As I dropped Botany off at nursery yesterday, she looked up at me and smiled angelically. “I will be a good girl today Mummy,” she said. Then, in a stage whisper she added “No biting!”
Encouraging as this was, it only heightened my dismay later in the day when I collected and was informed by Miss P, a temporary nursery staff member, that there had been two “incidents” that day. Oh, Botany, I groaned, not more biting! No, no, Miss P. hastened to correct me- this time, she had been scratching the other children.
“She was given two time outs,” Miss P. said, in a tone which implied that this was a very special and rare punishment.
Botany twirled up to me and grabbed my legs. Botany, I reproached her, you know it’s wrong to hurt other children. She applied her “pretending to be listening face”. I knelt down and said it again at close range, whereupon she at least appeared somewhat embarrassed.
“Maybe you should speak to her key worker,” Miss P said, “just so you can ensure you are consistent with what you're doing at home.” I’m perhaps reading between the lines but just based on tone again, I got the impression she was suggesting that what we were doing at home was permitting Botany to sink her fangs into our necks and drink our blood.
I tried to explain that Knox and I pretty much run a zero-tolerance household and that Botany is pulled up on any bad behaviour immediately, including failing to comply with an adult instruction of any type.
“Oh, so does she stay in time out until her time is up?” Miss P asked.
Ack. How long have you got for a discussion on this, Miss P, I thought. You see, after months of battles, we’ve arrived at a method which has been working really well. Instead of focusing so much on what had ultimately become a power struggle in getting Botany to stand in a particular spot for 3 minutes, what we do now is something called “stop, pause, redirect”. Essentially, if she disobeys or acts up, we immediately stop whatever she’s doing, pause by putting her somewhere neutral to give her a chance to pull herself together and then move on, refocusing her toward something we do want her to do. There’s no time limit on it on the “pause” element. Sometime she wigs out for 10 minutes, sometimes it takes 30 seconds. It takes as long as it takes. But it’s about teaching her to get herself under control as well as stopping the bad behaviour.
What came out of my mouth instead was an inarticulate “Er, no, we don’t really do time outs that way at home,” as I watched Botany wander over to the reading corner to pick up her book.
Miss P. raised her eyebrows. “You know,” she said, “the other children don’t really want to play with her because she behaves like this. Does she have any friends outside of nursery? ”
“Um, yes,” I said. We have a little group of friends we see frequently on the one weekday she is not at nursery. In fact, Botany is actually quite well behaved then.
“Maybe you could try getting a book which has a message in it,” she said, ominously emphasising the word message.
“Er, we’ve done that, tried that, um, er…wait,” I muttered as I watched a little boy approach Botany and in an unilateral act of aggression, grab her book and push her over. She started to cry.
I decided we’d both had enough for one day and I scooped up my weeping daughter and we left. I feel irritated and vaguely grubby about the whole thing. I don’t understand why Botany is acting so obnoxiously toward other children, but I’ve certainly witnessed plenty of such behaviour directed toward her over a number of occasions when picking her up. I resent the implication (perceived or not) that I’m somehow responsible for her behaviour when she is there. I get the impression that she is less and less happy at this nursery- that something is not right, that she is falling through the cracks somewhere, that her evident frustration is not being directed properly. Or is it just her? Is she simply hard to handle? In contrast, she seems to love the new place around the corner, and if it wasn’t so hideously expensive to place her there four days a week, I think I would jump at the chance to move her.
What to do?