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What’s a Momma To Do?

I have a little girl who is very resistant to change.  She is very, very shy in new situations or when she is required to be particularly demonstrative (i.e. high energy songs with corresponding motions, etc.).  Ironically, once she is comfortable in a situation, she won’t shut up.  Hmm . . .  sounds a lot like her Momma.  Suffice it to say, I can relate.

When she was three years old, she took a gymnastics class.  She LOVED gymnastics.  When she was three-and-a-half, she started a new season of gymnastics — new class, new teacher.  She never adjusted.  She put up a fight when I dropped her off each week, even though she enjoyed herself once she was there.  She said she wanted her old teacher.  I finally pulled her out because it was such a challenge to get her there.

Last year she went to preschool three mornings a week.  Although she was clingy when I left her at her classroom in the mornings, she loved school and always wanted to go.  This year she is supposed to go back to the same preschool.  But of course there will be a new class and a new teacher.

She does not want to go. She keeps saying she doesn’t want a new teacher.

I know this sounds normal, and most kids adjust after a few days.  I wouldn’t be concerned except for what we went through with gymnastics, and because of her reluctance to enter the classroom last year when she actually wanted to be there.

I talked to her last night about trying it for at least the first month.  She just looked at me with these huge, brown, tear-filled eyes and sad little down-turned mouth and said, "But I don’t want a new teacher."  She’s not whining like she usually does when she’s being bratty.  She really doesn’t want to go.

My question is this.  At what point do you allow a child to determine whether or not she goes to school?

On the one hand, I want to respect her feelings.  And I am not convinced that preschool is necessary, so what’s the big deal about letting her stay home one more year?

But on the other hand, if I let her out of it, do I set a bad precedent?  Will she think she can dictate other big decisions that crop up?

I always said if I had a kid who hated school, I’d have no problem homeschooling.  But she doesn’t really hate school.  She just hates change.

Oh Experienced Moms of the Internets, what say you??

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26 Responses

  1. I go kicking and screaming into change, and my 11 y.o. is the same way. You are doing great talking to her and trying to understand and respect what she is feeling. Sometimes I let Skyler miss out on things and tell him how much fun it was later, sometimes I give him no choice – or a choice of going or staying home and cleaning his room or other unpleasent alternative. You have to pick your battles. I don’t think you are setting a bad presecent if you let her stay home at this age. She will mature as she gets a bit older and then you and your husband need to present a united front if you are making a choice for her and not giving her an option. Many arguments have ended when Dad puts his foot down.

  2. Wow, that’s hard. I say you know her best and know what will be best for you. If you think she is getting enough out of preschool to keep her in, then go for it! But if it’s not worth it, I’m sure she’ll be a happy girl back home with you.

    Good luck!

    Jamie

  3. No advice as my kids are both ready to dive right into school, but you will know what is best for your child. I think the “try it for a month” thing is a good hedge, as it could be that she will love her new teacher even more than the old, and an important lesson would be learned…but the again, if you are on the fence about the teacher, it might just reinforce the “new is bad thing…” decisions, decisions. Good luck!!!

  4. I think the first month arrangement is a good idea. My Princess has always been the same way, but all of a sudden she has taken off. Of course, she wasn’t saying she didn’t want to go to Kindergarten, so the situation is not exactly the same. You’re right, preschool is not essential, and she shouldn’t be miserable. I guess you should explain the difference between preschool and kindergarten, where the choice may not be hers. Have you prayed about it? On your own and with her?

  5. My mom always talks about how she hated school. She would nearly make herself sick walking to school each morning and sometimes would get there and actually turn around. She reminds me of your daughter in the sense that once she gets to know you she’s as chatty as can be. But I think she has anxiety with unknowns. My mom was grateful any time my grandma (her mom) left her stay home. Just thought I’d pass that along 🙂

    Good luck!

  6. You could be describing my daughter! Went through the exact same thing with her with dance class last year. She also literally cried everytime I dropped her at pre-school until sometime in November. Once she got into school she loved it, but getting her in the door was a challenge. Her teacher was WONDERFUL and we really worked together to help her to be comfortable with drop off. She is starting next week and is REALLY excited this year. Sometimes I think it just takes sticking to your guns, if you think it is important enough. That seems to be the main question you need to answer. Do you think it’s important enough? But if not now, when? She will be o.k. if you put your foot down, I promise!:)

  7. We started talking in May about having a new teacher and a new class next year. I know Ellie loved her old teacher, but I felt like I needed to start preparing her. We talked about how she is 4 now, so she will be in the big 4-year-old class! She’ll get to do new and fun things, now that’s she’s in the 4s class!!

    Course, school hasn’t started yet, so I’m not sure how she’ll react when she sees her old teacher.

    Maybe have one or two of her classmates over for a playdate? Then she’ll start to like her class more, even if she doesn’t like her teacher?

  8. My son was just this way. It was only this year that he went to school (the entire first week!) without crying, and he is will be ten in a few weeks. He hates change. Even if the change is fun. For instance my kids have never been to Disneyland. When I mentioned that we might go he said he didn’t really want to go that he would rather go on a vacation that we did several years ago to Montana. I know he will love Disney, but because he doesn’t know what to expect he gets nervous.

    What I have done with school is to make an appointment with the teacher (not at open house or when lots of other people are there). Make a time to go see where your daughter will be sitting and what things they will be doing; let he meet the teacher and let the teacher chat with her. Then set up a guideline and let your Daughter know that in 4-6 weeks y’all can re-evaluate the situation. By then she will have re-connected with friends and established some routine.

    My first course of action would be to pray with her about it.This is a good time to pray for courage and perseverance.

    Secondly I would find a way to motivate her to get her mind off of fear of unknown. Although I believe intrinsic motivation is all good, I also think there are times like this when a little external motivation (Or, if you want you could call it a bribe, whatever.) is called for. Think about what’s really important to her right now: for my daughter getting to get a mini manicure “at the real salon” would be the thing, but for your little one it may be something else.

    Hope that helps! It is so hard on a Momma’s heart with these little anti-change kiddos!

  9. OK. My daughter is exactly this way and we’re actually homeschooling for Kindergarten today. She will go into school, but she’s just not quite ready. I can so relate to everything you said. The best I can tell you is that NO ONE knows your child the way you do! Go with your heart and what’s best for her. No one else can tell you what that might be. I know you’ll do the right thing…or at least the best you know to do. It’s all we, as mothers, can do!

  10. No advice! I’m not a btdt. My initial thought is to at least try it out for a bit. Or maybe meet the teacher before school. Because you always want to instill confidence in your kids!

    My hubby & his 3 sisters were always allowed to choose what/which school they went to–private, public, home. And I thought that was kind of weird. They ruled the roost, you know?

    But at the same time, there is something about kids’ learning styles and comfort level. I’d have been a great homeschool kid. School didn’t do much for me.

    Blah Blah Blah. Like I said, I have no idea. Just my thoughts. Keep us updated.

  11. Well, I homeschool our kids and I think it’s totally the way to go if you’re open to it! It’s not for everyone, but I think the results are fantastic.

    But in this case, it’s hard because you are the mom. You have to do what’s best for her, even if she is resistant. Isn’t it the very hardest part of being a mom? I hate seeing my kids upset. I don’t like making them do something they don’t want to do. It’s the worst part of my job description!

    No one knows your sweetheart like you do. Keep praying about it and keep us posted! *HUGS* I was of no help at all. I’m sorry!

  12. That is really hard. I like the try it for one month idea except at her age one month may be a concept she doesn’t grasp. Can she meet the teacher and spend a little time with her beforehand? Like have a very casual meeting in her classroom with you staying and the teacher just spending a little time with her and you?

  13. I was that kid. I think if the teacher KNOWS ahead of time that C feels a little nervous and can find a way to make her feel special and important those first few days, it’ll help a ton. Also, letting her meet the teacher one on one with you present and involved would be perfect, too. I wish my own mom had been as sensitive and thoughtful as you are being with C. You have no idea how much your understanding of her own little personality traits will go toward helping her accept and deal with these feelings (in a healthy way) later in her life. You deserve a great big (HUG).

  14. That is difficult. YOu’re right, I don’t think preschool is necessary either. But I do see how it helps kids learn what socialization in school actually is like.

    Other than that, I am not qualified to give advice. Good luck!

  15. Once again, we are living some sort of parallel life. My daughter is 8 but she is *very* sentimental and not good with change. Tears welled up in her eyes this morning just at the *thought* of going down the hallway past her beloved 2nd grade teacher to her new 3rd grade room. I have learned to let her just talk about her feelings and encourage her that it *is* normal to still have feelings. But change is also a normal (although not a favorite) part of life. It just HAS to be that way. She is still quite young and is learning, but she will get better at it with time. She needs this experience to build her life layer….her frame of reference for looking back on times in her life that were hard, but in which she was able to persevere and find new fun things and new experiences. I don’t know WHY “What to Expect” left out how difficult this part of parenting is. They spend, what…a whole chapter on changing a diaper and they leave this important element out ?

  16. I have a child like that. Personally, I think you should pray about it and do what your heart is telling you to do. There have been times when I’ve forced an issue just because “I’m the parent and I don’t want to be seen as a push over”, only to come back later and regret making that decision. I had my youngest in preschool and she didn’t like it, we tried it for a few weeks and then I pulled her out. She went back the next year and loved it. She’s in kindergarten now and will sometimes complain about going to school (keep in mind, it’s only 2 days a week and I work at the school. I homeschool her the other 3 days), but now I tell her she’s a big girl and she HAS to go. She’s okay with that. It was just a phase for her at that age.

    Only you know what your child is capable of. I like the idea of trying, but don’t there are some hills not worth dying on.

  17. Being an ex preschool teacher and mama, I have been on both sides. I have seen a lot of parents take their kids before their enrollment day and just hang out together for and hour or so. Let her meet the teacher while you are there, and meet some of the kids. Sometimes that helps, once she relizes the teacher isn’t so scarey. Let the teach know of her anxiety, and if she is a loving teacher, she will go out of her way to help you comfort your daughter as much as possible. I was the mama who felt heartbroke dropping my crying baby off that is how I got into teaching preschool. Anyway, hope that helps.

  18. I wonder if this will be an easier adjustment than gymnastics because it is more often and she will be there longer and have more time to adapt to the new teacher?

    You’ve gotten a lot of great comments!

  19. Tough question! I am like you and am not sure that preschool is all that it may be cracked up to be when it comes to children whose parents care and work with them at home. If your little girl is getting some socialization I wouldn’t worry about it too much. At the same time change is hard and while of course you don’t want to traumatize her, it is part of our life and she must learn some coping skills. I like your idea of giving it a month and then seeing. School is going to be her job very soon so she is going to have to get used to it. If you do choose to homeschool I would definitely enroll her in other activities like gymnastics or some kind of lessons so she still has the opportunity to meet friends and learn how to adapt to certain situation. I was homeschooled from 2nd grade to graduation and had many homeschooled friends…for some they easily adapted to college, but for others they never really learned how to act in social situations. Most importantly you know her best so follow your heart!!!! I’ll be praying that God gives you peace with whatever decision that you make.

  20. All of mine are homeschooled so I have never been through this but I am praying for you. Follow your heart and pray. I have confidence you will make the best decision for you and your sweetie!

  21. I have not read anyone else’s comments because I wanted mine to be honest…so here goes: I have a VERY outgoing personlity. I love meeting new people and love new situations. Things like that DO NOT SCARE ME. I have a daughter. She is the POLAR opposite of me…she does not like new situations. She doesn’t care to play with her friends when we get together with people, she is just as content as can be by herself or with me. This KILLS ME and I want to scream. HOWEVER, I have a true friend who once told me I cannot make my child, ME. She is her own person and I have to respect her feelings. In another year you will be required to send her to school (or at least educate her..)…you don’t have the option to “change your mind”…why not take advantage of it now? I personally, don’t think preschool is a necessity AT ALL! That is totally my opinion and I do not begrudge people who take their children to preschool…I took oldest girl for a year and then decided not to anymore. I just believe there is nothing like being home with mom…especially for a child who doesn’t handle change well…you can give her a great start NEXT year…use this year to talk her through next year…she will not think you are setting a wrong standard…you are TRULY listening to your child’s heart and seeing inside instead of going with the world…which is SOOO hard for me…so just so you know, I have to work on this one SOOOOOOO Much! 🙂 Hugs from here 😉

  22. This is a tough one! Have you ever read The Kissing Hand? It helped my daughter when she went to Kindergarten. Also, you could try listing all the things that will be the same. ie: classmates, school, playground, backpack, lunchbox, etc.

    PS Did you get my email reply to yours last week? I thought I got another reply, but then I got a failure notice. Yahoo’s been acting crazy.

  23. I just dropped by your blog following links from one blog to the next – I don’t usually comment … but …

    I hope you will follow your heart. I don’t think forcing her to go will prove any important lesson. I think that if she knows that whatever decision you make is based on how much you love her and respect her as a human being – that will be a wonderful lesson.

    I homeschool my 3 kids (ages 3, 7, 12). I love it! I wonder about how important pre-school really is. My kids get out to play with other kids, and when they’re little they’re learning SO much just living life with the family!

    I wish you luck – and just listen closely to your heart 🙂

  24. HHmmmm, My oldest is the exact same way. To this day, he won’t try something ‘new’ unless he knows he can master it, but we stuck it out and even now one of his best friends is the first friend he made at preschool 🙂
    My baby is getting ready to start next week, so this is very applicable to our house right now as well.
    Warning, I’m very positive on preschool:)
    My preschool is very old fashioned and something they do that I think is really great for the kiddos is the teachers actually come to my house to meet the kids. This puts THEM in our space and in a welcoming mode so it’s not so “school” and “home.” I think it helps seeing mommy and teachers together and giving hugs and hugs to my son so it’s one big love fest you know?
    I’m not sure when your school starts and if this is still an option, but something to think about, maybe??????
    I know it’s not ‘necessary’ but all my kids have benefitted from it so much and it has helped ‘prepare’ them for kindergarten in the social sense and sitting down readying for circle time or whatever.
    My preschool is a play-based one, just fyi.
    OH! the other reason why I love preschool so much is because my kids get to hear the same things from another adult (other than mom and dad) and I think that’s good for them 🙂 In terms of sharing, etc.
    I don’t know, I’ve had friends that didn’t send their kiddo’s to preschool and I don’t know if they’ve ever regretted it. My kids do got to public schools, I’ve never homeschooled.
    You know, the absolutel bottom line is you have to listen to your mommy-gut.
    And pray. You will absolutely know what do that is best for your baby 🙂 as all kids are so different as are families. 🙂

  25. I don’t think this is like other situations where “giving in” would be an issue. You have to listen to what you as a parent want for your child. I don’t think preschool is a big deal, and studies suggest that it can actually be detrimental to some children (there are a lot of factors involved). There isn’t anything learned in preschool that can’t be taught at home.

    But then, I homeschool. I used to teach preschool, however. Your child isn’t missing anything that can’t be taught better by you.

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