Advice on Parenting and Discipling a 4 1/2 Year Old.

Updated on April 02, 2008
C.R. asks from Flower Mound, TX
25 answers

My son is 4 1/2 years old. He is a very intelligent toddler with a well spoken vocabulary, very caring and never has met a stranger. The problem is that we (my husband and I) have been told by two day cares all ready that they cannot control him in the day care situation anymore so we had to end up disenrolling him from the centers, with one of the centers being a Montessori Academy. He is now enrolled in Children's Courtyard and we just got notice last week that if he gets 3 more incident reports then he cannot stay there anymore. Apparently they claim that he is hitting the teacher and making it unsafe for everyone else. Does anyone really believe that a 4 1/2 year old can really hit to hurt? Also we are told that when told to do something, that he will not do it and then start using bad words, such as "stupid" and "shutup". He is an only child, but at home he has never even tried to hit his dad or I. He does lose his temper every now and then and he does say the "bad words" but he does get his "time outs" or gets no computer time, or no TV at home. Then we talk about the situation and he will apologize. How do we go about fixing the siuation or should we take him away from Children's Courtyard and find him another school? I am in a big dilema and need to know if anyone has been through this same situation. I feel like I am failing as a parent.

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B.C.

answers from Dallas on

You are not failing. I had this same problem. My son, despite being smarter than any of the kids at these schools, got kicked out of 3 pre-schools. He even had a problem at the beginning of Kinder. He is now almost finished with kinder and is doing great! We chose to do play therapy with him to work on stress and anger management. My son freaks out in times of high stress, so we now work on self talk through stress and deep breathing. My son is quite intellegent and I think he just gets disinterested and likes to challange people. A ton of great parents with smart boys have issues like this. It is not you. You need to find a school that will challenge him and understand his needs. Explain everything in advance.

Good luck! It will work out!
B.

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J.G.

answers from Dallas on

I would recommend finding a small inhome daycare. Some children are more comfortable in a home with a small group of kids and a provider that can spend more time with him. Children are more likely to bond with their provider in a small setting.
They can work with you on any problems that arise.

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T.S.

answers from Dallas on

Hello Cynthia,

My name is T. and I am a parent consultant. I was also a teacher for ages 2-5. I teach a class on discipling all ages. To answer some of your concerns, children can hit to hurt but that might not be your child's intent. You should work on fixing the situation because removing him will just allow him to continue the behavior just in a different school. It is known that children have behaviors at school that are not present in the home such as the hitting that you have mention. I would suggest that when he has a report for hitting his teachers or any of the friends in the class that you address the problem right then and there with him and explian to him that when he hits his teacher or friends how that makes you feel. Example- " when you hit Ms. Jones it's not nice because you could hurt her and that will make mommy sad because mommy and daddy know that you are a big boy and you know hitting is not nice." Also, when he says he is sorry make sure he is saying I'm sorry Ms. Jones for hitting you and he can always make cards to say sorry also. I hope this works and by the way you are not failing as a parent you are just having a trail.

T.

www.pwptt.org or [email protected]____.com

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K.M.

answers from Dallas on

Hi Cynthia:
Please take my suggestion with a grain of salt. I am only suggesting this because two of my friends have been in very similar situations. Have you ever had your son tested for Autism? Asbergers is what I am thinking. Generally the children are exceptionally bright, but have difficulty in large social situations.

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G.E.

answers from Dallas on

Your son sounds like a holy terror. I would definitely listen to the childcare provider's. If at 4 he is causing this many problems, believe me he will be much worse at 16. I know been there done that. Now, my son is 20 and doing well. I would suggest you ask the providers what they suggest. Parenting programs, discipline skills. Dr James Dobson with Focus on the Family, has a great book on the strong willed child. Your son will be a great leader, bright and persistent, but he needs help to curb his will.

G

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V.F.

answers from Dallas on

I had the same issues with my 4 year old daughter. If she acts up in school she gets no treat when she comes home, i.e candy , cookie. If her behavior is really bad we send her to her room as soon as she gets home. We tried talking with her at first but then realized we needed to get proactive by taking priviledges away. It worked and still works well for us. Goodluck!

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L.S.

answers from Dallas on

I've been there and with a boy also. I advise you to check out the internet and see the stats on exactly how many boys have been disenrolled from daycares. It is really high so don't feel that it is a reflection of you or your parenting. I think the issue is more with the unrealisitc expectations that daycare centers have on children (in particular - boys) than what they can actually accomplish. Boys are rowdy and they are just more physical. And it is just plain stupid for them to think that children (especailly 20 or more) can sit in a room all day without conflict - adults can't even do that. I don't believe that a 4 1/2 year old makes it dangerous for anyone and that they try to hurt either. The daycare centers are overly concerned with being sued is what most of it boils down to. So if your kid is rowdy, active, (probably bright and energetic as well) then he isn't fitting the "mold" of what is "safe" for them so they ask that he leave. It is just easier for them and their business.

All that being said, you or I can't change the system so what we did was a find a center with smaller ratios, spend much more quality time with him at night to make up for what was missing during the day (those "teachers" in centers can't focus on the children really), kept the discipline we were using in place, shorten his day by an hour to two a day (I go in later so I drop him off now and my husband leaves earlier so he picks up) then I went to the center director at his new school and asked her what physical outlet she could/would allow for my son when he was angry. I told her if she was going to advocate that the children had the right to "feel" anyway they could and had to "use their words" then it was their responsbility to figure out a way to let them express their anger in a productive way because just like adults (who can get up walk away, go outside, exercise etc to 'blow off steam") children need that too. This was tough and she didn't have an answer so I suggested she allow him to go outside and run along the fence or hit a ball, or hit a pillow, or rip up a phonebook, draw/scripple on paper anything to physically get the emotion out ............ we are still working on that but at least the center director was able to see it differently and start thinking of other solutions rather than kicking out a child!!

I recommend you talk to a Child Psychologist on the subject as well for solutions on how to better communicate with the daycare - I found the issue wasn't really my son or our parenting but more the system.

Good Luck!

K.M.

answers from Dallas on

I have my 2 youngest at Childrens Courtyard. I really like the people there, but I wish I could have found a home situation like my oldest daughter had. My youngest tends to misbehaive some times and I believe it is because she is bored. Childrens Courtyard is like a Montesorri school. They do not have any true structure. I believe that is what both of my twins are lacking. I am hoping that when they start Kindergarden in the Fall that things will improve for them. If you can find a Home Care provider who will also teach your child in a school like atmosphere, it might help. One he will be challenged and he will recieve more attention due to less children. However, do not over look allergies and medication. I would discuss it with your pediatrician.
I wish you all the luck in solving your situation, K.

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J.H.

answers from Dallas on

Okay, I'm a bit hesitant to leave a response because I'm not sure this will help. My daughter is usually very well behaved, but since attending an in-home daycare she's been trying some new - not acceptable behavior. Every day when we went to pick her up we got an earful of how bad she was. She was right there and heard the negative remarks. I think after hearing so much that she was bad, she felt - I must be bad. Plus, bedtime was a real drag because she would get up 4-5 times a night after we put her in bed.

A friend recommended (I also saw this on supernanny) the reward system.

How it works is you give your little one tokens for good behavior. He can use the tokens to 'buy' special treats. For example, my daughter receives tokens for good behavior, making her bed, and helping around the house. She gets to trade them in for a trip to the park, playing play dough, and we set up a little shopping center in the closet where she can buy little toys with her tokens. When they disobey or have bad behavior they have to give you a token.

This can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. I made a little chore list with clip art to remind her of each chore/rule. She LOVES getting the tokens and it has really made a difference in how discipline is handled.

I definitely don't think you are a failing parent, but I also don't think hitting or being disobedient should be accepted or excused anytime. Good luck!

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D.J.

answers from Dallas on

Cynthia,

You are NOT a bad mom and you are not failing, you're trying. I worked in childcare for 5 years both as a teacher and as an administrator, so I dealt with MANY children in the same situation. My first question is, have you had a conference with his teacher, or director to pin point what your concerns are, and to figure out what exactly he is doing? This would also be a time for you to connect with his teacher and figure out a game plan that might help improve his behavior. If the center is not willing to work with you to try and help improve his behavior, then that is not the center for you and your son. The center should be willing to partner with you and help you as a parent.

One of the things we did at the center I worked at is we did a sticker chart. We did all kinds of sticker charts, the one we used most often was specific to the child. We would designate 2 or 3 rules for that child-ones that we had difficulty with (hitting, listening, bitting, etc..). They would be at the bottom of the paper. The top of the paper would have the days activities laid out-circle time, snack, centers, etc. They would get a sticker if they made it through the activity without breaking one of the rules. This would go on all day, they can get stickers all day. At the end of the day the sticker chart would go home with the parent and they would reward or punish the child depending on how the day was. This was a GREAT tool, it helped the parent know exactly when their child misbehaved and what they were doing. It also helped us (the center) see if there were any patterns in his behavior.
I think it's very important for parents to work with their child's teacher-the child needs to know that if they have a bad day at school mom & dad won't be happy and if they have a good day mom & dad will be happy. Parents have WAY MORE power over their child's behavior (even when you are not there) than a teacher ever will.
I would also encourage you to try and visit his class one day so that you can see for yourself what exactly he is doing, but make sure he doesn't see you. He will probably act different if he sees you. It sometimes make it more real if you see it first hand. I hope that some of this helps, if you have any more questions I would to answer them.

A little about me: WAHM to a beautiful one year old girl

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A.F.

answers from Dallas on

My son was getting into a lot of trouble at his school at the beginning of the year. He is 4. I got together with the director and found out what was going on. Then we started using the same disciplinary tools that they use. Mainly three strikes and then you lose your sticker. Although certain actions meant going straight to the office. But what really seem to get to him, was the fact than when he got in trouble at school he got in trouble at home, and when he was good at school & got his sticker he got rewarded at home. It let him know that the two weren't totally seperate & that we were supporting his teachers.
It was hard at first. We started with big rewards (the zoo, a movie, etc) and big punishment (straight to his room after school, no tv). As he started doing better & better we toned it down (the park, an ice cream sandwich) for a reward; (no movies, no bike riding) for a punishment. Although if he got sent to the office, he always got sent to his room (his 'worst' punishment) after school.
Now we pretty much let the school handle his punishments and rewards, and it doesn't have to affect his home life. Only because he hardly ever gets in trouble anymore. At school anyway. Of course we discipline him for his actions at home.
It's hard becuase you don't want to belive them capable of doing such things, I think we tend to think it's a teacher who just doesn't like him, etc. But this really doesn't help your son in the end.
You have to let him know that this is serious & that he must behave at school. Because if he his still having trouble when he goes to kindergarten it could have some lasting effects.
Good Luck!

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M.H.

answers from Dallas on

You are in a hard situation. I have my masters in counseling and when there are multiple sources reporting the same problems/behaviors you have to take them seriously. I know as moms we always want to side with our child but that could end up hurting him and your family in the long run. Day cares have a lot of experience with difficult behavior and if you son has been kicked out of two, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. I would suggest you find a child psychologist and see if you can get to the issues that are affecting your son. At four he CAN hit to hurt and the older he gets the more of a problem that will become.

You are a good mom because you are taking this seriously and seeking help/advise.

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C.P.

answers from Dallas on

Hello Cynthia,

I feel for you. you're not a bad mom. you just need to figure out what's affecting your baby. really check his diet. NO high fructose corn syrup. NO sodas. limit sugars. NO diet sugars. does he have any allergies? does he take any allergy meddication? any medication? does he 'mis-behave' around the same time? if my son consumes high fructose corn syrup (depending on the amount) in about 24 hours he seems to have like withdrawal symptoms that make him a very 'mis-behaved' child. I once saw something on tv about a little boy that was allergic to chocolate and boy he went from angel to devil in a split second. so check even the vitamins! Also consider having him checked by a chiropractor to make sure his neck curvature is what's supposed to be an no extra pressure on any of his nerves. Yes, it can affect behavior too. make sure he's getting 11 to 12 hours of sleep. rub his feet, his hands, arms. help him relax and overall asure him that you love him and that you want the best for him. I don't know why but sometimes when something is bothering my son, it takes him a while to say something about it. for example when we would put him in bed and just staying there with him for 5-10 minutes he would say a little something and after we would ask questions (it's like playing therapist) he would tell us little by little. something else I want to mention is that if your son is highly intelligent, he's probably bored and upset because of being treated in a condescending manner. what if you find a home setting for him instead of a daycare center.
Also, although he's very eloquent, he can also be an introvert and every day he needs time to himself ALONE. so misbehaving gets him his time alone.

bright kid! too bad all those other people could not see through his behavior. so for now, question and google everything! good luck!
~C.~

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D.W.

answers from Dallas on

HI Cynthia,
Plz don't feel like a failure. You are the opposite b/c you are addressing an issue b/4 it get's worse. Do acknowledge that something is going on since it's happended in multiple daycares. You may need to consider staying home with your son from now untill Kindergarten just to give him a good foundation for the rest of his school years. Whether or not you can leave your job to stay home, do make sure he is getting enough sleep (our
4 1/2 son has meltdowns at home when he doesn't get enough) also, we can't let our son watch aggressive cartoons, we can't argue with each other in front of kids, b/c we have seen them repeat what say or do. Check his diet like everyone else has said. Good luck and hang in there. D.

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C.T.

answers from Dallas on

I, also, have a 4 year old son and I taught elementary school for 7 years before staying home. If you think the teacher and school is willing to work with you, I would not take him out. I would develop some sort of discipline plan with the school and be in everyday contact, like maybe a note home or a phone call each day and if the report is not good then he will suffer consequences at school as well as home. I would, also, praise him and reward(small and free)him for good days. He needs to know that you and the school are working together to help him just like you and your husband work together to raise him. It will take time and CONSISTENCY to improve his behavior. Should you believe the school about his behavior? ABSOLUTLEY! Two other schools have said much the same thing. Also, hitting is NEVER ok, even if it doesn't hurt. Please get this resolved before he begins K. The problem will only get worse and hitting a teacher and using bad language will certainly not be tolerated and the consequences will be more severe. You're not failing as a parent as long as you take control of the situation and turn it around which you CAN DO! Good luck!!

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D.G.

answers from Dallas on

Cynthia,

I'm sorry about your struggles. I am the mother of a 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter. I have experienced my share of "battles of the will." I have found that they are usually in need of some attention when their behavior gets out of control. Maybe you need more snuggle time or just one-on-one with your child. He's also at an age where he's becoming more independent and might find it hard to maintain all of the rules of a structured day care setting. Have you tried letting him make some of his own decisions. That usually helps me. I believe children need structure and discipline, but perhaps he has too much at this time. It could be as simple as giving him two choices of what to wear that day and let him make the final decision. I'm also having a lot of success with a sticker chart. He gets a sticker for things well done, like sharing, and an "X" for things not accomplished. At the end of the week if he has more stickers that "X's" he gets a dollar to spend or save. Good luck.

D.

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B.P.

answers from Dallas on

Dear Cynthia,
I wonder if there is a way for you to observe him without him knowing you are there. That way you may see what is happening and be better prepared to handle it. It sounds like he is the center of attention at home and not so much at school(just a guess).
Do they use Love and Logic? If you could look into that, and they use it as well(a lot of schools do) you may be able to help your son be successful by being consistent in response to any behavior. It has also brought our family closer!

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N.W.

answers from Dallas on

Do consider diet. Artificial colors and flavors can wreak havoc on our kids behavior. The Feingold diet is useful to ADD and ADHD behaviors. Milk and wheat are very common allergens that are rarely addressed in most kids. My son is autistic and for so many autistic ADD, ADHD, asthma, allergies kids removing casein (dairy) and gluten (wheat) products makes an enormous difference in thier behavior. Mainstream doctors often tell the parents they are crazy but moms know.

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M.W.

answers from Dallas on

You can try sitting him down and asking him to promise you that he will never do these things again. After that find something to give him as a reward for making such a tough promise, but let him know if he breaks his promise he will lose the new toy/game/etc. Tell the school that if there is another incident, to have you son sent to the principal's office to wait for you. When this happens -- because it most likely will-- you need to be ready to go right to the school and respond. Have him apologize to the principal, the teacher and the class and let him know that he just lost his new toy. Take him back to the principal and tell the principal in front of him that your son has apologized and has lost his new toy as a result. You would like to let him earn his toy back, but that will depend on his getting a good report from the school regarding his behavior. This worked with my son when he was about that age, but I did it after the first (and eventually only)incident. Hope this helps.

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J.H.

answers from Dallas on

since this is the third daycare program, I would guess they are not making it up. Yes, four year olds can hit to hurt and maybe he is angry about something and is keeping it bottled up. Counseling for him might be great. maybe something happened to him at one of the day cares that he is not talking about? Play therapy could bring out his anger issues, help him and help you deal with the situation. Keep your chin up. Try not to feel like a failure, we all encounter situations we never thought we would!!

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D.Q.

answers from Dallas on

I know exactly what you're going through. My son, now 4, went through the same thing, to a T. They were telling me that he was just uncontrollable, that he should be put on ADD meds, etc...But we never saw any of this at home. To which their response was, "Well of course not. They're always completely different at home". He's been kicked out of 2 daycares. Let me tell you, it's not anything you're doing!!! It's the fact that the classes have too many children to one teacher, (in my son's case it was 18 to 1). How can one person control 18 toddlers?! There's no way! So we finally found a place, Children's First Academy in Irving, that is perfect. His class has 30 children in it, but they have 3 teachers. They're broken down into 3 groups so he's able to get more individualized attention. He's been there about 4 or 5 months now & I haven't had any problems. When you find him a new daycare, make sure the student teacher ratios are small, & that the teachers know the situation. My son is also very bright. As of this week he was moved up to the kindergarden class bc he was so bored in the pre-k class. If you're child's not being challenged enough he'll act out. When you look for a place to take him, go to the smaller & maybe a little older daycares that don't necessalry have to appeal to the masses. They can work with you a little more one on one & it can really make a difference. I hope this helps!!! Good luck!!!

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B.F.

answers from Dallas on

If it was one center I would say there was a conflict with personality's, but now that he's been kicked out of 2 and is on his way to a 3rd you can't deny there is a problem. Can a 4 year old hit to hurt? I don't know, does it hurt if he smacks you in the face? The eye? What if another child was hitting yours, would you get mad? I would!

Since your asking advice I'm going to give it. Quit your job and stay at home with your little angel. Your child needs you, not other adults. Don't even tell me you can't afford to quit. Take away day care costs, eating out and already prepared meals, all that gas, clothes for work, etc. The first 35k is all going to support you working. Obviously your child needs you. Are you going to help him or is your lifestyle more important? Your currently showing him what's more important than he is, change that and you won't have day care problems.

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S.O.

answers from Dallas on

You may want to talk to your pediatrician. It's strange that he's having problems at school, but not at home. However, since issues have come up at multiple school there clearly is something going on. My friend had some similar problems with her daughter and it ended up being some underlying anger issues that she needed to work through. In their case, a therapist was able to coach them through and things are going better now.

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J.C.

answers from Dallas on

I worked in a preschool with a child like your son. Very intelligent and awesome vocabulary. He did hit to hurt. He did use ugly words. He had to be withdrawn, but not before teaching the other children his behavior. I wonder have there been any major changes at home. Have you moved, is there tension between you and your spouse, did a relative pass away? Things like these and even some small things can really upset a child. My sister's daughter had a teacher who said "I'll guess you'll have to go home with me", to her when mommy was late picking her up. From that time on, she cried and acted up in class EVERY time she was dropped off because she thought she was going to have to go home with the teacher.

T.H.

answers from Dallas on

As a child care director and mom of 4 I can safely say that, yes, a 4 1/2 year old can hit to hurt. I would recommend that you not keep changing schools but speak to the director, the teacher and then your Pediatrician about clear rules that can be used at home and school. He needs to know their are rules and that they are going to be kept at school and at home. Being a bright child he understands what is going on and has found ways to create his own power for attention or to display his frustrations. Also if you work with the school and teacher then they will see you are willing to be proactive in your child's development and they will be willing to work with you and help your child stay in one school.

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