Bad Behavior

Updated on August 06, 2009
A.K. asks from Honolulu, HI
18 answers

My 5 year old has very bad behavior. He doesn't listen to me at all. He just started kindergarten 2 days ago and the teacher already sent home bad behavior notices. She say's he doesn't follow directions and is disruptive.

How do i teach him to behave?

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answers from Los Angeles on

You got plenty of advice (mostly good) to consider already, and that is really the key. Don't igore this, don't think it is "normal" or just a phase. Otherwise it will become "normal" and the phase will last indefinitely.

One thing that made me jump in here is the tendency to think the school is wrong, the teacher is wrong, etc. What about the child's behavior? Let's give the teacher the benefit of the doubt, and see what is going on with the child as well. There is probably something, perhaps A LOT.

You can modify the circumstances, and ultimatly modify the child's behavior and attitude, IF you step in and be strong. The time is now to do this. Use a rewards/punishment system... Hopefully, the rewards catch on. But the punishment should be real (clear and consistent), so that the child learns what is acceptable and what is not. They should also learn what is expected and become more self-sufficient in adapting to that, but you do have to help them discover that. And don't tolerate bad behavior. My sympathies to teachers out there now who have to deal with so much of that (and ultimately, it is not good for everyone).

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,
First, he is 5. Following directions? Being distruptive? By who's account? When you ask him to get into the car because you are going for ice-cream is he good at following directions? What about when he is playing with his favourite toy...would you consider him disruptive?

I am a retired teacher and it maddens me to hear teachers telling parents that their CHILDREN can't "follow directions...can't listen...won't sit still...etc" My goodness! Most teachers don't even realize that the problem lies with THEM not the kids.

But of course it is something to keep an eye on. Just remember, you are the parent, you set the guidelines. Parenting your child is the same as disciplining AS LONG AS YOU USE THE CORRECT DEFINITION OF THE TERM discipline which really really means - a system of rules of conduct or method of practice - so PRACTICE being the parent you want around your child. If he is doing something you don't like tell him what you DO like. You are the guide, the role model, the final decision.

If he talks must keep repeating...we don't talk like that in this family, are you part of this family? (he will answer yes - in ht erare case a child says no - then ask him who's family he thinks he is a part of) then you repeat it, we don't talk like that in this family. Then redirect the situation. There is NO PUNISHMENT, there is only fact. This family is repectful. This family is kind. This family honors everyone. If you let the behaviour go once (and punishing it is letting it go), he will decide when and where he can use that behaviour again. Kids are brilliant. They remember everything! They will remember if the "punishment" was worth the action.

Here is the problem with "time out", kids learn to weigh the time away with what the "crime" is. They often feel that a couple of minutes in "the chair" is worth it.

A., be consistent and persistent. Remind the teacher that her responsibilty is to TEACH (which by the way means to impart skills or knowledge - not tell him or his parents that he is a bad kid.) So if your child does not fit into "her routines" she will have to find a way to TEACH him. Some teachers forget why they got into the profession...because little people need guidance. Help your teacher guide your son. You will be glad you did.

Family Wellness Coach

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Hi A.,

I am a kindergarten readiness teacher. I have a program designed for just what your
son is going through. If children go into kindergarten from a daycare or preschool
that has played all day, then it is VERY difficult for them to be ready for the rigors of kindergarten. They must sit for long periods of time, have shorter recess or play periods, homework, work level is advanced (writing his/her name, using scissors, recognizing their alphabet, etc). You want your son to feel good about his self-image and confidence.

As a teacher I would NEVER send anything home that soon to the parents. I would
observe the child and see if it was his behavior or is it because he feels inadequate.
My program is for children who need more time to blossom. See what your son
tells you (as well as the teacher) and then decide what YOU think he needs.

I agree with many of the others about good behavior cards, stars, charts, etc.
I use a green card/red card in my program and it works beautifully.

Good luck! Children that age want to succeed. They have hearts you can reach.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

A., I feel for you in your frustration and guilt about your son. The basics which are so important for improving behavior include rewarding him ( with attention, "high fives"- social praise) for behavior which you want and withdrawing the attention "bad" behavior gets. You must be consistent, firm and loving in response. If you say " Stop doing that, or I'm going to take such and such away"- and he continues in the behavior- don't keep telling him what you want him to do- take away the thing you said you would." When he more consistently does the socially appropriate behavior, then he can have the toy item back.

Is your son disruptive at school because he doesn't have the skills to be successful in kindergarten, or is he acting out for the attention from the teacher and other kids? If he lacks the skills, then he needs to be taught them. If he's acting out for attention- then he needs to get attention for desired behavior, and not get attention for undesired behavior. Such common things as ignoring the behavior ( such as for a kid drumming on a desk, lots of fidgeting), turning a desk around- are effectively used for lots of typical off task behaviors that kids do in school.

I would also talk to the teacher to see what her expectations are and for you all to work together as a team. I work as a SLP with special needs kids- and in my experience,an interested, available parent goes a long way to make a good team. It can be difficult if a parent expects the school to "fix" the problem all on its own.

These are the beginning, basic ideas. Talk to the teacher for suggestions. If problems continue, the student study team at his school will contact you- to come up with alternative plans to help your son be successful in school. Best wishes.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.:
Those responses from Barbilee and Michele B are excellent. Read them over twice. In my personal opinion,receiving negative notes from a teacher only a few days into A child's first year of school,throws up a Red flag. It's unfortunate,but even teachers are capable of personality conflicts. It's extremely difficult to give the benefit of the doubt,when A MERE 50% of our students are graduating from High school.The teacher's swiftness in labeling your son rather than instructing him in the rules shows an unwillingness to work with him.Her actions show an obvious lack of patience or tolerance,which is Vidal within this age group. I'd change his teacher right away,and let the principal know exactly why.If you or his teacher begin labeling him as (Bad) this is the road he will take. He needs positive feedback. I wish you and your son the best J. M.

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answers from Honolulu on

Has your son been in a "school" environment before??? If not, he is having adjustment problems.
Also: maybe he is not ready....
Some Moms, hold their sons back... as sometimes, boys are not yet 'ready' for school yet. It is a lot more "structure" and yes, following directions and expectations of cooperation... and this is hard if a child is not used to that or not yet mature enough for it yet.

The red/green cards that the previous poster suggests, is something that MANY teachers utilize... and works well. Perhaps use that at home, with your son, too.

Is your son in a private or public school? What is the Teacher/student ratio? MANY times, a Teacher simply cannot attend to a non-compliant/disruptive child... they have 19 other kids to teach too. So, naturally is it not a one-on-one attention. Or, maybe your son is just overwhelmed with all the daily requirements on him... thus he is over-loaded and over-stimulated... perhaps, and his acting out is just his frustration showing and he does not "know how" to express himself otherwise... nor his feelings.

Before just slapping a "punishment" on him, try just talking with him. See what is going on in his mind... and IF he has any idea 'why' he is so disruptive. OR, maybe there are peer issues or Teacher issues. Ask him...

Many times, a kid acts like this because they cannot express themselves, or are not allowed to... or sometimes they act this way because no one will view them otherwise as being "good'" anyway, or they are talked 'at' instead of with.

What sort of specific issues are his problem, anyway? Not listening? Hitting? Loudness? Bullying?
The Teacher should ALSO detail... what HER "discipline" is, in class. AND, the results. Or ask her. YOU are the parent and should be well informed by the Teacher as to what the details are. AND if any other kids/parents are complaining about your son.

But, you said he does not listen to you, either. So you need to get this solved. Cause and effect consequences. If he balks tantrums about it, then fine. At a certain point, if they know a Parent will always give in and is a push-over... then they will never listen. A child needs boundaries and rules, and incentives. Perhaps have him "earn" things.... a nickle in a jar for helpful things he does, and take a nickel away for disruptive things he does.
At this age, what was once "cute" behaviors is now considered "disruptive" problems. The older a child gets, the less is tolerated, especially in school.

All the best,

Many good suggestions here....

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answers from Los Angeles on

I would like to say if its only been two days and his teacher is already sending you notes maybe he needs a different teacher. It's kindergarten don't let him get a bad attitude toward school already. You should be talking to the teacher and getting specific behaviors that aren't allowed and working together to help your son adjust to school. Has he been in pre-school before or is this his first school experience? Do you think he had a bad behavior at home? If he does have a bad behavior you & the teacher need to have a united front zero tolerance. Find what works for your child taking away TV games friends what ever is important to him he loses when he isn't following the rules don't forget to praise when he does follow even a little rule. Give him more positive attention. If you feel his teacher is a bad fit speak up. I wasted the first 3 months of Kindergarten last year with a teacher who felt my son was so behind and couldn't learn after I finally switched schools he had a great teacher who found his strengths and focused on the good my son advanced so much I wish I would have moved him sooner. Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I received a few notices like that for my son, he'll be 4 on Saturday. Don't be embarrased or offended cause at first I was, then i realized no I need to address this. I had a meeting with the director of the school and also the owner, come to find out he was being disruptive during nap cause he wasn't a napper and hadn't been since age 2. My suggestion is to find out when he's being disruptive and to ask that they direct him in a way to keep him busy, I think alot has to do with boredom. My son is very active and even at home if I don't keep him busy he's acting out looking for attention. When it does come down to needing to be disiplined I swear by time out, set the oven timer and give him 4 minutes, 5 for your son. They timer is key, something about it I do t know. He is a boy, some may say that's an excuse but they are different and I've learned this the hard way! Feel free to contact me I'm sure we are going thru alot of the same things.

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answers from San Diego on

You have gotten some good responses so far. I particularly agree with Stephanie's. I would like to add something, however. Just because the behavior is not desirable to you or the teacher does not make your child "bad". You need to stop referring to your child as "bad" because he will grow up thinking of himself this way.
You need to have rules for him at home that are consistent. A reward chart or sticker chart works well. Let him know at the beginning of the day what is expected behavior for him. If you see him breaking a rule, give him a warning that if he does this again, time out will happen (if you don't like time out, taking away toys is also effective.) The trick in getting him to behave better is to use positive reinforcement and catch him doing good things. Tell him "I like when you did (whatever he did correctly).
As far as school, request to talk privately with the teacher. Arrange for someone to watch your child so he doesn't overhear what is being talked about. Ask the teacher what could be done differently to improve the situation. Agree to a plan of action with the teacher and if your child has not improved in a few weeks, I would ask to have him evaluated by the school system to determine if there are any type of learning or developmental problems present.

Love your child and spend as much 1:1 time with him as possible.

Best of luck,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.,
I don't think you need anyone to tell you that following directions and good behavior needs to be taught at a very early age. Did you not discipline your child as he grew up? I firmly believe that you give in all the time, it shows a lack of respect towards the parent. My daughter is now 27 months old and can be very stubborn at times (not many of them) If she wants to do something that I say "no" to, she will ask me over and over and over again. I only let this go on for a short time. Then I just simply IGNORE her. Works every time. Also, the last time I say "no" to her, I will say, "Absolutely not, and that is the last time I'm going to tell you"....then I ignore. Yes, she has fits, but not many of them. I am very consistent when I tell her "no" about things , and I believe that my child knows that I mean business. It's so hard being an enforcer, but is worth it. Of course you have to pick your battles, but whatever you decide, you need to stick to it.
You also need to find out what might be wrong. Talk to him, and MOST of all, LISTEN to him. You should try to spend one on one time with him doing something he likes to do. Your husband as well. He might just be looking for any attention he can get. Better to try to find the good in the child and build on it. You will soon see that a respecting relationship should blossom.
I wish you all the happiness in the world.



answers from San Diego on

Hi A., there has to be discipline and reward, he brings home a note, that he acted up, you discipline him, he brings home a positive not you reward him. You talk to his teacher let her/him know what your plan is, so she will send homes notes when he does well, Kindergarten is not mandatory, at some schools will decide that a disrupted child isn't ready for kindergarten yet. J. L.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi A.. I feel for you. My son, 4 yrs old, can be a handful. I like Stephanie's advice all together and definitely agree with her on the tv, games etc... I notice my sons has a better day at Preschool if it doesn't start out with any tv. If he watches TV he doesn't focus on eating his breakfast. So, the No TV rules stands on school mornings. Also, be consistent on your discipline when he acts out. If you say he isn't going to be able to play games or needs to have a timeout in his room then make sure you follow through and don't give in. Also, it may be very helpful for you to get some outside assistance from a Family/Parenting coach. Best of luck to you.



answers from Los Angeles on

Dear A.,

Hi, I am a mom of two kids that are almost adults and been married 19 years. I work part-time and volunteer at a Elementary school and see this behavior all the time. Please, please start working with your son on this, this affects alot of things he does in the future. It's testing and button pushing time for them at this stage. The best thing you can do is start creating a "time out" corner, taking away favorite toys and have him earn it back, have a calendar where you give him a "star" every day he behaves and gets a treat at the end of week, stuff like this really helps. Teacher sending home notes is a serious indication that he is not taking direction well nor respecting athority....neither one is a good thing. If not nipped in the butt now, this can only lead to bigger problems in the future. Good Luck.




answers from San Diego on

Hello, Well, this isn't going to be the easiest thing you ever do. However, if you are consistent, he should come around. Talk to him about how it feels to the other children when he is mean to them. Bring up times when he has had the same thing happen to him. Remind him how he felt. Find something that he would like to work towards having, such as a fun day, a special trip, a special art project, etc. Have him earn points or stars or whatever he chooses to earn this special trip/project. Reward him with this when he has a good day, take them away when he doesn't. If you stick with it, he should come around.
Good luck with your precious little boy.
K. K.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would take him out of Kindergarten for now. I had heard from friends that boys mature slower and they recommended waiting until boys are 6yrs old to start school. I did that and I believe it made a big difference.
About the behavior part, take as much advice as you can get.
Good Luck.


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Anelea,

As a parent coach, I help people deal with these types of issues all the time. I know how frustrating it can be, but there is a better way. Here is an article that I wrote that might be of some help to you. Feel free to contact me for further assistance.

Be well,
G. B., M.A.
Child Development Specialist & Parent Educator



answers from Los Angeles on

Hey A.,
I was an elementary school teacher for 17 years and from my experience following directions/listening is learned skill. It needs to be taught at home. You may need to set new rules at home such as give only one warning and then follow up with a consequence immediately after if he does not listen. If you see the consequence does not seem to be working, find another consequence until you find one that "strikes a nerve". There are some great books out there on this subject. One book that comes to mind is "Creative Correction" by Lisa Whelchel. It gives quite a few great suggestions on how to deal with different age children to help them understand how they should behave.
Additionally, disruption is also a learned trait. Start at home with talking around your table. If he interrupts, remind him he needs to wait his turn to talk, and if he does it again, have him sit away from the table on time-out. Keep following up with your expectations, for the moment you stop easing up, he'll go back to his old ways.
Most importantly don't forget to reward him for his good behavior. Have a chart at home for all the days he listens/follows directions and doesn't disrupt at school. Once he has met his goal reward him. Your reward could be something as simple as time at the park, an ice cream, a little toy, etc. Doesn't have to be expensive.
Also, from my experience boys seem to have a harder time settling into school. Will your five-year-old be turning six any time soon? If not, you could always consider enrolling him next year to give him another year to "grow up".
Last but not least, boys do have unique needs. May I suggest you get the book "Bringing up Boys" by Dr. James Dobson? This book helps parents to understand the uniqueness of boys and how to develop good behavior without squashing their persona.
Hope this helps.



answers from Los Angeles on

I thought 5 years old and starting kindergarten were very difficult and i waited until my son was 6 and had had 3 years of preschool. i think it is just harder for boys, especially independent boys. you have great advice already! For our family this is what worked-

first i started volunteering in the class room and that was hard for me with a 3yr old and a new baby at home but he needed me and i needed to be visible to the teacher. i needed her to know i was doing everything i could and i needed to see how he was behaving. this helped me have a better relationship with the teacher so we were able to work together on solutions that made scene for him. i found out he had a hard time focusing not a defiance problem. this made it much easier to reward good behavior like when he listened well or when he followed directions. i could pick the positives at home more easily as well and reward those.

second rewards!!- i love these we did lots of rewards he gained a ton of self confidence with these. he got a phone call from his uncle every time he didn't "move his clip" (this was the discipline used in the class room) your teacher has something I'm sure she uses to track behavior-ask what it is- in this case you would move your clip on a street light. green=warning yellow=loose recess red=loose recess & call to parents. i wanted the days he didn't move his clip to be the days he remembered and wanted to work for. if he went a whole week he got something special like go to his favorite ice cream or a new small toy. we came up with rewards together. the best reward though i have to say is just those phone calls from friends and family saying how proud they were and making a big deal of how smart and responsible he was. it helps to reinforce that they can do it!

we did of course use punishment:( and gaming- computer- tv all were used. this is a bad idea to play before school and before homework. it was limited on school days and taken on days he "moved his clip at school" we always told him tomorrow is another day so he didn't get too down about it but choices get consequences or rewards. i think it is big at this age to teach that they ARE in control of their decisions and personal responsibility is an important skill to have in life.

by the end of the year my son won a reward for great behavior!!!!! yea it was a long hard year but we did it and are looking forward to 1st grade believe it or not.

You can do this you do need to be consistent and it is a lot of hard work on your part but your son is so worth it. i cant express how much having a little boy scared me -i don't know anything about boys- but what a joy! we are learning together and it is amazing, i know you love your son so set him up to succeed it will bring you closer together and help him in the future.
good luck!!!!!!

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