A three-year-old is acting out and pleading with his mother not to drop him off at daycare. She enters unexpectedly out of worry, and what she finds inside surprises her.

“No, mommy, no!” Johnny slammed himself to the ground and screamed. Marla Evans sighed. Never again! The woman examined her watch. She would be late once again if he had a nervous breakdown.

She looked huffily at her three-year-old. Johnny has attended daycare for the past two years and has always adored it. He had been raising a fuss and pleading with Marla not to take him for the past week.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash


She had discussed this with her doctors, who had informed her that toddlers frequently experienced the “terrible threes.” “Stop it!” Marla heard her cry, then she noticed her son’s terrified expression. There was a problem.

Johnny was persuaded to climb into Marla’s lap as she sat next to him on the floor. While crying, he pressed his tiny face into hers. What might be wrong? Marla decided that this was more than just a temper tantrum.

“Honey,” Marla said gently. “I’m sorry. Mommy didn’t mean to snap.” She rocked him until he stopped crying and asked gently, “Why don’t you like daycare anymore?”

Raising a child is about setting and respecting boundaries.

While shivering in her arms, Johnny muttered, “I don’t like it!”

“But why, sweetie?” Marla asked. “Are the other kids mean?” But Johnny wouldn’t answer. Marla sighed. “Baby, mommy needs to go to work, but I tell you what… I’m going to come and get you from daycare early today, OK?”

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

In her lap, Johnny got up. No lunch? He worriedly turned to face her. Mom, no lunch?

Lunch? Mom scowled in worry. What had become of her son?

Marla promised to pick Johnny up before noon and then drop him off. He entered the daycare softly, but his pleading glance at Marla shattered her heart.

She reported to work and requested a day off to attend to a personal matter. Thank goodness her boss understood because she was a mom too!

Johnny was reluctant to attend daycare, and Marla was determined to figure out why. In contrast to what she had promised Johnny, she decided to drop by during lunch.

The dining room and playrooms for the kids weren’t accessible to parents at Johnny’s Daycare, but every door featured a sizable window of clear glass. Marla would hopefully be able to see what, if anything, was going on.

The receptionist informed her that the kids were eating lunch when she arrived. Marla strolled up to the eating area and looked around. At their respective tables, the children were all eating.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

Each table was under the control of a teacher or assistant. Marla recognized Johnny right away. Marla didn’t recognize the woman who was seated next to him.

The woman took Johnny’s spoon, scooped up some mashed potatoes, and put it to his lips as Marla watched. Eat, she yelled. Johnny closed his mouth tight and shook his head furiously while crying.

The mother yelled fiercely, “Open your mouth and eat!” Johnny appeared to be upset. “You are going to sit here until you clear your plate,” the woman yelled.

Johnny’s plate still had mince, mashed potatoes, and vegetables when Marla noticed it, and she recognized her kid. Johnny wasn’t a huge eater, so she didn’t push it when he indicated he was full.

When Johnny tried to protest, the teacher immediately inserted the spoon. Marla observed her son splutter and choke. She had had it! She pushed open the door and barged inside.

“Get away from my son!” she cried.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Her mouth was open as she raised her head to gaze. She said, “Parents aren’t allowed in the dining room!”

“Then they should be,” Marla said, reining in her anger. “Can’t you see Johnny’s had enough?” He’s a healthy boy, but he is not a big eater. As an educator, you should know how traumatic forcing food on a child can be.

“Being forced to clean up the plate is an old-fashioned notion. You should be aware of the statistics and the causes of obesity and eating disorders in children.

“And one of them is making food an issue! My little Boy is an active child, and if he feels he’s had enough, you need to respect that and not force him to eat.

“As for shoving food into a child’s mouth in that way, it is reprehensible! You should certainly know better. These children are not puppets for you to manipulate at will!

“They are little people with needs and a will of their own.” If you don’t respect their boundaries, you teach them they don’t deserve respect. “I don’t think that is a message you want to pass on!”

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only | Source: Unsplash

The teacher stood up after going scarlet red. “I never…” she cried.

“That’s a pity,” Marla said crisply. “Because if this happens again, I will ensure you are out of a job!” “I’m not sending my son to daycare to be brutalized!”

Marla walked over to Johnny and tenderly wiped his mouth. “Come on, honey,” she said gently. “Mommy promised you a treat this afternoon!”

There was no tantrum the following morning after Marla and Johnny had a long talk. She stopped by the daycare during lunchtime over the following few weeks to keep an eye on things.

Johnny’s good mood and enthusiasm returned, and the teacher never made him eat again.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

What can we take away from this story?

Respect for children’s boundaries is important. According to Johnny’s teacher, adults can force their will on children against their best interests.

Setting and upholding our own and the child’s limits is an important part of parenting. When limits are not upheld, children become uneasy and have low self-esteem.

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