that a change in care may indeed be the answer.

Updated by Jill Ceder

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