Bad Daycare Dropoffs – HELP!

There is really no worse way to start your day than taking your child to daycare and them having to be pried off you crying hysterically.  Well, OK, there is a worse way when you have to deal with your geriatric dog refuses to pee outside no matter how long she is out there and will then come in and immediately pee on the carpet and THEN you bring your child to daycare with your stress levels already through the roof and spend the next 15-20 minutes unsuccessful trying to leave without a scene.

I have no idea what is going on with Jasper, but it’s breaking my heart and stressing me out beyond belief.   He’s been going to the same daycare for 3.25 years! And yes, he’s always been clingy when I drop off, but it has reached a whole new untenable level complete with him trying to actually BLOCK me from leaving and then crying hysterically when I do.

No amount of reasoning, or me staying for a while is working anymore even though it used to. We’ve pulled out all the stops like being given a special task by the director to do,  I’ve told him mommy needs his special help to be a good boy, we’ve tried getting him interested in the snack the rest of the kids are having.. all these things used to work after a little cajoling and he’d give me a final kiss and hug and let me go.

Has anyone experienced a sudden chance in behavior like this? If so what did you do and how long did it last?

It’s NOT that he doesn’t like his daycare, infact he often runs away from me and doesn’t want to come home when I pick him up!

Any advice would be appreciated. Oh, and on the geriatric-only-pees-in-the-house dog situation too. I’m at my wit’s end!

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Heather says:

I’ve been the teacher at the pre-k/daycare on the other side of this equation. It ALWAYS happens around 3 years old, and always with the kid who has been previously fine. I had one girl (Emma was her name) who I had to literally pry off of her mother every morning for months. She was fine in 10 minutes, it was just boundary testing. If she screams and it changes things, she’s in control. If mom stuck around longer, it just made it worse. A clean break and mom leaving helped. I took to yelling happily “My EMMA!!!” and hugging her when she came in. It slowly worked so that she was as happy to see me and I was to see her, but it took a while.

Judy N says:

My DS who has never really been the clingy sensitive type turned this way suddenly one day. My mother (who is Korean) said that I needed to go get a pregnancy test because your kids can detect a new baby coming. Lo and behold, I did end up missing my period a few days later and I was indeed pregnant. Maybe there’s some truth to it?

I don’t have any new advice, other than echoing the advice of keeping your goodbye short and sweet. After all, why prolong the misery?

Melanie says:

I have 6yr old twins, a boy and girl. The same thing happened to my son in 3yr old preschool. Eventually staying a while stopped working and the teacher needed to peel him off me. Then it turned into grabbing onto my hair and not letting go! I remember it being so frustrating and heartbreaking. What ended up working for me was placing a picture of my son and I in his pocket. We picked out the “special” picture together. I told him I will always be with him and that he ever felt sad that I wasn’t there he could look at the picture of us together. It worked like a charm! Hope this helps and hang in there. As with any phase it will get better.

stephanie says:

Mom of 5 here – been there done that. It’s the age and, in my opinion, the best remedy is consistency. “Mommy is leaving. I will return as soon as I can. I love you.” Quick hug and kiss. Then leave. Simple as that! It might feel worse at first but once he learns that there is no benefit of a fit (like getting more attention) then he will stop and all will be well. Good luck. BTW, it really is this easy but it still hurts the heart like nothing else. Hang in there.

Lisa E says:

I am wondering since he has seen you go through the process of getting pregnant (going to dr appt’s, seeing your husband give you shots, etc) if he just doesn’t want to leave you. Maybe he feels that you need him or that you are hurting. I am not sure, this is just my first thought. Kids are amazing and they are little sponges and can be so emotional.

Christy says:

Is he maybe feeling the stress of you guys packing up the house? His house and his parents are his security and if anything changes with any of that, he will definitely feel it, whether he understands it or not.

The best thing to do is leave abruptly at drop off. Don’t give him the opportunity to try and negotiate your leaving while he stays. I know it’s hard and you want to know that he’s happy when you leave, but most kids snap right out of it once Mommy has gone. It’s a lot harder on you to leave him in tears. Staying won’t make it better for him, just worse. Dragging out good-bye only feeds his emotions. Show him a big smile and some confidence as you leave and you’ll teach him that everything is just fine and you’ll be back in a couple of hours after he’s had fun with his friends.

Lourdes says:

Hmmm…sounds like great advice already. For us, when this has happened, it’s usually been due to being on the verge of coming down with a cold or something or sleep issues.

But my other instinct is to ask if by chance something may be going on at school with another child or teacher? We’ve had a couple of incidents with another boy who has bitten him in the past, and when that happened or even when the other boy was a bit too exuberant with him or aggressive, Wesley has given me a hard time in the mornings. Also when one of his teachers was out for a while on a family emergency, he was impossible to drop off. Any chance you could ask the teachers if anything like that has been going on?

mlwindc says:

I think you got a lot of great advice up there (I didn’t read it all in detail), but we went through this with our 2.5 year old too and the things that worked best for us were:

1) getting there consistently before snack or before the group activity had started so that he wasn’t overwhelmed with immediately having to jump into a structured activity


2) saying good bye and that’s that. no lingering, no extra hugs, no cajoling. I would usually try to deposit my son with one of the daycare providers who would hold him while I waved good bye. I also always say “Mommy always comes back, mommy always comes back” when I leave and after about a week or so of this, he now just gives me a hug, a kiss, and then it’s good bye.

FWIW, my son LOVES his daycare too but he hates the idea of saying good bye to us. I know he’d much rather be playing with us all day like we do on the weekends, so rest assured, even if the drop off stinks, he’s having a blast and being well taken care of.

ariana says:

So many good ideas, thank you!

There are days when things like the window wave work, but today we tried EVERYTHING and nothing short of me just leaving was going to let him let me go :(

Nicole’s comment about consistency in drop off time definitely resonates because we have been ALL over the place with this due to the IVF. For example yesterday he came with me to the clinic so got there very late. Today was just normal time etc. The BEST drop offs happen if I get him there early and it’s play time because he can jump right into an activity. Usually when I get him there it’s preparation for snack time when every one has to sit in a circle and wait to be called to wash their hands (not nearly as fun).

Kelsey – I thought of letting him bring Bear in today, but Friday we brought him by accident (he was holding him and I forgot to tell him to say goodbye and leave hm in the car) and we came SO close to forgetting to bring him home that night that I’m terrified of bringing him in daily..

As far as the doggie thing goes, we tried doggie diapers – she bucked like a maniac and got it off in less than 5 seconds. :(

Kelsey says:


-Set a goodbye routine and use it every day.
-Incorporate a few choices into the routine. (For us: Do you want to wave to Mommy at the circle window or the square window)
-Obviously, Bear is his transitional object–could Bear be incorporated in some notable way into the goodbye routine?
-Keep it as short as possible
-Be mindful of your own nerves. If the recent tantrums have YOU frazzled about drop-off, then he can probably sense your anxiety and will act accordingly. (If Mommy’s nervous, then I should be REALLY nervous!)

But above ALL, hang in there! Kids go through unexplained phases sometimes and they always pass :)

jbhat says:

As much as it tears your heart apart, giving him a strong confident goodbye at drop-off, and then leaving, is what might help most. Our child care center advocated that approach at drop-off for our weepy, clingy kiddo–who really would be fine after a few minutes.

Silly kiddos–changing it up on us all the time!


Ursula Page says:

I never had a big problem with my kids and daycare but they always had days here and there they did not want to go. What I can talk about is the dog. We just put our dog to sleep two weeks ago and it was so hard. He was about 16 and we had him for 15 years. He started peeing/pooping in the house when I had my last one (she is 5) and I am sure it was an attention thing. He was fine until about 2 years ago and it started happening here and there and then more and more often. It ruined our upstairs carpet and we had to replace it. He also have shivers and shakes and bad arthritis and I was not sure what to do. My mom kept telling me the human thing was to put him to sleep but I put it off over and over. When I finally did it, it truly was the hardest thing I have ever done and to be honest I miss him greatly. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. They do sell doggy diapers that you can buy but I thought that was not the nicest thing for a dog that age. Good luck…

Ava says:

I’ll ditto Shane, there are days it’s not a problem and days when I can’t leave. It IS a phase, and like any phase it will come and go.

With that said, I do, occasionally find it easier to leave if I give him something to look forward to. For example, he likes to come to work with me. So once a week, if my schedule/meetings allow, I bring him with me for about 30-45 minutes (then he gets bored) and I take him to school. But the condition is that he has to be good and let me leave without crying in order to be able to come to work with me. Sometimes this works….

Sara B. says:

Congrats on your pregnancy, Ariana! With us, every day is a new day during drop off. Some days he’s fine, other days he’s wrapped around my leg saying “Don’t leave me, Mommy. You can’t go to work today!” But, no matter what, he’s fine 2 minutes after I leave, so even if it hurts my heart, I try to leave as quickly as possible.

Our boys are smart and they know that their behavior affects mommy like no one else. So, if they want extra attention, they know what to do. Prolonging the goodbyes never seems to help and seems to increase the likelihood of it happening the next day, in my experience.

Nina says:

No words of wisdom since I haven’t dealt with this yet. I’m guessing it’s just from all the changes going on. He’ll be back to normal soon!

As far as the dog goes, maybe you can find some doggie depends. I’m sure somebody has thought of making them. Also, have you checked with your vet for incontinence medication for the dog? I can’t believe I just typed out incontinence medicine for a dog, sigh. My dog gets insulin shots twice a day, so I’m sure they have something that can help.

Hugs to you and Jasper!

pam says:

Not sure why I felt the need to use “seriously” twice. I guess I was serious about it.

pam says:

Mine started doing this again a few months ago. The only thing that helped was a quick dropoff. Not sticking around for any longer than necessary. Seriously, within a day or two, drama-free dropoffs were back. Whew!

(Seriously, I’d have to RUN down the hall from their classroom to the front door to leave.)

Nicole says:

I used to work at a preschool, my last day was a week ago. But when a child had a hard time leaving mom in the morning we could usually (not always) pinpoint it to one of a few things.
1. Are you dropping him off at the exact same time every day? Children thrive in set schedules. The more consistent, seems to be better. I tend to see that if a parent normally drops a student off while we are outside/during snack time/during circle time…and then changes it, there is a transition in there and they don’t take to it very easily.
2. We do recommend the quick drop and leave. If you stay while he is having a melt down, he will think that every time he has a melt down, you’ll stay longer. It will just perpetuate the problem and frustrate him when his tactics work sometimes and not others.
3. Sleep. I could always tell when it was a rough night and they didn’t get enough sleep, the mornings were always so much more stressful. If it’s hard to get him up in the morning, try an earlier bed time.

I hope this helps, I can understand how much this could ruin your morning. It’s so hard because I know you must hate seeing you baby upset like that, but if you trust the preschool and you know he enjoys it…then trust what they say and take their advice. Don’t feel bad either, 99.9% of kids go through rough drop offs at least once a school year. Hope this helps!!

GiGi says:

we went through this with my boy when he was Jasper’s age. the quick drop off was our only solution. he was always fine w/in 10 minutes or so and the director always sent me an update email so I wouldn’t cry and worry all day long. I always felt terrible until I got that email.

Hang in there! I hope this will be a short season for you!

Shane says:

I wonder if it’s a phase. G does it to me when I drop off – holding on to my leg, crying, blocking the door, saying “Stay just a little bit more” (while holding up his little fingers). I think A does a faster drop off and has a routine that he’s used to, but for me it’s hard. I think making it a fast break may be a good try.

Only other thing I’ve noticed w/ G is that in hindsight I think he has gotten really clingy a day or two before he’s gotten sick.

Claudia says:

Jordan did this too a couple of weeks ago. It only lasted for a couple of days though. I didn’t really do anything differently other than go inside with him (I usually drop him off with the lady at the door – it’s a lady that watches kids at her house). I did try to ask him (at another time) why he didn’t want to go, but you can imagine how helpful a 3 year old’s answer would be.

Kristen says:

We just started experiencing this once in a while. Jackson’s preschool teacher is a-ma-zing, and now whenever she notices he’s being clingy, will say, “Let’s go wave to Mommy/Daddy out the window!” And will distract him and run to the window with him to wave. Works like a charm. Then we wave while we get in the car and hopefully he’s fine after, but at least don’t feel terrible if he’s not.

ariana says:

Interesting Jamie.. I had wondered if he was already acting the jealous first born, but it seemed unlikely this early along! But there IS a lot going on in our lives in general with the move too, so maybe he is feeling un-anchored :(

Jamie says:

If it has just gotten worse I would say it’s all the excitement and unknown about the pregnancy. Children are amazing at detecting stress..and giving it too(ha). Maybe telling him that you’ve decided to have a special 5-10 min. with him when has done big boy things (your examples) If he’s into charts have him help make one.Then when it’s going ok,make sure to mention that when leaving daycare. Remind him of his chart and how well he is doing. Good’s never easy,I know.

Katrina says:

My 3 year old went through this phase when we tried to leave him in the nursery at our church periodically. It would be an all out MELT DOWN every. single. time. We quit trying for awhile. Likewise, about the same time, he would cry uncontrollably when we said it was time to go to daycare, even though he had been going to the same place since he was just a baby.

I think for us, the change happened when we got together with the day care provider and talked about needing to make a quick break with him when we dropped him off. There was a quick hug, and an exchange. We didn’t linger AT ALL. I cried when I got into the car because I felt like such a terrible mother, but I called every day as soon as I got to work, and she said he calmed down within 10 minutes after I left. Within 2 weeks, we got through the tantrums, and we no longer have issues UNLESS I have not been spending enough time with them or have been getting home AFTER they go to bed. Then he gets a little clingy, but that is my cue to spend extra time. Sometimes my school schedule means leaving before they get up and getting home after they go to bed. Luckily, that doesn’t happen really often, but enough that it causes a problem sometimes.

ariana says:

Thanks Kat! I actually had this idea too, though more from a “why drag out the torture if he’s going to have a melt down anyway” point of view.. but I’ll definitely have a talk with the director and see if she recommends that. There has a been a bit of inconsistency of the staffing in the preschool room lately and particularly this week which might be making it worse!