September 05, 2009,
T.D. asks from Lombard, IL on September 02, 2009
My Son Is Already in Trouble at Kindergarten...I Need Help & Advice!
My son just turned 5 and he just started full-day kindergarten 2 weeks ago. He had been in preshool for 3 years without any problems. Today I got a phone call from the teacher. Her concerns are that my son is disruptive and class and does not follow directions. He has also been talking back to the teacher. He is getting along well with the other kids. My son is generally a great kid. He is very smart and he knows right from wrong but he has always been high-energy. He's not hyper, I think 'spirited' is the right word.
So my questions is: what have other moms in this situation done? The teacher said that she is willing to work with us. Do I use a reward chart, do I take things away from him, do I make a consequence chart? I need to act fast and I would love to hear some other ideas that have worked for others. Thanks!!
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So What Happened?™
Thank you so much for all of your awesome responses. I feel a lot better. We have been talking to our son and have made some new rules at home. We are also going to finish making our new "reward" chart today. It's basically a magnetic board that I fancied up. When he shows us good behavior he will get to put a magnet on the board. When he shows us "bad" behavior he will remove a magnet. I am going to have the teacher give me a daily report and if he does well at school and stays on the "green light" he'll get to put a magnet on the board. He is excited about the chart. He's been helping me make it.
I know it's early, but I do want to take care of this right away before it gets any worse. My son is an awesome kid, and I let him know that everyday. I make sure he knows how much we love him and what we expect out of him. Hopefully, things will get better. Again, thank you so much for all of your responses.
T.V. answers from Chicago on September 02, 2009
Hi T.-I have 4 children and used to have an in home daycare for 10 years. First-this is a big transition and all day kindergarten is a big switch. The talking aback i agree is unacceptable and he needs to know that it is no different than being at home. Teachers are to be respected. Second the teacher has no choice but to work with you honestly, I think she is taking the wrong approach regardless.
My son is the SAME exact way. First, I always reward honesty. The bottom line is that there may be a personality conflict. Sit him down and talk to him. Maybe something is bothering him. He is in a new environment and so much is going on. He is old enough to make conscious choices and positive reinforcement always works very well. For every day that he listens and follows directions mark it on an dry erase board (or let him do it but make a big deal out of it and let him draw a smiley face or star). I do not necessarily believe that doing what you should be doing equals a reward but something small-such as his favorite snack or dinner. We have always done this and it has worked great!!
E.P. answers from Chicago on September 02, 2009
He is young. You call him "spirited". It's early in the school year. Read him the riot act (what you expect - what you won't tolerate and "talking back" falls in that category.) At this point, he's trying to figure it all out. He may be a child that has, just recently, realized that his "high-spiritedness" gets him some attention from his peers.
Just keep monitoring it. Keep that line of communication open with him, asking him open ended questions, like "What was your favorite part of the day?" "What part of the day was challenging?" .... and yes/no questions, like.... "Were you a good listener today?" "Did you pay attention and follow directions?" If you ask him daily questions, you'll get to know your son's pattern of his day, by his responses. Don't take it as a deficit from your son. Just work with your son and keep that line of communication open with the teacher. Roll playing with your child, to help him understand what is acceptable, will help. Getting those phone calls from teachers are never fun. Immediately address them with your child, however, the first one can be construed as a warning for your son - he's pushed the parameters and now, you are on alert. ANY future calls should come with consequences (you don't have to come up with a punishment, yet. Just the mere fact that, should another call come, "consequences will follow" should put a kid, with a conscience, on guard.
You just have to instill in him that, he is expected to act appropriately in school and this is part of life. To be a strong member of the family, good behavior is expected. If you see that he needs something more tangible, then develop a school/reward chart, as a last resort.
And, yes... I can honestly say that I have NEVER received a call from a teacher or Principal, for my daughter, who is now a teen. As far as my tween son..... hmmmmm?????? I love your word "spirited"! Yes, my son can be "spirited", as well. Not rude, or unkind, just, well... spirited. We have a rule in my home that I abide by... "if my child gets in trouble, but I hear the (whole and accurate) story from their lips, they will not get in as much trouble. It keeps them honest and, although they are still in trouble, I lessen the consequences.
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J.L. answers from Chicago on September 03, 2009
I know that you are a working mom, but it may be wise to take the day off and observe at the school for a day.
At some schools kindergarten is very different from preschool-there are a lot more rules and higher expectations. Adjusting to anything new is very tough for any child, especially one with a "spirited" personality-I have one and i've been waiting for "the call."
One thing you can do is ask for a break down of the activities for the day and look at it closely-how much time do the children get for free play-how long are they expected to focus on a particular activity AND how does the teacher handle transitions? Find out from her specifically what triggers his outbursts-most likely (this is common with many children) it is at transition times when the kids end one activity and more on to something different. Or at times when the children are waiting to do something else (group potty break-line up for outside-line up for lunch-etc). Those times are particularly hard for any child because it is unstructured time. If these are the trouble areas, the teacher is going to need to develop a plan to help your son. Give him 5 minute warnings when about to change activities, have him line up last and tell him exactly what he is to do in line.
My daughter also in K, has always had a very hard time with transitioning from one activity to the next. If she isn't given a "5 minute warning" she will get really upset.
But there is one other possibility, the teacher and your son may have a personality conflict. This is much harder to deal with. You would think that as an adult a teacher should be able to "get over it" and treat your child fairly, but I can tell you that that is REALLY hard. With a large class and lots of work to get done, there will always be days when patience is at a breaking point and the child that rubs you the wrong way will push your buttons. When I ran my preschool if I had a student that clashed with me I asked my assistant to handle all disciplinary issues so that the child would be treated fairly. i'd like to say that it always worked, but I know in my heart there were days I was a little too hard on that child.
My daughter also had this happen at a preschool we tried, the teacher was wonderful but the assistant plainly did not LIKE my daughter. My daughter told me from the beginning that the assistant was mean, so i volunteered to help a couple of days and saw first hand the disdain with which my child was treated from the assistant. We pulled her immediately.
So, if it is a personality clash, I don't know what your options are as far as changing classes, but if you can't change teachers, it may be a tough year, but every child has at least one teacher they clash with, hopefully this will be his only issue.
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M.J. answers from Chicago on September 02, 2009
How has he been at home? Kindergarten is a big change from preschool. Schedule aside, now he has to really focus more on the teacher and what they are doing where preschool had more free play or time that was kind of unstructured.
He might be stressed from the school change and just be acting out. What kind of behavior system do they have at school? Could you set up the same thing at home?
Dumb question, but is he getting enough sleep? School is very tiring to this little kids and maybe you need to get him to bed earlier. Sometimes that can make a world of difference.
Just some ideas. It will get better, hang in there!
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E.C. answers from Chicago on September 04, 2009
Has he been screened? Maybe he's too smart and just bored...
J. answers from Chicago on September 02, 2009
It's always a shock to get "that call," but think of it as an opportunity for you to get involved early to help the teacher figure out ways to work best with your child.
I would ask for an in-person conference, and I'd expect her to come up with some ideas at the conference that will allow you to help at home. You should also come up with some thoughts of your own so that you can both work together to come up with a plan. For example, my older son's after-care program when he was in kindergarten came up with a behavior chart that measured smaller intervals of the day - so instead of green, yellow, red for the day, he was getting stickers for each portion of the afternoon (snack time, outside time, etc.) That gave him easy wins right away (outside time was always green!) and made good behavior seem less impossible to him.
We reinforced at home by having a whole chore/card/behavior system with rewards, for home and school stuff. It was a pain, but it did help a lot.
You are your son's mom and advocate, but a good teacher should have some ideas of her own and some insights into what may help, after a couple of weeks. For the conference, it will help you to give her ideas if she can give you better ideas of what's happening. Are there times of the day that are worse? Does it help him to get up and move around? If he gets fidgety, can she give him a "helping" job like going to the office to drop off the attendance sheet? Make sure you leave the meeting with a few "to do" items for each of you. (a meeting that ends with "please talk to him" and no other positive actions suggested is not a good meeting, it's a waste of both of your time.)
J.R. answers from Chicago on September 03, 2009
We do both the reward chart and taking things away from our son. He is also high energy, but is not ADHD. If the school tries to tell you that your son is ADHD, be sure to talk to your doctor. The counselor at the my son's school has been pushing us for over a year to put him on ADHD medication and we've been told by his doctor and a child pyschologist that our son is not ADHD. Sometimes when a child is very bright, he gets bored and acts out. There are some school counselors that want the child medicated so they're easier to handle instead of working with the parents and child to improve the situation.
S.S. answers from Chicago on September 02, 2009
T., I was in your same spot 8 years ago. my son is now 14 and in 8th grade. There are a couple things in your note that I wanted to address. first when you say your son just turned 5. did he turn 5 this week? or june? boys are not always ready emotionally for school. Daycare/preschool is all fun. if you don't like the activity well fine they redirect you to something else. A teacher in a classroom of 20+ kids may not have that option. That having been said.... I would reward the good behaviors. Try that before doing the consequences for bad. When a child is acting out most times its for attention. And negative attention is better than none in a childs world. my kids are pretty spread out and the teachers had different ways of keeping them on track in the classroom. my older daughters teacher had a list of all the kids names down the side of the blackboard. as they did inappropriate things the first consequence was a warning, next was a check mark. a second check mark meant time in a desk in the back of the room (removal from situation) a third check mark meant they had to call home and tell mom or dad what had happened and why they had a detention. this was devastating to the kid in question. next child's teacher had a thing like a door shoe organizer with pockets hanging on the wall. she had the same sort of system only cards in different colors. if the green card was showing they were doing good. a yellow card meant be careful you have had a warning. a red meant in trouble and need to not get in more trouble or call home. last sons teacher had stop lights on each kids desk in the corner. each on had a little teddy bear marker. the teddy bear started the day on the green (good) if there was an issue it could move from green to yellow or depending on severity to red. all of these things worked. at the end of the day if they stayed out of the red they got a paper that looked like a dollar bill (egan earnings they were called) they could trade those in later for little treats. a pc of candy, a sticker a pencil etc. I made my kids crazy cause I did the checkmark thing at home. 1 check mark warning, second a second warning third you lost a privilege. make the privelege something to be both earned and lost. don't go straight to the your grounded for life thing lol.
A.L. answers from Rockford on September 03, 2009
It is still the beginning of school. Having been a 1st grade teacher for awhile, students usually test the teacher what they can get away with and I, as a teacher, test the students. I feel I am very tough at the beginning (at least the first month) until the students gain my trust. I let the parents know, but also let them know if their child is having issues already as well. So, I guess what I am wondering is if your child is testing the teacher out and seeing what he can get away with. Also a new place, new friends, new routine. I would give it month and then follow through with it.