A 3-year-old boy throws fits and begs his mother not to take him to daycare. She sneaks in because she is scared, and what she sees shocks her.

“No, mommy, no!” Johnny fell to the ground and started to scream. Marla Evans sighed. Not again! She checked the time. If he had a complete meltdown, she would be late again.

She was fed up as she looked at her three-year-old. Johnny had been going to daycare for two years and had always loved it. He had been making a scene and begging Marla not to take him for the past week, out of the blue.

She had talked to her child’s doctor, who told her that toddlers often go through what are called the “terrible threes.” “Enough!” Marla heard herself screaming, and then she saw that her son was scared. There was something wrong.

Marla sat down next to Johnny on the floor and got him to sit on her lap. He cried and put his little face against hers as he cried. Marla thought that this wasn’t just a temper tantrum, but what could be wrong?

“Honey,” said Marla in a soft voice. “I apologize. Mom didn’t mean to lose her temper.” She rocked him until he stopped crying, then asked him gently, “Why don’t you like daycare anymore?”

Setting and following rules is an important part of raising a child.

Johnny shivered in her arms and said, “I don’t like!”

“But why, sweetie?” Marla asked. “Are the other children cruel?” But Johnny didn’t say anything. Marla groaned. “Baby, mommy has to go to work, but here’s what I’ll do… “I’ll pick you up from day care early today, all right?”

Johnny got up and sat in her lap. “No lunch?” He looked at her with worry in his eyes. “What, mom? No lunch?”

Lunch? The worried mom made a sad face. Was something wrong with her son?

Marla told Johnny she’d pick him up before lunch, and then she dropped him off. He walked quietly into the daycare, but when he saw Marla, he gave her a look that broke her heart.

She went to work and asked her boss if she could take the afternoon off to take care of something personal. Lucky for her, her boss was also a mom and could relate.

Marla was sure she could figure out why Johnny didn’t want to go to daycare. She decided to stop by, but not before lunchtime like she told Johnny she would. Instead, she came during the meal.

Parents weren’t allowed in the playrooms or the dining room at Johnny’s daycare, but each door had a large, clear glass window. We hoped that Marla would be able to see what was going on, if anything.

When she got there, the person at the front desk told her that the kids were eating lunch. Marla went into the dining room and took a look around. All of the kids were eating at their tables.

At each table, a teacher or an assistant was in charge. Marla saw Johnny right away. There was a woman sitting next to him that Marla didn’t know.

Marla watched as the woman took Johnny’s spoon, filled it with mashed potatoes, and put it to his lips. She yelled, “Eat!” Johnny violently shook his head, and tears ran down his cheeks as he did so.

“Open your mouth and eat!” said the angry woman. Johnny looked like he was in a lot of trouble. The woman yelled, “You will sit here until you eat everything on your plate!”

Marla knew it was her son Johnny because there was a small amount of meat, potatoes, and vegetables left on his plate. Johnny wasn’t a big eater, so she never made him eat more when he said he was full.

Johnny opened his mouth to say something, but the teacher pushed the spoon in quickly. Marla watched as her son coughed and choked. She was fed up! She opened the door and came in like a storm.

She yelled, “Get away from my son!”

When she looked up, the woman’s mouth was wide open. She yelled, “Parents can’t come into the dining room!”

Marla held back her anger and said, “Then they should be.” “Can’t you see that Johnny is done? He is healthy, but he doesn’t eat much. As a teacher, you should know how upsetting it can be to force-feed a child.

“It’s a thing of the past to make people clean their plates. You should know the numbers and what causes childhood obesity and eating disorders.

“It is wrong to force food into a child’s mouth in that way! You definitely should know better. These kids are not puppets you can move around as you please.

“They are little people with their own wants and needs. If you don’t respect their limits, you teach them that they don’t deserve respect. I don’t think you want to tell people that!”

The teacher’s face turned bright red and she stood up. She cried, “I never…”

“That’s too bad,” Marla said in a clear voice. “Because if this happens again, I’ll make sure you don’t have a job! I won’t send my child to daycare where he will be beaten up!”

Marla went up to Johnny and gently wiped his mouth with a tissue. She said in a soft voice, “Come on, honey.” “Mom said there would be a treat for you this afternoon!”

Johnny and Marla had a long talk, and Johnny didn’t throw a fit the next morning. During the next few weeks, she stopped by the daycare during lunchtime to check on things.

The teacher never made Johnny eat again, and Johnny got back to being happy and excited about life.