Communicating with your child's preschool about tough stuff

We have a wonderful little group in the What's Next Workshop, with spots still open. So if you've been on the fence, now's the time to do it. First lesson goes out Sunday, so sign up now or tomorrow.

In the email I sent out last night (if you're not getting it and want to, sign up with that form over in the left sidebar) I asked if people were ok, and got a huge range of responses! Be gentle with ourselves.

The repeated issue (it really is strange how problems seem to come in clumps) I'm seeing for the last couple of weeks is kids acting out at preschool. Hitting, biting, getting into fights with other kids. I think the plans to help kids channel their feelings into more productive behaviors have to be different for kids at different ages, but what I find most striking about the questions I've been getting is how separate home and school seem to be.

It feels to me like a lot of us (myself included) feel like preschool (or elementary school) is just an extension of parenting in public. A place with people who are going to see our kids' behavior (especially around the common values that have taken over the dialogue about childhood, such as sharing and cooperating) and judge us as fit or unfit based on what our kids do. So when our kids do do something they shouldn't, it feels like all of our mistakes are being exposed and we're being judged and found wanting.

It's that feeling of being in the grocery store and suddenly your child starts screaming "I want it NOW!!!" and you want to just sink through the floor as you feel the eyes of everyone in the store on you wondering why you're so horrible.

I'm wondering if it would help all of us (me included) to start thinking of our kids' teachers and caregivers as a resource to help us, instead of people waiting for us to screw up and to think of our kid as the bad one. I was so, so lucky to have had the best preschool teachers in the world for both of my boys. These women had taught together for twenty years and had seen everything, and had a baseline view that kids are good and quirky and parents are good and quirky and trying as hard as we can. So when there were problems, it turned into a big troubleshooting session, in which we shared ideas and insights and decided what we were going to try together.

But it was not my natural instinct to do that. Those wonderful teachers had to train the parents to trust them instead of hiding when our kids did something wrong. And I've been thinking a lot about that as I've been getting questions from parents about how to stop it. The behavior itself is a problem, obviously, but the shame that we as parents feel about it is where the energy goes and gets lost. So not only are we worried, we're worried and exhausted and guilty.

I wish there was a way for us to call a moratorium on feeling guilty. Especially about things our kids do that are normal, if not acceptable. And ask the teachers and caregivers and other parents for kind help instead of needing to feel defensive.

Thoughts?