18 answers

5 Year Old Son Acting up in Preschool- Never Has Been This Way Before- HELP!

My 5 year old son is in the same preschool he has been in since he was 2. He went two days a week when he was 2 and 3, and then he went three days a week when he was 4. Now that he's five, b/c he's an early 5 with a Sept birthday, I decided to put him in the 5 day program to get him ready for kinder. This is not a kinder class, it's still got a lot of play but it has a lot more academics in it than the other ones did. His first two issues that we conquered were he started having potty accidents, but we've gotten that under control. And at first, he was sitting down when he got to school to do his writing of letters. He is actually coming home with his letter papers now and is doing what I consider a big improvement in that area. However I just had a parent teacher conference and they're pointing out all these other things like he can't keep his hands to himself, they said he scratched someone yesterday- it was on his shirt not the skin, he's screaming in class when he doesn't want to share the toys. He poured glue out on the table(fabric glue) when the teacher had told him only she could use it, but she had turned her back. He's not sitting still in circle time. And they say he wants to play all the time. He also gets overly excited when playing games and then doesn't want to stop. Anyway, they want me to come up with a consequence for them to use b/c sending him to the office isn't affecting him. I still am just baffled at where this is coming from. He never had a problem like this in any of his other classes or at least they never told me. He's an only child which is why I have him in preschool to have that interaction with other kids and to learn how to act around them, but he has never been like this ever. He goes to other kids' houses, friends of mine, he goes to Sunday school and church, no one has ever told me of behavior like this. I know he's not perfect and yes he does some of things things occasionally just like any normal 5 year old, but this and the teacher being fed up with it, is totally new and I don't know where it came from. They think that there should be a one warning system and if it doesn't correct the action after the one warning system, then he loses lunch bunch that day or the next depending on whether it's a lunch bunch day (mwf) Lunch bunch is an extended 2 hour time on MWF, and they get a lot of fun play time during it, so it's a favorite of my son's. Which I think could be a good consequence, but I also can't shake this feeling of where did this behavior come from? Will that consequence help or is there something beneath all this that we need to correct?

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

If you can, go sit in at the preschool class one day. Everything will be a little different since you'll be there but you can kinda get a clue to how the teacher is with the students and maybe there's a stimilus in class that is hyping him up a little. Maybe it's another little boy that is being a bad influence on him. I would just talk to his school about auditing his class one day and see if you can see the problem that way.


Maybe he is bored. He may not be getting challenged enough. My son is 4 and I am getting reports of him acting out at school now as well. I get good reports on all of his school work, but after lunch when most of the lesson is over with for the day he does not listen to the teacher. Hope this helps.

More Answers

I'm not sure how to advise you...I wish I had more information because the possibilities are virtually endless.

I would definitely suggest that your son's behavior is a bid for attention and caution you against letting it turn in to a cycle that teaches him that it is a lot easier to get attention for negative rather than positive behavior...I'm dealing with this mistake in a seven year old now and it is not fun!

I'm also concerned that your son's teacher(s) is unable to redirect his attention and seems to be focused on coming up with increasingly obvious forms of negative reinforcement...if this is happening in pre-school, I imagine it would be deeply ingrained by first grade...thankfully, my son's pre-k and kinder teachers saw his behavior as a bid for attention and gave him more positive attention when he began acting out...I can't imagine how badly he would be behaving now (second grade) if I (and his teachers) had allowed the negative reinforcement cycle to escalate the way we did this year before we recognized what was happening!

...one thing you may want to consider stems from what you said about circle time and the way he plays...my son was EXACTLY the same way at that age...and even now he has a hard time containing his excitement or sitting still...and while any number of people have tried to suggest ADHD as his problem, I (and fortunately every teacher he has ever had) know that he is really just an unusually gifted child in ways that make it difficult for him to follow rules or engage in activities that he deems "pointless". His second grade teacher recently described him as "seven going on thirty".

I'd urge you to consider the possibility that your son is similarly gifted and that he may have just figured out that behaving badly is an effective way to get the attention he wants!...and if this is the case, the best solution is NOT to give it to him by providing a list of rules he can break to ensure you and his teacher will focus your entire attention on him! Instead, find ways to offer him positive reinforcement and make the negative reinforcement truly negative by denying him the attention he seeks.

For example, my son bit another child in pre-k...and instead of getting in his face and lecturing him about his behavior or sending him to the office, the teacher made him sit in a chair beside her while she lavished all her attention on the child he bit! Using similar methods for other incidents, my son quickly learned that hurting another child doesn't get him any attention...it focuses all the attention on the other child and that behavior stopped completely.

I'm not suggesting you do away with rules and negative consequences...just make sure that your son is getting a LOT more positive reinforcement than nagative...at school and at home. It is far too easy for us all to ignore all the wonderful things our kids do and focus too much of our attention on their mistakes...and doing so teaches them that bad behavior is the best way to get the attention they crave! Ask yourself this...since solving the letters problem, how much praise have you and his teacher given him for writing his letters?...how much affirmation, praise, and other positive attention does he get when he does follow the rules, when he does sit still in circle, when he does stop playing when he's told to do so? I think it is far to easy for us to come to expect certain behaviors from our children and we stop rewarding them for those behaviors...instead, we notice the exceptions to our expectations and all too often end up teaching our children that negative attention is better than no attention at all!

Please know I'm not criticizing your parenting in ANY way...I think this is something we all do. It dawned on me (and his teacher) this week that my son hasn't received a lot of positive attention for the past few weeks...that we both have been so focused on making him follow the rules that the bulk of the attention he gets has been negative (e.g., loss of privileges, lectures) and his behavior has continued to get worse. During our teacher conference yesterday, we (the teacher and I) resolved to concentrate on giving him a lot more positive attention for all the things he does right while at least temporarily ignoring some of his negative bids for attention.

He sounds like a very normal 5 year old boy. My son was exactly like this, but in time out grew it. Now at age 8 he is perfectly behaved, but at 5--just like your son.

I am wondering if his teacher has raised any boys of her own. They are very different from girls. And not to insult anyone, but sometimes parents of only girls are very horrified by typical boy behaviors, even the fathers.

He certainly needs to learn to behave at school, but it seems like the school cannot handle it well themselves. I would go for a conference with the director and the teacher to find out their expectations. If he is suppossed to sit still for the majority of the day, well most 5 year old boys need more time to move around. Know that this will pass though. Good luck!

Sometimes the school and the child are just not a good fit. We have 2 very active little boys. One preschool in particular only wanted "perfect, quiet" children. I know this sounds awful, but it is what it is. After too many times of thinking something was wrong with MY childred, we found another church-based program and they both blossomed. We even ended up attending the church they switched to and it has been a blessing. Sometimes, maybe God is pointing you in another direction. Good luck!

If you can, go sit in at the preschool class one day. Everything will be a little different since you'll be there but you can kinda get a clue to how the teacher is with the students and maybe there's a stimilus in class that is hyping him up a little. Maybe it's another little boy that is being a bad influence on him. I would just talk to his school about auditing his class one day and see if you can see the problem that way.

Afternoon C.;

There can be lots of reason for your son's behavior! The first
thing to consider is not him seeing his father more, it is a child's dislike for this teacher!!
Kids have a super intelligence about people, a lot better than us old adults. They know when a person likes what they are doing and when they don't. They also know when a person likes them and when a person doesn't! To like and not like
a person or child is a normal thing!
Today they are too quick to say the child has ADD or ADT or
some other made up disorder!
If the child is 5 then you as his mother should be able to have a discussion with him. Ask him what the problem is, and
you will probably get an answer like>>>I don't know! But if
you will take the time to really be serious with him, he will
tell you!
The first thing I would do as a parent, take him out of that
school for a while, a couple of weeks!! Watch him at home!
Good Luck,
B. C

the only thing I can think might work is a time-out, will the teachers do that for him at school? if he gets out of hand or won't listen, he could just sit in a chair for 5 minutes watching everyone else playing. since it seems playing is all he wants to do, it seems like a fitting consequence. I think he's too young to understand that he doesn't get extra play time after lunch for something he might have done first thing in the morning. missing out on 2 hours of fun is too big of a consequence for a 5 yr old unless the situation is more than just one or 2 instances of not listening.
the thing I think might be causing his behavior all of a sudden is either something in the classroom that has changed or maybe isn't quite as one-on-one as his other classes might have been...he might just need more direct supervision. OR it could be because you mentioned your hubby is working more...maybe your son feels like he's not getting enough attention from dad? maybe your hubby could take him somewhere special once a week, just the 2 of them...to the park, to McDonalds, etc.
sorry I can't help more!

My five year old son had the same issues. It was a big adjustment for my kid from half day preschool to all day school with no naps. I think it is unrealistic to expect little boys to sit still from 7:55 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. And he has homework too! Homework at kindergarten?!!! My son had no behavior issues at preschool either and much the same ones as your son when in kindergarten. Anyway, I expect he'll get used to it. Mine did. I do know that little boys learn differently than little girls and that not all kids learn the same way either. Little girls have more fine motor skills and little boys would rather run, jump and play more. That explains why my son doesn't like to sit still and write his letters. Either way, he's getting used to the program. Good luck to you too!

Look for information on Positive Behavioral Support, and read up on why kids act up. Sounds as though this fall 5 days is more stressful than 3 or 4 days for him, and that he is a bit immature for his age. His language skills might also be a bit off, so he gets physical or screams instead of asking for what he wants or or saying what is upsetting him. Kids often want to escape something or get something when they're acting out. Creating a team between you, the director, and teacher would have both home and school environments using positive behavioral support methods, which are very effective in helping young people develop new replacement behaviors and strengthen their verbal and listening skills.

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