Hi! I recently purchased the Time-In ToolKit, and I just love it so much.
I wanted to share with you my family's story.
This past fall, my then three-year-old (he just turned four) started preschool. I admittedly didn't do much research before we applied. I just knew that I had seen a bunch of kids who live around us in uniforms and paraphernalia from that school, and yard/car signs everywhere. It seemed like the thing to do in the neighborhood, and I assumed that all preschool programs were similar - learn your letters, numbers, manners, snacks, and naptime. Simple!
We obviously couldn't have been more wrong. The first week, we got negative feedback that my son was "acting like an animal in class and making different animal sounds." My gut feeling was that it was kind of cute the way his imagination had recently exploded. It seemed like normal kid stuff to me, but their reaction had me thinking, oh wow, is my son a troublemaker? So we began talking to him about "paying attention in class."
Well, it only escalated from there. I kept getting similar feedback - that he was unable to pay attention in class and that he was pushing/shoving at the water fountain, sink, and playground. At one point the headmaster intervened and mentioned to me in a very judgy tone that he had observed my son "having a hard time sharing his crayons" as if there was something wrong with him.
I never once heard any positive feedback about my son’s creativity, imagination, passion for animals, and enthusiasm for life. It was always negative, and always presented in a manner where we were doing something wrong at home or there was something wrong with my son.
My husband and I spiraled into a dark place. We put off conversations about getting pregnant again because we felt incompetent. I felt that I didn't have any business having another child since I had apparently failed so miserably this first time. I scheduled a Zoom call with our pediatrician and bought some books on preschool behavior. I am a scientist myself and so I was determined to get to the bottom of the issue and solve the problem that I thought was my son's behavior.
Looking back now, I can say that while I am still healing in many ways from the experience and still harboring a good amount of guilt for putting my baby boy through that mess, I am so glad that it all happened because I never would have gone down the path of educating myself about the preschooler’s brain and human development at this crucial age.
Once I started reading about the immaturity of the young child's brain and their inability to control their emotions at this stage and their profound need for time, space, guidance, and patience from their caregivers in this department, I started to feel at ease immediately. Like wow, my child is developmentally, perfectly, naturally NORMAL. All of his unwanted behavior is a sign that his brain is growing and changing just as it should be. Testing his boundaries, experimenting with authority, and impulsivity ... all completely normal, expected and developmentally appropriate.
I read about "name it to tame it" and began using it with wild success. The book that really turned things around for us was "Rest, Play, Grow - Making Sense Of Preschoolers." It explains the science behind the preschool brain and that the most important thing you can do for your child until the neurological shift of ages five to seven is to be there for your child.
When I came across your Time-In ToolKit, I could not believe my luck. It felt like a sign of approval that I was doing my best for our son. It had been such a long journey or at least it felt that way, and I was wondering all the while, wow does anyone else know what I know now!!? When we opened it up and I read through all of the posters, cards, and mats that came with the ToolKit, I cried very happy tears. Growing up and into early adulthood, I had a hard time emotionally and the idea that I could provide tools for my child to have an easier time is paramount.
We ended up finding a school that shares the same principles about young children and embracing their emotions. Within a week of starting, our son seemed VISIBLY calmer and vocalized to us in his own ways that he was happy. At the previous school, his potty training had regressed to the point where he was back in pull-ups. Within a few days of starting his new school, he was back to being fully toilet trained as if he had never skipped a beat.
In his third month there, our son was nominated as student of the month. He was invited on stage in front of the entire school (babies through 5th grade) where a letter written by his teacher was read. Again I cried because it was full of the most encouraging, positive, loving words from someone other than us. It didn't say he was perfect, but it talked about how he works hard every day to make changes in his behavior and is learning to control his emotions. His behavior towards his two-year-old brother, and us, has drastically changed as well. We can see him slowly growing into a civilized young man. (slowly - lol)
This journey and the ToolKit have helped my husband and me personally as well. We have adopted the idea of embracing our emotions and letting them all happen throughout the entire family. Realizing that there wasn't anything wrong with our son or our parenting gave us our groove back. We now more open to having more children and are no longer scared that we are ill-equipped to handle it. We are comforted by the science of it all.
I am still sad when I think about the program we left, for the kids that are still enrolled, and the parents that think everything is fine because they aren't getting feedback. Maybe their child is internalizing it, and the teachers interpret this as them "paying attention in class" and being perfectly well-behaved three-year-olds. Can you even imagine a perfectly behaved three-year-old? I am not sure there is such a thing.
And I still saddened by all the programs out there that are putting even more young children at emotional disadvantages. I am now and will always be an advocate for emotional health in young children and have been and will be telling everyone I know about your movement. Thank you for being here and doing what you do.
I am so very glad that I have a rambunctious, bright, often maddening preschooler. I am glad that he struggles with sitting through a lecture and is sometimes tempted to throw rocks or scream too loud in public. That he argues with us over everything. He is human and he feels everything!!! I couldn't be more grateful that I can be here to help guide him through the emotional roller coaster of growing up ... of life really.
Thank you again - for reading this, and for the Time-In ToolKit.
** Emily Annette Photo