Help!!! My Son Won't Stop Acting up in School!!

Updated on November 04, 2013
A.T. asks from Longs, SC
31 answers

My son is 4 years old and he just started preschool this past July. So far he has been acting up, not listening, not completing work, or completing it very messily, shoving other kids (not meanly, just because we wants to stand next to his friend), running in the hall, etc. He is usually pretty active at home and has some issues listening to us. What I want to know is, does this sound like ADHD? If not, what can I do about it? Any advice is appreciated. I know there will be some negativity out there, but please, I am at my wits end. He is about to be sent to ISS at his school. I am trying desperately to avoid that room. The only control I have is to change his behavior ASAP. Thank you all in advance. As

I wanted to add on to this that my son is in what is called Child Development. It is a pre-k class offered at the elementary school that my daughter attends. She is in 2nd grade and didn't attend CD. He is in school all day, just like the rest of the elementary school. I would hate to pull him out because he wants to be a big boy and go to school like his sister. I cant afford to send him somewhere else. I am almost ready to pull him out though. He is a good boy overall, but his teacher literally said that he is "behind" because he couldn't write his name very well. He is 4!!!! He isn't supposed to be able to write it well.

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So What Happened?

After reading all your answers, I have made a decision. I don't believe my son has ADHD. It was a thought that I had, but I refuse to label him so young. I did spend some time teaching in a Head Start classroom and that is what I want for him. I have an appointment tomorrow morning to switch him to the local head start building. You all confirmed what I already knew, the teacher is in the wrong and I need to be an advocate for my little man. Thanks moms!

Featured Answers



answers from Dallas on

Change preschools. He'll have plenty of time to actually sit down and learn in school. Find a fun daycare that's not all about work. If they are freaking SUSPENDING 4 YEAR OLDS, then they are on another planet.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

Holy sh!t - they do ISS for 4 year olds? What the hell is the world coming to?

He sounds like a normal 4 year old to me, but this school does NOT sound normal. What kind of work is he supposed to complete? And how is a 4 year old supposed to complete it neatly? And why, oh why, is a school even considering ISS for a 4 year old?

If this were me and my child, I think I'd be shopping for a different school.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

he sounds like he need to be doing something other than going to school! he sounds like a normal 4 year old that needs to be outdoors playing, not inside doing work. He's 4! His only job should be playing!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from New York on

Good God he is four years old. School, work? He should be running around outside, playing, climbing and just being four years old. I think you need to find another preschool. What you do not want to do is turn him off to learning. A play based preschool is what he needs. Let him enjoy being four and then you can enjoy the pure delight that four year olds offer us.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

ISS? In-School Suspension? for a 4 year old? Run!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

ISS (In School Suspension) is absolutely ridiculous for preschoolers. How absurd can people get?
He sounds like a 4 year old.
Obviously consistent training, guiding, correcting is necessary, it's part of ongoing parenting & teaching children how to behave in society. Children (particularly young boys) ARE NOT meant to sit at a desk all day & complete worksheets. It's just not how they are wired.
As others have suggested, perhaps this isn't the right place for him.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

My son was in a play-based preschool with a large motor skills room and outside play twice a day. They could choose what they wanted to do and if a super active boy did not want to sit still doing fine motor skill activities that day he could go swing on the rope swing or throw basketballs into the small hoop or kick balls around until he felt more calm. They did have activity time (with different tables set up with interesting things to do) at one point in the morning and they could pick what looked interesting to them. They had circle time. They had a family style snack. They ALWAYs played outside and you had to have the proper outerwear there...if you forgot they had extras. They went sledding and skiing even in the winter. It was 3 hours a day for 2 or 3 days a week (whatever you chose). A 4 year old active boy does not yet need to finish work or behave perfectly. I think preschool is a time to learn some social skills and polite group behavior to get ready for Kindergarten (forming lines, doing an activity, etc) To me it sounds like you should find a better preschool for your son. Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

How is it that a preschool has ISS? Or has work to 'complete' at the age of four?

Sorry, to me it doesn't sound like ADHD, it sounds like no preschool I've ever heard of. I taught preschool for a long time and I have never had to deal with any of these 'issues' in the way you are describing it.

Maybe look for a preschool with an NAEYC certification? All of these things are fairly normal behaviors in Fours, for sure, and every single one of these behaviors has simple corrections:

child 'not completing work' though-- I am not sure about this. What sort of work would a child have to complete on a mandatory basis, besides helping with cleanup? Doing worksheets, etc. and demanding they be finished is in NO way developmentally appropriate for this age. It sounds like they have a very unqualified teacher if this is the case.

(I did a web search to find the NAEYC's Developmentally Appropriate Practice text for you; it's only available in book form. However, this link is on par with the NAEYC philosophy and it is something to look at to see if your son's preschool is in keeping with age-appropriate expectations:
Please take a moment to look through that web page and see how your son's program compares. All NAEYC certified programs must show that they have the structure in place to adhere to DAP guidelines.)

Kids pushing? Why, that kid is the one I might choose to stay with me and hold my hand for a bit, just until they settle their body down. We'd simply coach them through it: "Oh, Johnny, I saw you push Suzy when you were getting in line. Yes, I know you wanted to stand by Wyatt, and we need to make sure Suzy's all right".... there is, and should be, a LOT of social coaching going on at this age. Four is a prime age to focus on socialization (not so much on academics).

So, when I hear that these very manageable, common problems are getting your kid sent to ISS, I think that maybe a new preschool that actually understands child development is in order. This doesn't sound like a very qualified or well-managed program to me. Sorry. If it was my kid getting busted like this over these issues, I'd pull him. Sorry-- but everything you have listed with the exception of the pushing is nothing I would even call a parent about. (And it's very typical that kids who are angels at preschool will still have some issues at home... we're the parents, they feel safe to press boundaries with us, whereas many kids won't at preschool.)

I can't even imagine a preschool with ISS. Just screams to me: "we have classroom management issues and choose to punish instead of getting our teachers trained"...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

This is only Preschool.
He is only 4 years old.
I have no idea... WHY ON EARTH, a Preschool would expect a 4 year old to be and act like, a mini-adult.

Boys are active.
They just are.
I have a boy.
And 4 year old girl or boys, are not experts at listening or staying still as a statue nor are they quiet as a leaf.

Just because a kid is active, does not mean they have ADHD.
Kids are kids.
Kids are active.
It is just the way they are.
They move around a lot. They don't have multi-tasking skills like adults when it comes to "work."
They don't even have time management skills, like adults.
They don't even have fully developed brains yet, like adults.
They do not have ANY skills/aptitudes that are fully developed yet.
Because, they are not adults. And they are only 4 years old.
And to me, the Preschool's expectations upon the children, are WAY OFF BASE. And wrong.

Why do you have your son at that Preschool?
They sound very very, inept.
And to have ISS for preschooler's is really really off base.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Eau Claire on

I'd find a new preschool. This one doesn't sound like they can handle kids very well. At 4, kids should be having fun with very little structure.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I was surprised to find that he is in preschool after having read the headline. Is this how the teacher is describing your son to you? "Acting up?" Having "messy work?"

Find a new school. The staff and the systems in place do not sound appropriate for a preschool. Even staying home with you and reading, playing Simon Says, singing songs and finger painting will be a better preparation and experience than what he is currently getting from his school, and you are probably even paying for it. You should demand a refund.

Look for a school where child psychologists are available. Look for small class sizes. Look for teachers who are loving. Look for a place where the teacher does a piece of artwork as the children do it at the table to model what is expected and offer ideas about adding color. Look for a place with joy.

Best wishes.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Oh man, I thought he was 16.
4? Find a new school.
Our pre-k does not do work. Messy? They paint and play. NO academics in the sense of sitting down.

Since he is 4 don't worry right now, but do find a better school for KIDS.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I hope you have found another preschool.. preschool is fun. they play. they eat snacks. they learn about making friends.. they go to the carpet for a story once or twice a day.. and then there are educational games toys they can choose to play with.

get a new school where the teachers have realistic expectations and your son will enjoy school.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

this does not sound like a preschooler's story....

I mean, seriously, ISS? That's crazy, insane....& unacceptable to me as a parent.

this sounds more like a grade schooler's story. So take a look at the environment in which your child is placed & please determine whether or not he truly belongs there. Preschool is supposed to be a fun learning environment...not boot camp.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Most 4 yr old boys are like this. Is this an academic based preschool? You might be better off changing. It sounds like big expectations for a little boy.
It's early to diagnose ADHD. What kind of disapline have you used before this? Try Love and Logic. If you haven't taught him that his choice of behavior has consequences, now would be the time. HE has to change his behavior, you just have to be the one to instill the understanding he needs to. Find what is his motivating currency, the one thing that he wants bad enough to curb his impulses. make sure he has time with friends outside of school. They can be his motivation. He does need time to get his energy out. I hope they give him time at school, too.

The pushing and running should be delt with by the teachers at the school at the time of the offense. The incomplete work and messy work are par for the course for a 4 yr old. And should not be a factor in being sent to ISS. This school may not be the best fit for him.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

I've never heard of any four-year-old, ever, who was wonderful at listening, not acting up, being neat, and all that. That is all learned behavior.

Your post sounds as if his teachers just don't know what to do with him.

If the teachers don't know what to do with him, I imagine you need to find some teachers who do! Of course, your son has a lot to learn, but it's age-appropriate learning.

You can talk to your doctor about ADHD possibilities. In any case, you and your boy are *not* failures. Please look for another preschool setting that's a better fit.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

He sounds like a pretty normal 4 yr old.
Our son started a private montessori pre-school soon as he was potty trained at 3 1/2 and he had all the same issues for awhile.
It takes some maturity to get use to being in a classroom.
There were days when I came to pick him up after work and he was sitting in the front office coloring at a little table they had there for the kids.
For several months I was talking to his teacher every week (and sometimes every day).
Our son always wanted to be best at everything.
It was hard for him to accept that he didn't know it all and he had to learn - like everyone else - in the classroom and from the teacher.
For awhile he got into this thing where if the teacher had to correct him about something then he thought that the teacher didn't like him and if the teacher didn't like him then he was not going to worry about pleasing her.
The teacher had NO IDEA he felt this way.
Eventually I figured out he was trying to be a perfectionist and I explained to him that everyone in his class is there to learn how to do things - they don't come in already knowing how to do everything - and you have to listen to the teacher so you understand the rules and instructions.
There will be distractions but don't pay attention to what the other kids are doing - you listen to the teacher.
I told the teacher that he felt like she didn't like him when she corrected him - she was really surprised.
I said that our son needed a little 'make up and be friends' moment after a correction - and she completely understood.
Now when she needed to correct him or explain the rules to him she'd ask if he understood and are we ok and give him a little hug.
He outgrew needing that little reassurance in a few months and he was soon a model student.
(Our next problem was he wanted to explain the rules and be the class 'rule enforcer' - I had to tell him to let the teacher do that.)
Where we lived you could start kindergarten if you were 5 yrs old on or before Sep 30 - his birthday is near the end of Oct.
He was in pre-school several years and was 5 only for 2 months in kindergarten before turning 6 - so he was on the older side and usually the oldest in his class unless there were any earlier Oct birthdays.
That little extra maturity has been a very good thing for him for all his grades through elementary school, middle school and now high school.
I think your son will be fine - it's just going to take a little time to work through it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Um, there's no "work" in preschool, it's just play.
Sounds like he's not in a good program, look for something better.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Take him to an occupational therapist who works with sensory integration/processing dysfunctions, and have her assess him. It sounds to me that he is seeking sensory input, and he will get it one way or another. She can work with him and you to help with this.

Your son very well may have ADHD, but if he has sensory issues, medication for ADHD will not help this part of it. You need to work on several fronts to help him. Early intervention is what he needs.

I don't know anything about ISS or his preschool. It could be that this is not the best preschool for him. If you can talk to the EI school department about him, they might be able to help you. Show them any private assessments/evaluations you have. You might have to travel to a school outside your district, but if they have a school that helps kids with these issues, you and he would be better served than putting him in a school without services.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

My oldest went to a preschool through the park district, and my youngest is currently in PreK at the elementary school. Both programs had roughly the same schedule:

Opening topic/subject - teacher and kids on the carpet
free play with 4 or 5 themed activities to choose from
an art project or sometime of paper activity to complete
outdoor play (or physical activity if the weather's bad)
closing activity

The only "work" they had to do was that art project. Most of them were pretty sloppy and/or only barely completed in the beginning. Some of the kids did great, but most of them were really still learning. And that's ok! It's completely age appropriate.

From your description, it sounds like your son's behavior is completely normal and the teacher's expectations are not at all appropriate for a 4 year old. Her expectations are more in-line with a 6 or 7 year old. My oldest is in 1st grade, and he would get on blue (their colors go green, blue, yellow, red) for running in the hallo, but he would also have a chance to go back to green if he was good for the rest of the day. And an ISS would not even be considered.

I didn't know ISS was really done anymore! I thought schools had moved away from that entirely, and when I was growing up, only high schools had ISS rooms.

I would find another school.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have a 4 year old daughter in preschool and everything you describe sounds completely normal to me. I have to tell her everyday, twice a day to not run in the halls and she's been at this school since she was 2.5 years old. I actually had to google ISS. I looked at alot of preschools, have friends with children in many others and have never heard of a preschool with ISS room! The teachers and administration do not sound competent to me if they cannot find a more creative solution. I agree with everyone else - find a better fit at another preschool.

Do you have conversations with him about your expectations about his behavior while at school? You'll probably need to reinforce those often.

Also, is he in other activities? I've found that most other activities are too structured on top of the structure of school for my daughter and too much structure definitely affected her behavior. The only on that really works is gymnastics that while structured is fast pace and high energy.

Finally, make sure he is getting plenty of sleep that has a huge impact on my daughters mood, behavior and ability to pay attention.

good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

sounds pretty normal to me

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Is this his first time in school? 4 is very young and if he has never had any kind of structured school it will be an adjustment. I would give it a little time. The teacher should be handling this at her end without a phone call / note for every little thing. Unless your son is completely out of control and hurting people I think it sounds like little boy adjusting to new rules etc. have you tried any of the tried and true methods at home of dealing with this? I don't know what the ISS room is but I know that before a school can stick him into any kind of special ed program he has to be diagnosed and tested. And they don't do that at preschool. You should get the book 1,2,3 magic and try that first before jumping to any conclusions about a medical diagnosis.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

What kind of work do they have to "complete" in preschool? Kids this age are typically pretty undisciplined. Sorry I don't know what ISS is, but you might practice the freeze game with him to develop more self regulation. It also sounds like he could benefit from running around before school to get his energy funneled. Does he go half or full day?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Hello A.:

They have a room dedicated to bad kids in preschool? I'll bet you $100 that there is little to no quality supervision happening in a place like that. Start looking for another preschool.

Also, try to put the thoughts of ADHD and behavior problems out of your head and try be an advocate for your child if something like this happens again. As you look at other schools, be sure to ask the teachers how they address behavior problems. (Your son does not have behavior problems, but it's always good to know how they handle discipline.)

Often, when we get a bad report about our kid, we feel guilty or embarrassed and start trying to figure out what's wrong with out kid. Well, usually nothing is wrong.....he's just a kid who is acting like ........ a kid.

Keep it moving,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

This is a school issue. They have a lot of resources at their disposal. Most school districts have a full time psychology team. One or two of them need to come and observe kiddo in the classroom. They can help the teacher learn better techniques to deal with him.

The psychology staff can also make recommendations as to what avenue they think will help kiddo the most, such as a full evaluation.

The school needs to deal with this and perhaps when the psychologist who does the initial observation sees kiddo at his worst they'll be able to get an aid in the classroom to help with just him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Yep, look for another preschool -- and be sure he's not in preschool for too long each day.

Is he currently in preschool five days a week? He shouldn't be. How many hours each day? No more than three might be best for him.

He might do much better on a schedule of three days a week, three hours each of those days. Many preschools have similar schedules. He may simply not be mature enough yet to handle it if he's doing five days or more than three hours a day. If you are calling it "preschool" but actually it is all day for five days, it's day care, no matter how much preschool "curriculum" they offer, and he is getting too much of it. He does indeed need to learn to cope with structure, listening to an adult who is NOT you, not shoving, etc., but if he is thrust into too much "school" time too early he is going to have these issues.

If the preschool already is a short schedule (a couple of days, not five, and a couple of hours, not all day) then you need to look into another preschool as well, one where the teachers are experienced and the class sizes are small. Be honest and frank about his issues and see how they react.

Consider too whether he should just not be in preschool right now. You can wait and send him starting in January (which many do) or next summer.

If you feel he must be in preschool right now because his birthday falls so that he is five in time for kindergarten next fall (fall of 2014) consider waiting a year and having him in preschool another year then starting K in fall 2015, if he is still not mature enough to start at five. It is OK to wait to start; better to start K later than to start "on time" and have an awful, stressful year because a child is just not mature enough yet to be in K. Remember, K is like first grade used to be, and kids are expected to learn much more, much faster now.

Please think hard about whether you are looking to label him with ADHD too soon. It is so common now for parents to leap to the idea that their child might have ADD or ADHD when what's going on might be basic maturity issues that are normal and typical. Get him evaluated if you are worried but don't assume it's anything "diagnosable" or medical; he may simply not be ready for school yet and it's not a black mark against him, or against you as a parent, if you hold back on preschool and possibly K so his behavior can mature.

Talk with the preschool teachers and director at your current place, too. Ask them if they see just basic maturity issues or something else. But take it with a grain of salt if they seem to want kids this age to sit still, do "school work" etc. - they may expect too much of young kids. Ask if THEY consider this an "academic preschool" and if they do, seek out a "play-based preschool" instead.



answers from Columbus on

I would strongly suggest that you find a play-based preschool and switch him. At 4, he doesn't need to be doing "work" that is graded or critiqued. He needs to learn social interactions, through supervised play.

When he gets to kindergarten, if he knows the basics (the letters, numbers 1-10, shapes & colors), the teacher will have no problem teaching him to read and other "school" stuff. What the kindergarten teacher does not have time to do is help him with the basics of socialization which preschool SHOULD be helping him with.

Seriously, kids learn through play, especially young children. Find a preschool that focuses on kids learning through play, and go with that instead. There is nothing wrong with an energetic 4yo. He just needs help working on his interactions and problem solving with other kids, and preschool should be focusing on that, not worksheets and homework. :)



answers from Chicago on

How do you discipline him? Are you consistent? Does Dad help with discipline? Did his Teacher mention ADHD? If not, ask them since they are the ones around him. I assume they don't think he is otherwise they wouldn't send him to "ISS" (i don't know what that is but you made it sound like it's for naughty kids).

I hate when parents automatically go to ADHD instead of looking at their parenting first. Talk to his Teacher, ask friends and family what they think, talk to the pediatrician about parenting advice and ADHD signs.


answers from New Orleans on

My son made 4 in june and he's active. He goes to pre-k everyday and is well behaved and listens at school. At home its another story. Everything goes in one ear and out the other. His sisters wasn't like this at this age. Everyone tells me its because he's a boy! My brother was bad around this age also. He came home from school everyday in trouble. My mom started using the "treat bag". If we were good everyday or the whole week we got to pick something out of the bag. It was cheap stuff....Hot wheels cars.crayons,books,etc. It seem to work. Maybe try something like that to see if it helps?



answers from Las Vegas on

Isn't he suppose to be learning all this in "pre"school? Sure they need your support, but I wouldn't be so concerned with ADHD.

Make it a nightly practice to check his behavior in school and talk about it. Ask him if it is right to push or would he still get to see his friend outside if he just waited in line. After you have talked to him a few time, then let him know there will have to be a consequence. Once you make the announcement to him, you have to stick to your guns and do it.

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