4 Year Old Boy with Bad Behavior

Updated on December 04, 2009
P.S. asks from Houston, TX
10 answers

My son has recently started acting out in pre-k. When I ask him why he is being bad he says the voices inside him tell him too. Is he just trying to divert the blame or should I be really concerned about his mental health?

More Info: Thanks for the responses he was doing well and was very excited about going to pre-K. He has been in day care since he was 18 months and this is the same school. Probably just in the past month he has started being disruptive in "circle" time, not listening to teachers, and not wanting to do the work. I thought he might be bored but I know his fine motor skills are lacking as he is left handed and switches between right and left. He always seemed brighter than my daughter but now with his refusal to do the school work I do not know what to think. The teachers have tried to work with him on his own but he still refuses to do the work. He has friends and plays with the other kids. Unfortunately this pre-k is not very conducive to observing without my son knowing that I am there. My husband just thinks he is immature and has a hard time with boundaries.

Thank you so much for your support! I will defintely pick up that book.

Gina R. - Do you mind me asking what it was you tested for? The school mentioned something they had heard from a Dr. about the eyesight was less mature than the brain or something like that, but I am not sure where to start looking into this. Thanks again.

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So What Happened?

Since you were all so helpful, I thought I would just bring you up to speed. We ended up have a vision test and talking to the optometrist about some futher testing for SID, etc. However our pediatrician recommended going to an OT and having him evaluated as there is no research to support the effectivness of vision therapy. I have spent alot of time observing my son and I am more inclined to believe he is frustrated because his hands can not keep up with his brain and think some OT might be the answer. I also had him do the WPPSI II (not sure if that is the right acronym) and he has displayed a very high IQ. The test was done by a pyschologist and she felt he was a normal 4 year old boy with a hi IQ. She recommends sending him to kinder and if he has issues in a group setting then that may be something to look into. She also said that he responds better to postive reinforcement and praise as a way to redirect him if he becomes distracted. The teacher's at his pre-K and doing this also we we are having good success. Either that or the threat that Sant is watching!

More Answers



answers from Austin on

Hi P.,
I have a boy as well and the school had him tested. He was lacking with his motor skills, my son did and still does the same thing with his hands...they can explain it better, but it is with his eyesight and hands and brain, it can't distinguish what to do, over stimulation....my son is a bright child too and then had issues with school work and in group settings. People thought he was acting out, then when he was tested, it all made sense, even to the teachers.. Possibly your school could test or find other resources that could test him too. I am not saying it is this for sure, but advise that this could be an issue. My parents, grandparents and Ex husband, all believe it is immaturity, "bad boy" needs a good spanking etc..UGH! They don't believe in all of what I told you or "time out"...Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Your son may be gifted. I had similar prblems with my son. When he was in pre K, and he was supposed to be in "circle time" or when the teacher wuld be readin a story, he'd be off on the side rolling around on the ground. He has always been a bit behind the other kids with maturity and motor skills. When was in 3rd grade his teacher suggersted he be screened for ADD. (The doctor asked all of three questions before making a positive diagnosis, so I disregarded his opinion!) I had him tested for gifted and talented, and his scores were off the charts. He will always be a "fidget" because he needs to always be doing something with his hands when he is learning. He's in 6th grade now, and in all Gifted and talented classed and he is thriving. Please, talk to the teachers, and his pediatrician about the posssibility of having him tested for giftedness. It could be thebest decision you ever make.

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answers from College Station on

This sounds familiar. Don't go thinking you are the only parent seeing something like this!

My three boys are seeing psychiatric help so maybe I'm biased. Still, I think this would be a question for a) the teacher, b) the pediatrician, and then maybe a psychologist.

I went through my pediatrician after concerns from the teacher were expressed and got a referral to the clinic's pediatric psychologist.

You don't mention any details. "Acting out" could mean he is being defiant but it could also mean he has distractions (something he calls "voices") that makes it very difficult to conform (like most kids). It could be argued that your child doesn't know the difference.

I noticed early that my oldest only got into a "fight" when he was provoked. He never started a fight. Other kids picked on him and he had a hard time understanding when these kids were making a joke or teasing or just out-right being mean.

Start with finding out all you can. You should be able to arrange a way to observe him in the pre-k setting.

Good luck



answers from Houston on

I second Carla's recommendation of the book "Bringing Up Boys", its excellent. I found that age 4 was very difficult with my son. Its sounds to me like your child is normal. Your husband is likely right. Does he have a late birthday in the summer making him one of the younger ones in his class? If so, that could be a factor. He will likely outgrown this phase over time. However, he may love the attention he is getting from the behavior (my son was this way) so maybe if you and the teachers ease back a little it will pass sooner.



answers from San Antonio on

Is he being picked on? Is he adapting well to school in all other manners? Does he talk about it excitedly? Can you observe the classroom for a day?

It's so hard when we don't know what life is like at school to understand why little folks act the way they do.

Try observing for a whole day to see what the classroom dynamic is like and how he fits in. Talk to his teacher and his pedi about your concerns.

Good luck.



answers from Houston on

You sound like you are describing my son when he was that age, I even looked to see your location because it sounded so similar to his pre-k. He's 7 and in 2nd grade now. He went to the same day care/pre-school from the time he was 7 weeks old until the summer before he started kindergarten.

Everything went well from the time he began until he started pre-k 4. He had the same teacher when he was in the 3 year old class, so I didn't expect any problems when he was 4. At the end of November of that year, his older teenage half-sister moved out of our house unexpectedly after a fight with her dad. He started misbehaving about that time, but December is a hard month on kids that age because of all of the excitement of Christmas, we just chalked it up to that.

When January and February rolled around he was still having trouble sitting still, cooperating, participating, etc. that they began to call me almost daily about it. I tried every thing possible to get him to understand his behavior was wrong. At the beginning of this time a new child had joined the class, who the teacher confided in me that his parents didn't make him mind at all. Of course, these two were instantly attracted to each other and wanted to be friends. Along about March we finally got things under better control. They changed the two boys up where they weren't in the same group. And, a male teacher came in as the assistant. We also began seeing a child psychologist.

Everything rolled along fine until the last couple of weeks of May. Suddenly, I was getting daily phone calls, this time to come pick him up he was being so unruly. I worked a block and a half away and they knew I could easily get over there. By Memorial Day, they had decided he could no longer return to the school.

As one of the posters below stated, she found out her son was gifted. Though my son has not tested gifted (mainly I think because he has had such trouble learning to read), everyone in my family thinks he is. My mom was a teacher for over 30 years and is GT trained and administers the test for the school every year was the first to point this out. He is very creative and has the most vivid imagination I have ever seen.

BUT, he has also been diagnosed by the child psychologist as ADHD. When he was seeing her, she theorized that maybe the abrupt way his sister moved out of the house was part of what triggered it. He had always been active, but no more so than what I thought was normal for a small child. However, his father and the half-sister are both ADHD. So, it didn't surprise me when he was diagnosed with it. My husband and I did not want him on the narcotic prescription medication. I found a homeopathic medication, Attend, at our local health food store that he has been taking since he was in kindergarten. It does not have the side effects the narcotic prescription meds have. He does well on it.

I think it is so hard on kids these days, they are forced to learn so much so early, it just seems to put undue stress on them.

I wish you good luck and pray that things will get better for your little one.


answers from San Antonio on

As a former pre-school director being concerned right now is the right direction for you to go: My son was the same way in his Pre-K 4 class- refused to do a lot and was a distraction. Maturity was only a portion of his frustrations. You might research a little on Sensory Integration Disorder- My son has this and while it is an intense disorder, it is one that with some OT and learning on both your part and sharing with the teachers throughout his school years he will somewhat grow out of or learn to compensate. We were amazed at the change in him once he learned that we were doing some of the right things to make him feel better on the inside. SID is just where the neurotransmitters get confused and so when there are lots of sound, light and noise these kids go into overdrive and cannot decipher all the input- they feel all the sound, light and noise in their nerves and that can create severe frustration and cause them not to want to do anything. My son loves, loves, loves to draw and color and cut but he would not do it in class because there was just too much to absorb and he didn't know what to do with it all. He is in 1st grade now and is going gangbusters with his learning. There are all kinds of websites that can help to address SID - hang in there mom- God made you a mommy to this little boy for a reason! By the way... if it is just an immaturity thing relax- boys tend to do stuff like that- but I have a feeling you wouldn't ask if you weren't concerned that there might be more to it than just maturity : )


answers from Corpus Christi on

A lot of our schools now have camera's check to see if your school does. If so see if they can tape. If not see if you can borrow or rent a machine to tape see for yourself how things are going in class, show this to your family Dr. Get his or her thoughts on the behavior.



answers from Austin on

He sounds like a normal 4 year old boy. I recommend you read "Bringing up Boys" by Dr. James Dobson. I has given me wonderful insight into my sons' behaviors. I am a girl and both of my sons just blow my mind sometimes. There may be some themes in the books that not everyone agrees with but it is a great resource into the mind of a boy. My youngest still has trouble with sitting and listening. He will calm down but probably not until next year. Both of my sons' birthdays are in the winter so they did not start pre-k until they were 5. I believe it made a world of difference in their maturity level. I have friends whose sons started at 4 and they had the same types of behaviors your son is exhibiting. I think he is normal. Good luck to you.



answers from Austin on

I agree with the other posts about him sounding like a gifted kid. However the factcheck says voices are telling him to it, is concerning and worth having him seen by a professional.

Next question: 5 Year Old Gifted - Behavioral Issues