My Daughter Hates Pre-k

Updated on February 28, 2018
M.H. asks from Rockwall, TX
16 answers

Ok Moms. I’m lost. My 4 year old, almost 5, cries and throws fits every single day because she hates going to pre-k. This is her first year in school and at first she was begging us to go. She goes 2 full days a week. After the first few days it turned awful. She would break down and have 3-5 fits a day about not wanting to go. Her specific reasons for not like it are, she hates naptime bc they tell her to close her eyes (she’s one of those kids that stopped napping at 3. Not by my choice, by hers. She still has quiet time in her room but I don’t force her to sleep). She doesn’t like the food (she’s the pickiest eater ever. We decided to have to eat their lunches so she would have to learn to try new foods), and she doesn’t like one of her teachers bc she is the teacher there during nap and is the one that tells them to close their eyes for nap. At first I was extremely compassionate to her feelings, and I’ve tried so many different things to make her comfortable. I’m at a point now tho that as soon as she starts crying and throwing a fit about it, I’m instantly on edge and lose my patience quickly with her. Every morning she also hides under her bed and cries for 30 min about it. It’s taking its toll on me and I need advice from anyone who has maybe been thru something similar... any advice is welcome! Please. I’m desperate lol.

I just wanted to add a few things to answer a couple questions being asked. We had her enrolled to go half days thru the school district. Before school started we decided to move in the next couple of months so we didn’t want her to start at one school and potentially have to switch in the middle of the year. We decided to go with a daycare for that reason. We did a lot of research and every daycare with good ratings and policies had wait lists. This particular daycare had all of those as well as we knew people who had brought their kids there. Unfortunately, they don’t offer half days which is what I wanted to do and they also do either 2 days or you pay for 5 days full time even if they only go 3. We are a one income family and full time day care isn’t an option financially. And yes she is very sensitive as well as very stubborn. I do think there is a mixture of both stubbornness as well as anxiety going on.

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So What Happened?

First off I want to thank everyone who took the time to read and respond. I truly appreciate it. Some of the responses felt pretty critical and had me feeling like a pretty crappy mom for a moment for deciding to put her in pre-k. But even with those responses, I think they had really good ideas/opinions. So again, thank you all! I do think that pre-k isn’t necessary like quite a few had said, however, I do feel with how much more kids learn in kindergarten now and the fact that no kindergartens in my area do half days, I don’t want to just pull her out and then throw her back in next year for 5 full days. My husband and I talked and decided that even tho the daycare doesn’t offer half days, we are going to pick her up at 11 before lunch and nap. That way she still is getting the experience and we feel/hope, this will create a happier experience as well as give her a smooth transition to starting kindergarten. This morning I told her I would be picking her up before lunch and she was already much happier. She was still sad at drop off but was actually smiling when I picked her up. She told me today was a much better day and thanked me many times for picking her up early. Lol. I guess only time will tell if this is a good solution but i do really appreciate every piece of advice that was offered up. Thank you, all!

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answers from New York on

That school is not a good fit for her. I would look elsewhere. Her reasons are valid for her age. She's miserable. Make a change.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I would be just as stubborn back at her. Have hubby take her or a friend. Just take her to the door and leave. Don't look back. Don't give extra hugs. Just drop her off and leave.

Tell her the more she cries the quicker you'll leave then do it when she starts crying.

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answers from Boston on

In my opinion, she's going too infrequently and for too long. Most kids go for 2-3 half days when they start at 3, but yours is doing full days so that she can do the lunch program? Remember that most of the kids have been doing preschool for a few years and they're more used to the schedule. This is all brand new to your daughter, and she only does it twice a week, so it's "time away from fun at home" to her.

All kids are psyched for the first few days until the novelty wears off and they learn that it's a regular schedule and there are rules and expectations. But allowing her to cry for 30 minutes is just not a good strategy.

I'd look for another program, or a better schedule at that school, and I'd immediately reconsider sending her to kindergarten at age 5 if she has no experience with a regular school schedule. It's not about brains and academics - it's about readiness to follow directions, separate from Mom/Dad/home, and work well in a large group. If your daughter is having trouble with the small group, kindergarten with 22 kids is going to be really tough. She may need another year and there's no shame in that.

I think you have to control the food issue and not make the school "the bad guy" for lunch and full days and nap time/rest time. There is no reason you can't introduce foods and stop giving in to her demands, and there's also no reason you can't at least ask the teacher if your daughter can lie quietly on her mat with a book instead of lying still with her eyes closed.

I know you're losing patience and I don't blame you, and it stinks that you have to handle it all. If you remove her from the program, I think she needs a lot more structure at home. What you're doing for quiet time is great - so expand on that in other areas. Put the food out, for example, but she doesn't have to eat - but that doesn't mean you make her the same food every night. My cousin is stuck in this rut - chicken nuggets and pasta every night, and even after her child ate 3 bowls of pasta at his aunt's house, she still made pasta at night "because that's what he eats." It's a nightmare of nutritional deficiency, a bottle of milk with Miralax at night (because he's constipated and she won't take away the bottle or give him anything but nuggets, pasta, cereal or snack crackers), and a screaming fit that makes it impossible to be around them. I know you're not doing that, but I'm giving it as an example of what happens when the kid calls the shots. So offer foods but don't get manipulated into being a short order cook. Let her eat what you have or wait or "make her own" food - I know, I know, you can't give her control of the kitchen, but you can limit what her choices are so they are all healthy.

I think you may be stuck in the "get dressed because you have to go to school" rut - and I'd say to get her dressed and out the door every day for something. She's past the point of free play every day - she needs something for structure and you need some strategies for not always comforting her and listening to the crying. I know it's tough to toughen them up, but it needs to happen. You also need to not feel guilty for her having to adjust now and then.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

your post is missing two vital bits of information. the first is why she's in pre-school in the first place. it's not mandatory, and if she's miserable and working herself into an early education in hating education, what's the point?

i don't get why parents send their kids off at such a young age unless they have to work (which is why i had to do it) or they are so socially challenged that they are genuinely unable to come up with organic ways of getting their kids some play time with other kids.

it's insane to me that so many pre-schools now don't have half-day options. obviously that would be a way better fit for this child (if indeed she HAS to go) so i'd lose this inflexible pre-school and put her in a good licensed daycare (if she HAS to go).

better yet, keep her at home.

the second missing link is how she behaves when she's there. i see you're taking an already riled up and emotional 4 year old's word for 'why she hates it' which is also a fallacy.

if her teachers say she settles in and has fun after you leave, and only cries at drop-off and pick-up, well, that's not so unusual. but grilling a child barely out of toddlerhood on why she 'hates' her pre-school won't get you calm, mature, logical answers. she's too young for that type of interrogation, and she's flailing around trying to come up with something, anything that will make you believe her.

i get that it's making you nut up. but i don't think you're going to help your child OR yourself by deciding that her very very young brain is just being *stubborn* and doubling down on forcing her to go, and to articulate clearly why she doesn't want to go. you can't logic a child this age into saying 'oh, gee, now i understand, ma. thanks for clearing that up. i'll be so happy and cheerful now when i go for my 2 unbearably long days in this place i don't enjoy.' you have to be the mature one here, and decide what is your hill to die on- that your child mind you and get her little fanny into school, or that you back off this just as you would a bump in potty training and come back to it when she's more mature and ready for it.

i would keep her at home. if i couldn't do that i'd get on a waiting list for a place that allowed half days and send her then. if you don't like those options, then you set your jaw and grit your teeth and impose impactful consequences for drama and don't allow her to have a say and hold your ground until she breaks.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I do feel for your daughter. So many kids are done napping between 2-3. Mine would never have napped at 4, unless there were extreme circumstances that wore them out. And no way could they have been relaxed enough to nap in a school environment at age 4. Sleeping can't be forced. I think if your daughter is scared to be told she has to close her eyes, that's understandable. Can you see if the teacher would agree to allow her to quietly look at picture books during this time? Seek out the teacher she's upset about and see if she can't reach out with some kindness to help your daughter feel more comfortable. If they are that rigid, knowing how anxious she has become over this, it wouldn't be a fit in my opinion. I'd also start allowing her to bring her own lunch with her favorite foods. She's not comfortable yet emotionally to start trying new things at school. Make new foods to try at home. It's a process, and it takes a long time for picky eaters to choose a wider variety of foods.

Also, try making connections with some of the parents of other kids she likes. If your daughter has time to bond with some of her school friends outside of school, that will give her a good reason to look forward to going and seeing her friends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Pre K is optional. No need to send her if it's not working out.
My kids did three mornings a week of preschool at ages 3 and 4, MWF, 9:00 to noon. I would look for something like that if you're seeking socialization and structure. Two full days is a LOT and a very weird schedule for a young child.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Edited to add: I just read your SWH and great! I'm so glad your daughter is much happier! Preschool is supposed to be fun and joyful. You seem worried about how much kids need to know these days in Kindergarten. I wanted to let you know that my kids went to completely non academic preschools. I did read to them every single day since they were about one and a half. As they got older I would make my finger go along the page where I was reading. I would point out letters. I would ask them what letter is this?! I would ask questions about what I read. I would ask about colors and numbers and point them out. I would sometimes sound out simple 3 letter words. We had a big alphabet puzzle we would play with at home. Things like that. Both kids were so ahead in kindergarten it was crazy. Both of them already knew pretty much everything they taught that year and they had zero academics in preschool. So, in my experience that is not something to worry about if you have been reading to your child and engage with them about this kind of stuff.

Original: To me it sounds like this place is not a good fit for your child. Both my children stopped napping young and both of them went to preschools (for ages 3-5) that were morning only and did not require a nap. Why don't you look at a morning only preschool? Then bring her home for lunch and feed her what she usually eats. I found play-based preschools that were amazing and had small class sizes...tons of sensory activities, outdoor play, variety, field trips, amazing art projects, life lessons in being self sufficient, baking and preparing food, gardening, woodworking, sharing and being kind, and both had great outdoor areas. My daughter's preschool even had guinea pigs, a rabbit, a parakeet, and chickens! The children would collect the eggs and use them in cooking. Both my kids LOVED going to preschool. Can you start researching other types of preschools near you? Can your daughter do half days? With my son, I worked longer hours than half days for three days a week, and so he went to an in-home day care with his best buddy after preschool for a couple hours on those days. The friend who ran the in home preschool took in 6 kids and she was like a 2nd mom to my son. She had a couple younger kids who needed a nap and the older kids who didn't nap could watch a movie or go play in the backyard during that time. He was a VERY active young boy and she was perfect because she usually took the kids all bike riding/scootering down to a park or had them play outside a lot getting out their energy. What I am saying is I would look for a place that is a better fit for your 4 year old. Take her to go visit them. Watch her reaction. Decide and get her on the waiting list. I was not a fan of big daycares when my kids were young. Just because other parents like it doesn't mean it is right for your kid.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

That's a long day for such a young child. Good for you for moving to half-days!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I would pick your battles.

I would let her take a lunch if it's going to make her transition to school easier. Have her experiment with new foods at home. If she hates school, I would let her enjoy her lunch. It's one thing to look forward to. Let her help you pack it and put in a nice surprise.

As far as closing her eyes - can you not talk to the teacher? I was allowed to bring a special lovey with me to my pre-k when I was a kid. I had to be very discreet but it was allowed. I was super shy and this got me over my first year jitters. Sometimes they make allowances. Or perhaps your daughter could always lay on the edge and face the wall as an alternative (and keep eyes open). There are usually options if kids are this upset.

Is she having anxiety over it - or is this her being stubborn? They are different. Anxiety is true upset and something she can't readily control. You will have to help her learn to deal with it if so.

Either way, If you find it stressful, swap out with your spouse if possible in the mornings even just to take a breather. I sometimes say "Your turn" if I feel the need.

Then lots of praise and positive reinforcement just to try to turn it around into something less negative again. It's hard but hopefully if she has some highlights of the day - maybe it can go to being something fun again. What parts does she like? Do they get to do anything fun like show and share, story time, or anything she can really get into? If so, I'd really focus on those.

A couple of mine had little loveys they tucked in their pockets that first year - made the transition much easier. They didn't take them the second year. It does get easier :) hang in there

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I am glad to hear picking her up early helped. Hopefully you can ease her into staying there a little longer. Is she allowed to bring her own food? I know you want her to try new foods, but maybe she could bring her own lunch and eat with her classmates, and you could pick her up at naptime instead of before lunch. It would be great for her to have a little more time at school, plus meals are always a good way for kids to interact and talk to each other. So maybe after a couple of weeks of the 11:00 pickup, you could push through lunchtime but bring her own food.

Eventually, maybe you can talk to the teacher about naptime and see if there is any alternative. Explain the tantrums she's been throwing and how much it upsets her. Would your daughter be ok lying quietly on her mat with her eyes open? Or is it the lying down at all that bothers her?

Anyway, sounds like the 11:00 pickup is working for now. She can enjoy a couple of mornings a week and start to learn the socialization, rule following, etc that really gets kids ready for kinder (in a school setting - I am not implying that she isn't well socialized or that she doesn't follow rules, simply that it's different at school than at home). I do agree that keeping her there at least half days is better than suddenly throwing her into kinder for five full days a week.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

This sounds so familiar... I can't relate to this as a parent as my kids are too young, but this was literally ME as a child! I would scream and cry, I wouldn't eat anything, I did half days then full time pre-K and for a few months my mom was exhausted physically and emotionally everyday after dropping me off. What's she like when you fetch her afterwards? And how long has she been attending?
My mom used a mixture of love and discipline, hiding under the bed causes inconvenience to everybody so that's unacceptable and she should be punished (confiscate a toy, for example) but when you have to leave her and she's genuinely upset, comfort her and explain that you'll see her in a few hours, then you have to leave and not give it another thought.
Most children are fine by the time they leave, that's what you need to focus on. Did the teachers say she played with other children or enjoyed herself during the day? Focus on the positives. She will get used to it and adapt, but you can't act like it's affecting you because she will see that and she will make it worse. Talk about what she enjoyed, who's in her class, let her focus on the positive too, and then when you drop her off you can mention the same things.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

We enrolled our older son in daycare at 15 months for three full days a week. He was there from 9-4. The daycare director said some kids have a hard time with the alternating day schedule and if our son proved to be one of them, since the enrollment allowed for this kind of flexibility she would have him attend for 5 days a week for a few weeks until he settled in. It didn’t prove necessary in our case. It seemed counterintuitive but I expect it would work. See if your program can do something similar.

F. B.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

Why is she going 2 full days? That seems like a long day. Pre-k for my son was 5 days a week, 3 hours a day. He cried in the beginning but was fine afterwards. The school year is almost over. You both just have to suck it up for the next few months.


answers from Norfolk on

The first thrill of school wears off pretty quick when they realize they have to keep going back.
Your trouble is she's at home more than school - so she knows what she's missing.
She doesn't have enough time at school to get use to being there, being with her friends every day, and get into the daily swing of being in a classroom.

You need to decide when you want to bite this bullet.
You could pull her out now and keep her home till kindergarten - but if she pitches a fit then - there's no keeping her home again (unless you want to home school - which isn't something everyone wants to do).

Or you stand firm now and make it clear she will go to school whether she likes it or not.
If you try too hard to make things comfortable - it somehow backfires.
No one else is going to bend over backwards for her like you do - and of course she likes that - who wouldn't?
At some point she's going to have to adapt to the world - the world isn't going to adapt to her.
It might help is you step up her number of days at school - maybe Monday through Thursday, make it half days in the morning and she can have Fridays and the weekend at home.



answers from Anchorage on

Some people have said to pick your battles but it is too late for that, if you give in to her demands now she will learn that throwing temper tantrums will get her what she wants eventually. When she throws a fit ignore it completely, put her in the car, and take her to school as normal. Don't feed into the fit at all, just pretend it is not happening.

I do agree that the schedule seems strange, for preK my kids went 5 days a week but only for 3 or 4 hours a day so it was a more gentle transition. But she does have to learn that school in non-negotiable because next year will be Kindergarten.


answers from Reading on

Why are you forcing this baby to go to school? It's not a requirement. She will have the rest of her life to have to be in a school. You're setting yourself up for a lifetime of battling her and she will now always hate school going forward. What she is describing with nap time is enough to have made me hate it, too.

Please, spend the time with her now. In a few years, you will be wishing for this time back. There is no need for her to be there.

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