My apologies… I did say the next post was going to be about how to deal with the negative side effects of toddlers attending school, instead I wrote about Gavin’s regressions at school. You might even be wondering why I’m persisting with sending Gavin to preschool if I’m writing about the negative effects of school.
Well, there are a few reasons…
1. The selfish reason – it gives me a chance to rest.
2. Let’s be honest, the quality of Gavin’s day between now and back when I wasn’t pregnant has deteriorated considerably. I no longer have the motivation or energy to keep up with him and think up interesting activities to engage him in. Going to school provides the opportunity for him to engage in more “fun” activities.
3. Negative reasons aside, school has had some positive effects on him. Check out the videos of three songs he learned from school:
4. After witnessing him at school yesterday, I cannot deny that he does enjoy himself while he is there – even if he protests about going in the morning.
My original agreement was that I would pull Gavin out of school only if I felt that he was unhappy at school. Currently, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of that. He is still his energetic, talkative and cheerful self while at home. I have not felt any distance in him nor any disturbing reticence due to the trauma of going to school.
Of course, there is the developments of negative behaviour which does bother me. However, if I read the article on “The Dark Side of Preschool” right, there are things you can do to counter them. According to the article, children can benefit from opportunities to play with peers. “The key is balancing peer play time with plenty of affectionate, sensitive parenting.”
So what can you do?
1. Stay in tune with your child’s needs.
“Time spent in daycare effects your child’s behavior. But it’s NOT the most important factor. The NICHHD study found that the most important predictor of social competence was maternal sensitivity. Sensitive mothers are warm and supportive. They understand their children’s emotional needs and demonstrate respect for their children’s autonomy. According to the NICHHD, the kids with the best behavioral outcomes had mothers who scored highly on maternal sensitivity.”
2. Remain your child’s primary social tutor.
Talk to your child about his emotions and encourage him to make at least one friend at school. Well, I’ve been reassured to see that Gavin has more than one friend at school.
3. Minimise the number of preschool hours.
The critical age that has the highest susceptibility to preschool stress is 39 to 60 months. However, researchers believe it is the amount of time spent in preschool that is more important than the age of the child. Though they didn’t exactly give a recommendation on how many hours is preferable, there was a point made earlier in the article that children who were at school for 15 hours or more a week displayed increased behavioural problems. I’m guessing the ideal would be to target less than 15 hours of school a week.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot I can do about this since Gavin’s school hours are from 8:30am to 12:30pm and they run five day weeks – unless I take him out of school one hour early everyday. Definitely a possibility to consider…
4. Choose a school with small intimate classes.
The classes should have no more than 15 students and 4 teachers. I think Gavin’s class has about five or six toddlers to one teacher. There is also a helper teacher to assist the other teachers but I’m not sure exactly how her role works.
5. Room to play.
Choose a school with plenty of room for children to play. This appears to be pretty good in Gavin’s school.
6. Teachers that enforce friendly, polite behaviour.
I’m afraid I haven’t really seen enough of how the teachers handle the children to comment much about this at Gavin’s school. However, I do get the impression that they do talk to the children about behaviour based on what I have been able to pick up.
7. Teachers that use inductive discipline.
Until I read this article, I wasn’t even aware of “inductive discipline”. I’m not even sure I use it at home but it is definitely something I’ll have to look deeper into. In case you’re wondering, here’s a brief explanation of inductive discipline:
“Inductive discipline emphasizes explaining the reasons for rules and the consequences of bad behavior.”
The studies found that preschoolers raised with inductive discipline show more self-control and have the best social skills. Now I think that’s definitely a good reason for me to start adopting inductive discipline at home.
8. Communicate regularly with the teachers.
Although Gavin often babbles in the car about what happened at school, it can be a real jumble of events that are difficult to sort out. The problem lies in the fact that Gavin still hasn’t gotten a grasp of time. He might mentioned doing things that actually happened days before which can confuse the issue.
It is important to talk to the teachers about whether your child is being rejected at school, or if he is involved in rejecting other children. It is important to take corrective action if he does.
These are just some of the things you can do with regards to selecting the right school for your child. In addition to this, there are also many things you can do at home to encourage your child’s social development in a positive way. Inductive discipline, playing “let’s pretend”, being a good social model for your child and exposing your child to TV programs and stories which promote social skills are just some of the things you can do. We’ll take a closer look at some of these points in Part 2 of How to Negate the Negative Effects of Preschool.