“If this behavior continues to happen, we will have no choice but to ask you to leave the daycare center.” Words I never wanted to hear about my four year old, but words that I knew were on the verge of being said. We were already on a slippery slope with fits and rages that lasted for more than two hours, complaints from other parents, aggressive behavior, and daily calls from the director. Our home life wasn’t much better. The only bright spot we had was that no one complained about his fits . . . it was just us, his parents, trying to survive them.
To say it all erupted before my eyes on that spring day is an understatement. To say it had been brewing for a matter of months to a year would be more accurate. We were a family desperately trying to keep it all together with three kids at home, the youngest less than a year, both of the parents full-time teachers. Yes, two teachers had a child of their own whom they could not control, and I was grieving the loss of my mother just months before. It was the perfect storm, and our son was the eye of it.
Looking back, things started downhill much sooner that we initially realized. Andrew was always a “needy baby.” Crawling at six months, he would search me out if he knew I was in the room. After a long day at school, I would lay on the floor at night and let him just crawl all over me. I thought, “This sweet baby just misses his momma.” Now, I know it was much more.
At the age of two, he started full-time at a daycare center for the first time. We knew he would definitely keep them on their toes. He was talking in complete sentences before the age of 18 months and had more energy than the Energizer Bunny. He would take boxes of cereal out of my pantry and dump them on the floor before I could blink. I did all I could to stay one step ahead of him at all times.
He was loud all of time and bounced from place to place long into the night. He was a horrible sleeper. His older sister slept through the night at 10 weeks. We had been spoiled, for sure. We were practically “night of the living dead” by the time he decided to sleep through the night more than two years later.
And public places? Forget about it. Any family outing almost always ended early because he was melting down before our eyes. It was a beating. We tried our best to just “survive his personality,” only to realize years later that it wasn’t his personality so much as it was his “hard wiring.”
So, hearing those dreaded words on that fateful March morning really was almost a relief. In fact, it was more than a relief . . . it was validation that something was “not quite right” with our son. He needed help, professional help, beyond what our degrees in teaching could offer.
Where to start? The million dollar question with no “one size fits all” solution. Just keep trying and don’t give up. If one thing doesn’t work, try the next thing.
First Stop: A Visit to Your Pediatrician
Schedule your child a visit with his or her pediatrician. Don’t wait for the next scheduled “well child” visit. Precious time could be lost if you do.
The sooner you get to the root of your child’s behavioral issues, the better it will be for all. Tell them what you see at home . . . don’t hold back. They won’t judge. Tell them what happens at daycare and other places. The more places that it happens, the more likely they will see that it is more than a phase.
Try Another Center
Sometimes, it is nothing more than just “not the right fit” for your kid. Tour other facilities or home day cares in your area. You may find that the next place that you choose is just what your kid needed. However, if the next center doesn’t work out either, consider it a sign that there is more going on with your child than just a “bad fit.”
Find a Therapist
Ask your pediatrician for recommendations of a good child therapist. Call your insurance and see what benefits they cover. A common misconception is medical insurance does not cover counseling and other mental health services. Sometimes, you will need a pre-authorization, but we have never been denied services for our son since starting this journey.
We started weekly therapy with our son. While it helped, we knew all along we were going to need more than just therapy to get him to a “happy place.”
Contact Your Local School District
If things continue to go south after following the previous suggestions, it is time to contact the school district. We started with the early childhood center in our district. They suggested we seek help through a program called Child Find. It was the perfect fit for us. We were granted an evaluation complete with a behavioral assessment as well as cognitive abilities.
You may find that changing centers is the only thing you need to do to find your child’s inner peace. However, many children, like mine, need more. They need more than the average mom or dad can offer. We managed to survive the storm and have come out on the other side in a much better place. It was not done without help from others. If you find yourself in a similar situation with your child’s daycare center, don’t despair. There is help out there.
If you have ever been in a similar situation, there are resources out there to help guide you to answers. Dr. Ross Greene, a well-known clinical child psychologist, has an amazing book, The Explosive Child, that will give you the strategies needed to parent “a spirited child.”