Toddler Development: Pre-School and Making Deals

These days it seems like there are so many things to write about and not enough time to write them all.  Between Gavin and Gareth – my siamese boys – I rarely have time to think, let alone write.  So here I am trying to record events out of date, organise my thoughts and identify the lessons I’ve learned as a parent during those precious few moments I get to myself when Gavin isn’t demanding for attention and Gareth has removed his IV line to my breast…

A lot has happened over the past week and among all the discoveries, I’ve encountered new problems and learned equally as many new things.

One of the things I’ve finally discovered is why Gavin has been howling whenever we try to take him to school.  At first I thought it was the “magical two weeks” – that time frame that many children need to re-adjust to school after a long break or when being introduced to school for the first time.  Monday this week was the start of Gavin’s third week of school after the end-of-year-holidays.  Hubby drove him to school and everything went smoothly.  He arrived at school with exemplary behaviour – greeted all the teachers, stood patiently to have his temperature monitored, walked into school on his own, took off his own shoes, put them away, and cleaned his own hands.

This behaviour continued for the next couple of days and then it abruptly ended when I accompanied him to school.  Yup, the reason for the meltdown was me.  The day I sent him to school, he started howling again, clung to my legs and refused to remove his shoes, clean his hand and go through the doors.  All previous days, he was sent to school by Daddy and all went well.

So what was it that destroyed the good behaviour?

I think it is because Gavin senses my weakness when it comes to dropping him off at school.  The guilt on my face when I have to walk away while he cries for me, the hesitation in my step as I attempt to leave him and the contemplation of sticking around for another five minutes is all too evident.  The fact that he stops crying immediately after I leave and that he has fun playing with the other children is indication enough that he is coping well and possibly even enjoying school.  Even if everyone else hadn’t told me that, I myself have witnessed his cheerful demeanour when I come to pick him up from school at the end of the day.

What did we do about it?

I made a deal with Gavin.  I told him that if he didn’t stop crying and making a big fuss when I took him to school, I would no longer be able to take him to school – period.  If he promised me he wouldn’t cry and scream, then I would take him to school.

The next day, I drove him to school and all went went well.  He was cheerful and chirpy in the car all the way up until we got out of the car and started walking towards the school.  Suddenly, he dropped my hand and stopped dead in his tracks.  I saw the look in his eyes and immediately sensed what was coming.  Before he could launch into the whine, I said, “Gavin, remember our deal?  If you behave, I’ll give you a surprise after school.”

Almost immediately, he chirped, “Surprise?  What surprise?”  And he started trotting towards school on his own.  He greeted his teachers and stood patiently for his temperature to be checked.  He chatted with me all the way up to the school entrance and greeted his friend who was being carried by his Dad.  He behaved so pleasantly that his friend’s parents were so impressed with his delightful behaviour.  At the school door, he cleaned his own hands, took off his own shoes and put them away himself.  Again, his friend’s parents remarked how well mannered he was.

Although I was about to burst with pride, I was also inwardly thinking to myself that they had not been there the day before or the previous weeks to see him howling and screaming all the way to school.  Nevertheless, I knew then without a doubt that Gavin was fine at school.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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