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5 Year Old with Behavior Problems in Kindergarten

Well the first three days of kindergarten were a bust. Not wanting to listen, arguing "that's not how my sister's class does it," refusing to participate all took place on day one. Second day he was sent to timeout for not listening and talking to the kids during circle time and "the circle turned into a oval" says the boy. Then yesterday became angry at another child and threw their toy across the room.

Now all of this is going on and you and I both know he's been ornery lately, but he is also the only child with allergies and the class is having to adapt things because of him. Honestly when I met the teacher, she seemed inconvenienced over this fact. He is placed at a table away from the students at lunch time for his protection which I appreciate since pb&j are a major staple in elementary school, but as of yesterday NO ONE sat with him at lunch. This has me heartbroken and I have to wonder if all of this is just too much for his almost 5 year old brain to process.

I'm afraid that w/ his behavioral issues he will become the teacher's target. As it stands she has sent home a paper they did in class withe a red circle on it that says "Follow directions!" (exclamation point) I looked over the paper and he did follow the instructions. However along the side she wrote that they were doing this paper together and he rushed and did it all at once. O.K. I get that kind of thing is about working together, but really? Are we nitpicking about this? If he completed the assignment with no mistakes albeit early is this really an issue? Or am I over exaggerating?

I have asked the teacher for a conferences o we can discuss a course of action for his behaviors. I want to make sure she feels comfortable disciplining him as needed but that she's not putting him in TO for petty little things either. I know he's not used to the process, but this is kindergarten and supposed to be fun.We should not be getting in trouble every single day. Sigh. So....what should I ask?

What are some good ideas for establishing rules for him? We are pretty laid back here and anything short of hurting another person I just deal with. Like preschool papers we never really cared about HOW he did them, just as long as he got the answers right. I'm not into "process for the sake of process." and I fear that it may stifle him. So, off to conference I go. We have discussed everything except the TO with him since we felt he was already disciplined at school, no need to rehash it at home. The first day we just discussed expectations for behavior and I escorted him in to apologize the next day so the teacher knew we weren't ignoring the issues. And yesterday with the throwing we talked long and hard about how we behave when we are angry. I hope eventually it sinks in, but I'm terrified now my kid will be labeled the "bad" kid or the bully.
Help!
BF Guru

Dear BF,

Wow. No wonder some kids hate school by first grade.

Your goal, of course, is to prevent that from happening. The best way to do that is to establish a bond between your son and his teacher. Kids only behave for teachers once they care about that relationship, and care what the teacher thinks of them.

Unfortunately, this teacher has so far shown no awareness of this. She seems to be all about control. Many teachers get triggered by kids who challenge them because they feel pressured to establish control of their class early on. You can't blame her for wanting to keep order in her classroom, but it would be a shame if her methods include marginalizing any kids she feels are disruptive.

In the PT conference, you're more likely to reach some points of agreement with the teacher if you first establish a bond with her. The best way to do that is to acknowledge the situation from her perspective: True, he doesn't always listen. You've noticed that too, and you appreciate that he can be disruptive. And he's still working on his impulse control, so you've talked a lot with him about ways to control himself if he gets mad at another child, and why throwing toys is off limits.

Then, tell her that you want to be her partner in teaching him to behave at school, and you need her partnership to keep DS liking school. Say you're worried that he's already showing signs of not liking school.

Ask her how you can be of help to her in teaching him appropriate classroom behavior. After you listen to her perspective, you might make some suggestions yourself. For instance, since feeling constantly criticized will backfire, maybe she could focus on the biggest issues -- like not throwing toys and being quiet when asked -- and not worry so much about whether he rushes through his worksheet. Tell her you know that she wanted the class to work together on the paper, and that he will develop the ability to do that, but he was trying to impress her by being able to complete the work. Explain that if he feels connected to her, he will behave for her, and that a little positive attention from her will go a long way.

If the teacher seems at a loss for positive ways to encourage his cooperation, here are a couple of suggestions:

1.Give him a special responsibility. For instance, let him come a couple minutes early into the classroom to sharpen her pencils or do some other specific job for her. This will help him feel important, so he won't need to challenge her, and it will help his self esteem in the face of any criticism from her. Most important, he will feel their relationship is special (even if she doesn't make any special effort),so that he will be more likely to behave for her.

2. When he behaves well, have her send home a special badge or certificate acknowledging his effort. (It can be the same badge over and over.) Your job is to make a big deal when he comes home with the badge.

3. Teach him self-management skills to increase his impulse control. You definitely don't want him to be getting in trouble at school all the time. He needs your help to learn to use calming strategies like counting to ten, breathing deep, etc.

4. Sign a contract with him about his behavior. This has been proven to be an effective tool with preschoolers and kindergarteners, if the teacher and parent both participate. There are several good templates online.

5. Eating lunch in isolation seems non-negotiable; that will definitely make him feel like a bad kid, and will keep him from bonding with the other kids the way he needs to. It is standard practice to designate a certain table as milk-free or peanut-free. The allergic students enjoy sitting with their friends who have "safe" lunches. To make this process easier, one teacher suggests hanging a magnetic board with a line drawn down the middle. One side for peanut lunches, the other for non-peanut lunches. Every child has a magnet with his or her name on it. As the kids arrive in the morning, they move their magnet to the appropriate side. When only one child has lunch with peanuts in it, the class is divided in half anyway, so no one feels isolated. (If there are more tables, the teacher just draws horizontal lines so the names are evenly divided.)

I want to add that you need to help your son develop a positive relationship with his teacher. That means resisting your own impulse to make any negative comments about her. This can be a tough balancing act, because you also need to give your son a chance to blow off steam by listening and empathizing with him: "Uh huh. Tell me more. You are pretty mad at your teacher right now. You feel like she was unfair." After you listen, of course, have a brainstorming session about how he could make sure things go differently tomorrow. Make sure to let him come up with some of the ideas, instead of lecturing him.

Good luck, and let us know how the conference goes.

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Cindy commented on 11-Aug-2011 04:12 PM
Like the mom above my sons boy started kindergarten August 5th. On the first day he received a frown face, the second day his desk was moved next to the teachers. The third and fourth days no change and the fifth day a call to his dad to tell him he received
a red face. He turned five a month and a half before kindergarten started. The teacher on day two told my son that she has seen this type of behavior out of children who are slow however she told him he is very intellegent he just does not want to pay attention.
He starts his work and doesn't finish. He talks in line and touches the kid in front of him. When told to stop he sat on the floor and played drums on the floor. He has to be told several times to do something. Now I know we have to become more attentive to
this however I am wondering if he is ready for this stuctured class setting. I feel he isn't ready yet and needs to mature some still. I am pushing to have him in preschool another year. Any suggestions?
Anonymous commented on 10-Oct-2011 07:06 AM
Have you had a lead test on your child? My daughter was having problems in school and lead in her system was moderate.

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