20 answers

Son Does Not Want to Leave Daycare

My son has recently started throwing fits when I come to pick him up at day care. He is an only child and only spends 2 days a week in a licensed in-home daycare setting. My son's best buddy is 7 years old and happens to be the day care provider's son. (Who is also an only child) The two of them get along great, but I can't stand his tantrums when I get there to pick him up. He screams and cries and says he doesn't want to go home. I've bribed him a couple of times to save the embarrassement. The bribes are not working anymore and my feelings are hurt. Not sure what to do...please help!!!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you ALLL for all of the wonderful advice!! Thursday was a much better day, however, his buddy wasn't there so he didn't have any problem going home with me. I will try to give him more warning before we have to leave...although that hasn't really made much of a difference. The daycare provider is happy to give him some warning prior to my arriving and she is asking her son to assist us too. Sooo, I'm sure things will get better. Thanks again for all of your suggestions!!

Featured Answers

Hey M. -

This is completely normal behavior, and just be glad that he wants to be there! My son both cried when I left in the morning and then cried and trantrumed when I picked him up in the afternoon, lol! Just be firm, don't get wound around the axel, just tell him it's time to go, and that he'll see his friend in a few days.

Another thing to consider -- he may just be a very social kid, who needs more interaction with peers than he is getting. Why not up his schedule to three days a week and see how it goes? He may just need more peer time...

Good luck,

J.

1 mom found this helpful

My son is an only child too and often doesn't want to leave his friends - he asks me when he is going to Jackie's on my days off. Ouch! So, even though I got laid off - we kept him going to daycare 3 consecutive days a week. Breaking up the days didn't work for him - he does best when his life is very predictable. I take him to the library for story time once a week as well. He loves it and loves being a big boy and doing pre-school activities especially art and music - still thinks W is a number but we're working on it.
Hey, if you live near Mountain House we could set up play dates - there are great parks here!
A.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Hi M.,
View this as a wonderful blessing! You have found such a wonderful daycare provider that your son loves his time there - he is safe, well cared for, and has even made a best friend!

I know, it is hard to think that your son isn't anxiously awaiting your return in the evening - but think of it this way. How would you feel if your son were standing at the window watching for your return? His little face sad, tears in his eyes?

I've taken my kids to both kinds of daycares. My older daughter went to a wonderful daycare where she loved getting there in the morning and hated to leave. Last year with my younger daughter we had the unfortunate experience of a daycare where she did not want to go in the morning, and was waiting at the window for our return at night. Believe me, you want the kind of daycare where your child loves to go and hates to leave!!

That being said, your best course of action is to arrive and tell your son, "Ok! Five minutes until we leave!" And then after you talk to your daycare lady and see how his day went, you tell him, "Ok! Two minutes and then we leave!" and then when it's time to go - just go. Pick him up if you have to, but go. Don't bargain with him. I've found that with a few minutes warning, my kids are much more likely to go along with the plan, without a fuss. They just have to have the warning of what's going to happen so they can adjust their mindset to it, and then know that whatever you said was going to happen, will really happen.

Good luck! Hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful

Hey M. -

This is completely normal behavior, and just be glad that he wants to be there! My son both cried when I left in the morning and then cried and trantrumed when I picked him up in the afternoon, lol! Just be firm, don't get wound around the axel, just tell him it's time to go, and that he'll see his friend in a few days.

Another thing to consider -- he may just be a very social kid, who needs more interaction with peers than he is getting. Why not up his schedule to three days a week and see how it goes? He may just need more peer time...

Good luck,

J.

1 mom found this helpful

My son never wanted to leave his preschool aftercare program either (he started when he was 2.5). He didn't have full meltdowns, but he made it clear that he didn't want to leave. At first my feelings were hurt, too, but then I learned that lots of kids do this, only child or not (mine is an only child). I was relieved that he was so happy with his environment and had to learn that his not wanting to leave did not mean he didn't love me or want to be with me. He was engaged in something else and didn't want to stop. That's about the extent of reasoning skills at that age. Also, kids need to individuate to develop as little people and then big people. I think the only child thing is more pertinent for us moms because we have not gone through this before and we also don't have a younger child still completely focused us, validating that we are great mommies. I know how hard this is -- please try not to take it personally. I'm sure your son loves you more than anything in the world!

1 mom found this helpful

I had this same problem with my son, who sounds like he is a lot like your son in personality. When I would pick him up at daycare he would routinely try to hit me (sometimes succeeding in hitting me with an open-hand on my face), and would often melt down. I consulted with someone I know who has been a preschool teacher for 30+ years and she reminded me, first of all, that I should feel privileged because a lot of times preschoolers "keep it together" all day long, but wait for you to come home because they have a lot of emotions bottled up and they feel safe melting down in front of you. (That didn't make it any easier to take, but I tried to remind myself that he was melting down because he loves me!)

She recommended a few things--first, if you find that this ends up happening in certain situations (in my case, it was when I picked him up to take him out to the car that he would try to hit me--and sometimes when I would put him in his carseat that he would melt down), then do the whole routine in a different way. I worked with my daycare provider to help me take him out to the car and to get him in his carseat, and that helped. I also tried to be very consistent in how I reacted--if he tried to hit me, every single time I would grab his hand and say (as calmly as I could muster) "We don't hit. That hurts mommy." (Over and over!)

Some kids--especially "spirited" ones--have a hard time transitioning, and if you ask them to to switch gears and leave too quickly that can cause the tantrum. So I also tried to allow a little extra time after I got to daycare and didn't ask him to leave immediately, but gave him an extra 5 to 10 minutes to adjust (playing with toys, saying goodbye to friends). You may want to read "Raising your Spirited Child," which I have found pretty helpful in dealing with issues around transitioning for my spirited and challenging son.

The good news is that my son is now 5 1/2 and is long past all of that. It was at its peak right around 3 1/2, but steadily got better as he headed towards 4. When these behaviors are happening they feel like they will last forever, but they do pass!

Good luck,
V.

1 mom found this helpful

My son is an only child too and often doesn't want to leave his friends - he asks me when he is going to Jackie's on my days off. Ouch! So, even though I got laid off - we kept him going to daycare 3 consecutive days a week. Breaking up the days didn't work for him - he does best when his life is very predictable. I take him to the library for story time once a week as well. He loves it and loves being a big boy and doing pre-school activities especially art and music - still thinks W is a number but we're working on it.
Hey, if you live near Mountain House we could set up play dates - there are great parks here!
A.

1 mom found this helpful

Hey M.- I would try working with your daycare person to "prepare" your son for your arrival. Sometimes children need transition time to get used to the fact that there is going to be a change in thier schedule. My son was the same way at school when it was time for another activity, he would act like his world was falling apart. I worked with his teacher to give him "time warnings" and it really helped. If you know what time you are going to be picking him up, have your daycare provider start to give him "time warnings" about 15 minutes ahead. Have her let your child know that it's time to clean up and get his things together because mom is going to be here soon. Hopefully that will start to get him used to other people's schedules. Sometimes "only children" believe that the world revolves just around them, because at home, it usually does. We have to teach them otherwise, in a loving manner.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Please don't take it personally. It's wonderful he doesn't want to leave and likes it there. My 2 yr old son is the same way and I took it personally at first. He would fuss/cry all the way home. He doesn't hate home, he is just enjoying socializing/learning. I learned he is very social and loves interacting with other kids - it's different than interacting with adults. Kids are constant activity and attention. Adults have other things to do (drive, make dinner etc, etc)that distract them and it's a different kind of interacting.I also learned my son is hungry at the end of the day and if I feed him dinner immediately when I get home he becomes a much happier child afterwards. Low blood sugar does have an effect! Take some of the others suggestions about routine and time warnings. They might help.

I completely agree with Catherine's advice about the advance warning. Take a timer with you if it will help. Also, no negotiations and don't give in. You are in control, not your son and he needs to understand that. Most importantly, do not take it personally! He is not behaving this way to hurt your feelings. His behavior is his way of expressing his frustration at leaving (or getting something he wants). When it is time to leave, get down to his level, make eye contact and tell him you understand he wants to stay but it is time to go. Give him the words to use to express himself instead of a tantrum. Good luck.

Set up the transition time as previously mentioned, and then when you arrive give him a little time to adjust by sitting down somewhere with another child (reading or playing) or nearby so that it doesn't seem as if you are just going to rush off. He will see you and be interested in what you are doing. When he comes to you he will be more ready to leave.

This is not an unusual problem. Often children will cry at both ends of the day... not want Mommy to leave in the morning, but not want to go home at night. Think about how you would feel if suddenly someone else was in control of where you went, when, and when you had to leave all the time. That's the situation young children are in with their parents.
The advice given by others is all good. Try to be calm and understanding with your son about this, but also firm when you have to take him and leave. A reminder about when he's coming back might help too. Also, is it possible that you could invite the provider's son for a play date at your home once in a while? They might enjoy having that kind of time together too, and it would give your son something to look forward to when he's leaving.

Its great he enjoys the day care so much and wants to stay and be with his friend. Be happy hes happy, but I had a small day care in my home for years and what I saw with some parents made me understand why their kids threw a tantrum when it was time to leave. Parents would arrive after a long miserable day at a job they hated and as tired as they were they had to stop and get the kids before heading home. They came in the door in a huff barked at thier kids to come now and get in the car. There was no smile, no hug, no "how was your day" or even a bit of care or concern and certainly no affection toward their child. They would just grab them and drag them out the door as I hurried to hug and find any craft or belongings they should take home. I had one mom who would be spanking her 2 yr old by the time she got him to the car and he had been the sweetest little guy all day for me. I had to really stop them and give them a lesson in how to make this precious child happy to see their mom, or dad. It makes a huge difference to a little kid if mom or dad comes in happy and willing to spend a few minutes in their "other world away from home" and show how much you care about them. Now Im not saying you fit this group since I dont know you, but just take a good look at how you act and what face you show your son when you arrive to get him. Are you tired, in a hurry to get home and cook dinner? Would you rather be soaking in the tub and not have to mess with what he needs? Do you complain about how hard your day was and show him hes just in your way? I sure hope not but if you see yourself in any of this just make the effort to change and watch him smile when he sees you. Give him a reason to look forward to the evening with you and dad and he might just be the happiest guy in town. Good luck and enjoy him to the limit. They grow up way too fast. (o:

He needs and wants more play time with other children! My son is the same way at 7 months. I take him to the daycare at the Y while I workout and he loves it. He doesn't play much but he loves being around other kids and watching th older ones.

Hi M.,

I would ask the daycare provider to let your son know about 10 minutes before you will arrive to remind him that you are coming and not to have a tantrum. Also, I know your feelings are hurt, but your son isn't doing this to hurt you- try to remember that its a good thing that he loves daycare so much.

Take care,
M.

I have an only child as well and went through a similar situation.

Part of his issue with leaving is that he knows it's going to be a while until he comes back. Being an only child can be lonely, especially for the social child. Maybe he wants to play and enjoy the company of his friend.

I'm not one for enabling, but I suspect he wants more play time.

When my daughter started giving me trouble leaving an activity, I calmly explained to her that when she makes leaving easy, but calmly leaving when I let her know it is time to go it makes me feel like I want to let her have another play date. I also have explained that when she makes leaving difficult it makes me question more play dates. The leaving difficulties stopped.

Be honest and give him more play time with other kids.

Stephanie

This happened to me with my first! Also at age 3 1/2. I learned that he was expressing his anger at me for leaving him there, it is the opposite of what it looks like! Do they allow you to stay a bit after dropping him? Does he understand when he is going, and when you are coming to get him? Is it consistent? Our situation turned around when I switched preschools, to a less rigid nursery school that allowed parents/kids to separate slowly--I stayed less and less each time until he was acclimated. I knew it was better when I picked him up and he ran happily into my arms.

As with everything, this is probably a phase that will pass. I'd just add to what other folks are saying about giving a few minutes notice by suggesting that you develop a routine of what you will do before you leave, parallel perhaps to what you do when you arrive in the morning (if you have such a routine). This routine could include an activity or two that more directly involves you. For example, you could read him a couple of books before you leave. He would come to know in his body that after the books are read (or whatever), you will go home. Maybe you could also let him pick the music he'll hear in the car, or something attractive about the car, etc. I don't really see this as a bribe--just pragmatism. And yes, you're blessed to have a childcare he loves so much. I haven't had as much luck!

Simple solution! Make a deal with him! When you pick him up if he doesn't cry you could go for a bike ride, or stop at a park for ten minutes or whatever works that you know he will enjoy doing. It doesn't have to be a big thing just something he likes. Don't get worked up yourself just stay calm and say remember our deal. This works on my two year old Grandaughter when she has to leave my house, which is 5 days a week. Would you want to leave FUN for no fun? This is a natural response and at least you know he enjoys his day without you. Better than a hysterical fit because he is not happy there. Good luck :)

My daughter attended preschool three days a week starting at 3-1/2 years. She would fall apart when I came to pick her up - she really had a hard time with the transition from Teacher to Mommy and play to home. I'd give her a few extra minutes to finish her craft or her book, or whatever activity she was doing and then we would leave.

I was a preschool teacher for 4 years and this was more common than not. Small children just don't do well with quick transitions. The warning time that other moms have said is a really good tool to use.

My daughter started Kindergarten 2 weeks ago and it was hard at first, now it's easier as she gets used to a new routine and her teacher is great with transitioning her students.

I wouldn't bribe him though. Just give him a few extra minutes to wind down and prepare to go home.

I had this problem with my son and someone told me that the daycare provider needs to tell the child that it is time for them to leave, not you. Talk with your daycare and set up a system where once you arrive and gather your things they tell your son that it's time for him to go and they'll see him again. It shouldn't be just you fighting to get him out the door, then it becomes a battle of wills. If the reason he wants to stay (daycare family) is on your side, things will be much calmer. This really worked for us.

HI M.,

As a mom who has gone through this with my own children and as childcare provider that goes through this daily with other people's children, I completely understand what you mean. The good news is that your son is really happy at his daycare, and the bad news is... it makes you feel like chopped liver.

I haven't read all the responses, but what has worked for me as a provider is to give the children warning that their parents are coming to pick them up. I will start about 10 minutes before and say to them... ok now we are going to clean up what we're doing... then, I have them get shoes on because Mommy will be coming soon... and then we sit and do a quiet activity like reading together to help them wind down. Usually by the time parents come the kids are settled down enough to be ready to go. Sometimes they still want to stay, but I just give them a big hug and tell them how much fun I had with them and that I can't wait to see them the next time. I would talk to your provider and see if they are willing to help with the transition. It really helps kids to know what's coming next, and lessens the meltdowns

Please don't be embarrassed... lots of kids do this and it isn't that he doesn't love you or want to be with you... he's just having a good time and doesn't want it to end.

Hope this helps!

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