“No, mommy, no!” Johnny threw himself on the floor and started screaming. Marla Evans let out a sigh. Not again! She glanced at her watch, realizing that if he threw a full-blown tantrum, she would be late once more.
With a sense of exasperation, Marla gazed at her three-year-old. Johnny had been attending daycare for two years and always enjoyed it. However, over the past week, out of nowhere, he had been throwing tantrums and begging Marla not to take him.
Marla had consulted their pediatrician, who explained that toddlers often experience the challenging phase known as the ‘terrible threes.’ “Stop it!” Marla heard herself shouting, but then she noticed the fear in her son’s eyes. Something wasn’t right.
Marla lowered herself to the floor beside Johnny, gently pulling him into her lap. He sobbed, burying his little face against hers. Marla realized that this was more than just a tantrum – something deeper was bothering him.
“Honey,” Marla spoke softly. “I’m sorry. Mommy didn’t mean to get upset.” She rocked him back and forth, soothing him until his crying subsided, and then she asked gently, “Why don’t you like daycare anymore?”
Johnny trembled in her arms, whispering, “I don’t like it!”
“But why, sweetie?” Marla inquired. “Are the other kids being mean to you?” However, Johnny remained silent. Marla let out a sigh. “Baby, mommy needs to go to work, but listen, I promise to come and pick you up early from daycare today, okay?”
Johnny sat up on her lap, his eyes filled with anxiety. “No lunch?” He looked up at her, his expression worrisome. “No lunch, mommy?”
Lunch? Marla furrowed her brow, concern creeping in. What was going on with her son?
After assuring Johnny that she would collect him before lunchtime, Marla dropped him off at daycare. He entered the facility quietly but cast a pleading look back at Marla, leaving her heartbroken.
She went to her workplace and approached her boss, explaining that she needed the afternoon off due to a personal matter. Luckily, her understanding boss, who was also a parent, granted her request.
Determined to uncover the reason behind Johnny’s aversion to daycare, Marla decided to pay an unannounced visit. However, instead of arriving before lunchtime as she had promised Johnny, she opted to visit during the mealtime.
At Johnny’s daycare, parents were not allowed inside the children’s playrooms or the dining area, but each door was equipped with a large, transparent glass window. Marla hoped that by observing through the window, she could gain some insight into what might be happening.
Upon her arrival, the receptionist informed her that the children were currently having their lunch. Marla walked towards the dining room and peered inside. She saw all the kids sitting at their respective tables, engrossed in their meals.
A teacher or assistant was overseeing each table, ensuring that the children were being supervised during lunchtime. Marla quickly located Johnny and noticed an unfamiliar woman sitting beside him.
As Marla observed, the woman took hold of Johnny’s spoon, scooping up a portion of mashed potatoes and attempting to feed him. “Eat!” she exclaimed, urging him. However, Johnny vigorously shook his head, tightly closing his mouth while tears streamed down his cheeks.
“Open your mouth and eat!” the woman said angrily, her frustration evident. Johnny appeared deeply distressed. The woman insisted, “You will remain seated until you finish your plate!”
Marla noticed a small amount of minced food and vegetables left on Johnny’s plate, and she understood her son’s eating habits. Johnny wasn’t a big eater, and she never pressured him when he said he had enough.
Johnny’s mouth opened in protest, but the teacher forcefully inserted the spoon, causing him to choke and splutter. Marla had reached her limit. She swung the door open and stormed into the room.
“Get away from my son!” she exclaimed, her voice filled with anger.
The woman looked up, her mouth hanging open. “Parents are not allowed in the dining room!” she retorted.
“Well, maybe they should be,” Marla replied, reigning in her anger. “Can’t you see that Johnny has had enough? He’s a healthy boy, but he’s not a big eater. As an educator, you should understand how traumatizing it can be to force-feed a child.”
“Forcing children to clean their plates is an outdated notion. You should be aware of the statistics and the link between such practices and obesity and eating disorders in children,” Marla continued.
“And one of the main factors is making food a contentious issue! My little boy is an active child, and if he feels satisfied, you need to respect that and not coerce him into eating more.”
“Furthermore, the way you forcefully fed him is unacceptable! You should know better. These children are not puppets for you to manipulate at your will! They are young individuals with their own needs and desires. If you don’t respect their boundaries, you’re teaching them that they don’t deserve respect. I don’t think that’s the message you want to convey!”
Marla’s words echoed in the room, emphasizing her deep concern for her son’s well-being.
The teacher’s face turned bright red, and she stood up, flustered. “I never…” she cried.
“Well, it’s a shame,” Marla responded sharply. “Because if something like this happens again, rest assured I will ensure that you lose your job! I won’t tolerate my son being mistreated at daycare!”
Marla walked over to Johnny, gently wiping his mouth. “Come on, sweetie,” she said tenderly. “Mommy promised you a special treat this afternoon!”
Marla had a heartfelt conversation with Johnny, and to her relief, there were no tantrums the following morning. Over the next few weeks, she made it a point to drop by the daycare during lunchtime to keep a watchful eye on things.
The teacher never forced Johnny to eat again, and the boy gradually regained his good spirits and enthusiasm.