A toddler’s acceptance of school is a milestone like every other. There will be good days and there will be bad days. Just as we experience potty training regressions where a previously potty trained toddler starts peeing and pooping in his pants again, there are days when your toddler will regress and tell you he hates school and doesn’t want to go. It’s a little like a rollercoaster ride sometimes and over the past week, I’ve made the following observations and deductions where attendance to school is concerned:
1. Changes that can cause a setback
In concept, this is a little similar to how a change in the family dynamics can cause a previously potty trained child to regress. In Gavin’s case, the change in school dynamics was a day without his favourite teacher (because she was sick). Perhaps it was because the incident happened too soon before he had a chance to settle into a routine with his new class. The overall effect was a greater reluctance and protest to go to school the next morning.
I’m assuming that if this had happened after Gavin had had a chance to settle in at school, the effect might not have been quite as bad. The good news is that it was quickly gotten over. Had the news been that teacher R was quitting and moving on then I’m not so sure how we would have dealt with it. Hopefully that’s not something we’ll have to think about too soon.
Given enough time, when Gavin has had a chance to bond with more people at school, a change in teachers might not have such a great effect. However, in these early days, it is critical to the success of his transition.
2. The carburetor engine
Every morning, upon waking up, I often find Gavin protesting about going to school. This occurs even when he was looking forward to school the day before. I call it the carburetor engine because it is a little like that – Gavin needs to “warm up” to the idea of going to school.
It’s actually a normal toddler reaction. Have you ever seen a toddler immediately after he wakes up from a nap? You’ll notice that he’s usually a little crabby, aloof and clingy. After a little while, when he’s warmed up, everything is all good again.
For Gavin, being blasted by the fact that he has to get ready for school probably isn’t a very easy idea to wake up to. However, once he has warmed up (showered, changed, and had breakfast), he usually seems eager to go to school and play with teacher R and his new friends.
3. The delivery
On “cold” days when it takes longer for my toddler’s engine to warm up, I find that how I make the delivery at school can make a world of difference.
For instance, he seems to receive school a lot better when he see his favourite teacher at the door. Likewise, today, he saw both his favourite teacher and his cousin (whom he really taken to after a full day of play) at the door and he was so excited he forgot to say “goodbye” to me.
4. What time will you pick me up?
One of the ways I handled Gavin when he was being particularly fussy about going to school was to give him my watch. I strapped it to his wrist and told him that when the little hand was at 12 and the big hand was at 3, I would be back to pick him up.
This trick might not work with every toddler, but it seemed to have a calming effect on Gavin. So absorbed in telling the time, he forgot to fuss about going to school.
There has been a dual benefit to giving Gavin the watch. Previously, he liked wearing the watch purely because he wanted to mimic Mummy and Daddy who wore watches. His recent discovery that the hands pointing to certain numbers held a significance has also prompted an interest in “reading” the time. This morning, he asked Daddy when he was coming home from work.
5. After the weekend
Two days off school breaks the routine, so Monday mornings are usually a toughie as well. We’ve come to expect a bigger protest on Monday mornings, but by employing a few useful strategies, such as making sure that he sees his favourite people at the door, the process of going to school can run a little smoother.
If the return to school after a weekend is bad, then we can expect worse when he returns from the school holidays. Today is effectively his last day before a week long holiday. We’ll have to see how it goes when he goes back to school the week after next.
I mentioned in an earlier post that if I felt in any way that Gavin was not coping with school, I was willing to withdraw him. Although we have had setbacks on and off and we still continue to experience a few morning blues, I’ve generally found Gavin to be quite accepting of school. At times he even seems quite keen on school.
The fact that he’s blurted out excitedly to me that he’s going to school to play with teacher R and see his cousin seem to be very a positive indication to me that he does indeed enjoy school. When I pick him up from school, he is also usually in good spirits and tells me about his day. Various suggestions I make about going to school in the afternoons are always well received (even if they are rebuked the following morning after waking up).
Finally, there is the fact that we’re back on track again with Gavin’s potty training. I’m sure if there were serious problems at school, we would also be having problems with potty training.