17 answers

How to Make 3 Year Old Stop Crying at Daycare

When we drop off our 3 year old at daycare/school, she cries hysterically and the teacher needs to pull her away from us so we can leave. She has been at the same daycare/school for the past 1.5 years. In her beginners, she cried in the morning for 3-4 months, and when she moved to the new intermediate class with new teacher, she has been crying since June. She typically will stop crying about 15-20 minutes.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to ease or stop her crying every morning?

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When my son went to preschool, putting a "kiss in his pocket" worked (he kept his hand in his pocket as he walked away from me), but when my daughter went 3 years later, it didn't work (she's much more attached to me and would cry whenever I left her anywhere). We went shopping together and bought a special (inexpensive!) pendant that I would 'fill with kisses' every morning. When she would get sad (her reason for crying), she would take it out and rub it on her face to remind her that I loved her and would come back to get her. You might do something similar so she has a "piece of you" at school.

Have you considered a different daycare/preschool? Maybe there is just a vibe there that is uncomfortable. Try visiting other options and see if she feels the same. A friend of mine has her kid at a school and when on their way he would scream when the car got closer. She moved her child to a different school and he was totally fine! My son started crying when I left after seeing the attention another child got when doing it. All the undivided attention. But because I knew how happy he was in the first few months I observed for a day and realized there was nothing going on that was different to make him not want to be there...he stopped and all was well. Hang in there! :-)W.

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As a former preschool teacher, I have to agree that thos is VERY normal. My suggestion is to do as Catherine C has said and be sure to stick with it for at least 2 weeks or more. One mother from my class had a family picture on a plasctic bag. She would give her daughter a kiss & hug, tell her to have a good day & hand her the picture in the bag. What words you use will depend on your daughter, but it worked for this particular mother. As the teacher, I was always sure to whisk a crying child away and immerse them in fun activities/ music/ dancing whatever it took. Sometime something small from home can be a security item to transition between Mom & teacher.
Like Catherine said, it becomes a power struggle once you react and give her attention for it. I wouldn't hesitate to drop by early or even shortly after you leave to invisibly check things out. I wish you luck and send hugs as this is not an east thing to deal with. Like other stages, this too shall pass. Best of luck.

My daughter, who is 3 1/2 as well, also has fits of crying every now and then. She was great in the beginning then somewhere around Christmas (because of the inconsistency) began crying again. Same thing, the teacher having to take her out of my arms. If I didn't think she was going to be okay, I almost want to just run back in and take her back. =) A few things that I realized and have tried are: I was spending too much time on the actual drop off (teacher and I talking while I was holding my daughter) so, we started off with doing a game, such as who can race to the door and do the fastest good bye kind of thing. That worked for a while but then it wore off. Now I give her a sticker in the morning and say it's for daycare/preschool then if she does a really good drop off and no crying that she'll get a surprise in the car when I pick her up. I usually pick the surprises because she picked once and picked donuts (well, I only did that once). =) Now it's stickers or small things that eventually I hope to wean her off of. The one other thing (if the teacher is willing) is when you drop your daughter off to have the teacher ask if your daughter wants to help her with something. My daughter is always wanting to pitch in with "cleaning" or setting up for the day and it distracts her from me leaving.
I wish you the best and I know how tough it is!
By the way, you might want to just briefly ask her at night time if there is something happening at preschool that upsets her. Don't give big reactions but just more listen. My daughter was having issues with one of the kids and how they were treating the teacher and always screaming. I just told her that I understood and she could always tell the teacher if something is bothering her. The little girl that was misbehaving and screaming actually apologized to my daughter and things are good.

I'm looking for answers to this question too. My 3 years old is a really good boy, but leaving him at day care, is like I'm abandoning him to alligators!

This is really very normal from the years of preschool drop-offs that I've been through. When my younger daughter started preschool she cried hysterically every morning also. The best way to deal with it is to tell her ahead of time, "I will not be able to stay a long time when I drop you off today. So I'm going to walk you over to Miss Nancy, I'll give you a hug and a kiss, and then I have to go." And then do it. Don't stay for the long, drawn-out drama. If they need to peel her off your leg so you can walk out, let them do it. As we all know, kids this age love nothing better than a power struggle! If you refuse to participate, the problem may end right there.

If you're already doing that and the behavior continues, then make it a practice to drop in unannounced during different times of the day (if possible, unobserved by your daughter), just to see what's going on. In our case, we discovered that my little one was being left outdoors (steps away from the parking lot) unattended as a form of punishment. Needless to say, after that discovery I could see why she cried every day! It's hard to imagine that this would be the case in too many instances, but I'm just throwing it out there to say that if your child is acting out of character, there might be a good reason for it. Trust your instincts.

Good luck!! The preschool years are such a challenge!

Hello H.: I have done Day Care for many years and have seen this time and time again. Please let me share some of the things that I have seen work for us and for my own children.
1. the child needed to understand that the parent is coming back - because that is the fear for a child that they will miss out on something or someone won't be there for them later.
2. since you have to have the child in care- maybe you need to rethink the place that she is at. If its not a good match then a change is best.
3. besure that you are not rushing to get her to care and then rushing off. My daughter in law has to plan her morning so that everthing is relaxed when she drops off her little one at her day care or that child is a mess all day.
4. Be sure that this has not become a habit or control issue. I have one little one that was good as gold once her folks left but when they were coming or going it was awful!! I finally had them come in from a different entrance where their child didn't see them & they observed how the child reacted to others coming and going then went around to the door they generally come in & saw the world fall apart. I have to say that I have had to had parents agree not to come inside because of the other children's reactions to the tears & yelling..
5. please do not be on the cell phone when you drop off your child. Everytime a parent does that I spend time with a crying child all because they honestly think mom or dads phone call is more important than they are. As a care provider I am amazed that some parents forget that children come before work .
So I guess what I am saying is that after talking to your care person and checking to see if there is a better placement for your little one. Feel freee to contact me if you have any questions . Good Luck Nana G

Before you leave the house, start talking about what is going to happen. She might protest. Explain that you go to work, and she goes to school.

Kids hate unpredictability. Reinforce through conversation everything she can expect.
"mommy is going to get into the shower becuase I'm going to work today. & you are going to school to see Miss Amy" Keep giving her an explanations about what to expect.

don't sneak away. kids hate to be surprised by a suddenly missing parent. Say goodbye kiss and hug then leave. remind her about all the fun things she's going to do. Paint, draw, play, etc.

I've been through this twice; I have a 6 yr old and a 2yr old.

When my son went to preschool, putting a "kiss in his pocket" worked (he kept his hand in his pocket as he walked away from me), but when my daughter went 3 years later, it didn't work (she's much more attached to me and would cry whenever I left her anywhere). We went shopping together and bought a special (inexpensive!) pendant that I would 'fill with kisses' every morning. When she would get sad (her reason for crying), she would take it out and rub it on her face to remind her that I loved her and would come back to get her. You might do something similar so she has a "piece of you" at school.

My first son went through the same thing. He was an extremely anxious baby, toddler, and young child. It was his nature to be frightened of the unknown and fear of people he didn't know. We read a lot about anxious children including a great book called "the anxious child". It gave us lots of helpful tips, including asking what he was scared of (never thought to do that!) It turned out he was scared that we wouldn't come back. So, we gave him our passports to hide (expired of course) and explained that we could not leave without them. We also told him exactly what we did when we left him and showed him where we would be (he could see his dad's work from his school). We also had very ritualistic morning routines including saying the same goodby every time (love you and see you at lunch time). Sometimes, however, it is the school! My friends daughter was at Carmelo because it was so highly recommended. Well, there were so many kids and no one there to comfort her daughter. My friends child now goes to our kids school where there are only 10 kids and 3 adults! Everyone feels special and heard. We learned from our first born that children will feel comfortable and safe in different environments and it is up to us as parents to find them. We have 2 other children now and use all the same techniques on them.
Good luck!

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