My Daughter Won't Listen to Her New Preschool Teacher

Updated on April 21, 2012
P.W. asks from Memphis, TN
14 answers

Hi! I need some advice on what to do here... My daughter is 31/2 years old and has been in preschool since she was 2. She is a sweet girl and her preschool teachers have never complained on her until now. Her preschool has web cams and I have been watching her. Her teacher complains that she doesn't listen and tells her no when asked to do something. There are 14 kids in that class and only one teacher! When most of the other kids are on the carpet or sitting at the tables, she is up playing with the toys. I see that her teacher appears (no sound on cameras) to ask her to come to the carpet or table and my daughter doesn't do it. But, the teacher doesn't do anything beyond that either. Just writes her up and gives it to me. My daughter is not the only child who does this. There are about two or three other kids as well. I have tried punishing her at home. That didn't work. I tried the reward system with her like bringing a special snack or toy with me when I pick her up that she can have if she got a sticker that day. Didn't work either. If for some reason any other teacher is in the room, my daughter listens just fine. One week, her former teacher took over that class and she was a star student the entire week whereas with this new teacher she gets written up almost every day. I am concerned that all of the negative reactions from the teacher are not good for her. I do not feel right punished her at home for something that happened so many hours earlier in the day. I feel like the preschool needs to get with this teacher and help her explore other ways to deal with strong willed little girls like my daughter. Please help!!!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your responses! They really helped! I have decided to have my daughter moved from this teacher's room. I hated to have to do that because my daughter is a creature of habit and change is hard for her. I had hoped that they would make some changes on the teacher end of the problem, but it became quiet clear that wasn't going to happen so I made what I hope will be the best decision for my child in the long run. I think that it is rediculous, however, that I have to move her just because the so called adult over these kids can't keep control in her classroom! :(

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answers from Dallas on

I wonder if something happened between them early on. My son did the same thing and only with 2 teachers...who at some point had ticked him off so much that he just wouldnt do what they wanted no matter what!

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answers from Portland on

Added: just to clarify, from your SWH, you stated that :"I have asked why there is no assistant in my child's classroom and they said that there aren't enough kids for two teachers! I thought that was crazy! "

Yes, P., it is crazy. Ratios *DO NOT* work that way. Your director is either shining you on, or is really not qualified to be doing her job. A ratio is about the Maximum number of children one teacher may have. She can have a max of nine in a three's room. I could go on... if I were in your shoes, I'd be looking for another place. Sorry.

First of all, you are correct: punishment at home for not listening is far too disconnected from what/when the incident occurred.

Second, from what you describe, it sounds like this teacher needs to beef up on her classroom management skills. If she is moving your child along with the group for snacks, etc., that's one thing. Is she wanting your daughter to participate in story-time for the entire group? That's quite another thing.

From the NAEYC Developmentally Appropriate Practice handbook:
"Adults provide many opportunities for 3s to play by themselves, next to another child (parallel play) or with one or two other children. Adults recognize that 3s are not comfortable with much group participation. Adults read a story or play music with small groups and allow children to enter or leave the group at will."

by contrast, under "inappropriate practice": "Adults expect children to participate in whole group activities. They read a story to all the children at once, expecting them to all sit and listen quietly. They do not allow the children to leave the large group activity."

When I had my preschool groups, there was always a second, quiet option for children who did not want to come to group circle times. Sometimes this was looking at books in the cozy corner or working puzzles at the table. The second option was presented in a way which allowed children to play in a way which didn't disrupt what the group was doing. (Thus, they couldn't have the run of the room, but they weren't forced to sit if they really didn't want to.) My experience, however, is that many preschools treat little ones as if they are older, in kindergarten, and do expect them to all sit quietly. I don't agree with this practice, but it is common.

I also looked online at the teacher/child ratios in Tennessee:

The information above is for a licensed day care and not for a home daycare provider. As a preschool teacher myself, I do not know how one can run a high quality educational program with 14 children and one teacher, personally.

Lastly, in my opinion, a confident preschool teacher understands that while children are very sad when they must transition teachers, the teacher must be in charge of the classroom. I personally wouldn't send home a note about 'not listening' to a parent-- a note home about an injury or a phone call, certainly, about concerning behavioral issues, but not a note home. In my opinion, it's MY JOB as a preschool teacher to manage my classroom or to work as a team with the family if the behavior is concerning. Routine not listening needs immediate correction, not a note home.

So, unless you've really misled us in your description of this new teacher and her actions, I think a conference with the teacher, first, then the director (to problem solve as a team) is in order.

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answers from Columbia on

It sounds to me like the problem isn't your's the teacher!

Can you ask that she be moved to a different class? Or perhaps talk to the teacher and find out why she cannot seem to exert the proper authority to cause a 3 year old to listen to her?

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answers from Honolulu on

Some preschools are very rigid.
Some are more nurturing.
When my son was in preschool, it was mixed ages. My son was 4 but some others were your child's age. They also would do what your daughter does. The Teachers were nurturing about it, not demeaning. And the Teachers at my son's school, understood age-related behavior.

Punishing her at home, will not work. By the time she gets home, what she did in school, was too long ago.
Kids this age, do NOT have perfect deductive or inductive reasoning ability. Nor are they self-reflective.

Your daughter is 3.5 years old.
To me, the "expectations" of her, at school, is not in line with her age.
There is a wide range of ability at this age. And being still as a statue and listening like a Monk, is not a fully mastered skill yet.

AND, your daughter's school does not have adequate coverage. They need another adult/Teacher/Aid there.
And, that Teacher that writes up your daughter, does not seem to be a nurturing effective Teacher. Nor does she handle age related behavior very well. It seems she is expecting a 3 year old to act like an 8 year old.

Maybe, another school might be better for her.

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answers from Jacksonville on

There is something about this teacher that doesn't get your daughter to respect her. And her lack of discipline at the moment sends the wrong signal too. And here is a link for the child to adult ratio for your state. If she is in a 3yr old room they are way over the limit of kids!!!


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answers from Minneapolis on

Is agree 100% with what others have said about all 3 year olds not being developmentally ready to join structured activities all the time. But in this case your DD selectively detaches with this particular teacher. I really think the teacher needs to reach out to your DD and try to build a better relationship with her. Something may have happened to cause her not to trust this teacher. A stern tone? A reprimand? Whatever it is, your DD doesn't like this teacher enough to not do as directly asked. Why not? Ask your DD, why do you sit nicely for Ms. X but not Ms. Y? Is Ms. Y good building trust with little ones? Is she loving and caring towards your DD? Does your DD just love the other teachers so much she is bothered to have this teacher replace her favorite? It could be something really small but to your DD it is a big deal. I think getting to the root of the problem is the answer, not punishing her at home. I question a school "writing a 3 year old up for bad behavior" almost every day for not joining a group. It's not like she is hitting or kicking anyone, or disrupting the class activity. It sounds like a very authoritative environment. I'm sorry your DD is struggling, I think you need to find out why, give her some time and those teachers need to be more patient with her too.

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answers from San Francisco on

That was my younger daughter when she was in preschool! Here's what we did:
1) Let your daughter know that dire and severe consequences will ensue if you hear of any misbehavior in class. (Be specific. Moving bedtime back 1 hour for each infraction worked wonders for us within a week.) Ensure she is getting enough sleep at night and that she eats a good breakfast, so she has the best chance of having a good day.
2) Call a meeting with the teacher and preschool director. Let them know that you are sending your daughter to school ready to learn - well-rested, well-fed, and with the threat of severe consequences should she misbehave at school. However, let them know that now that you have done YOUR part, they have to do THEIR part. Just complaining to you is not sufficient. They need to enforce discipline and not allow this behavior to continue. Ask them what their plan is to restore order to the classroom. Why was the substitute teacher able to enforce discipline, however the regular teacher can't? Bottom line, let them know that these notes home indicate to you that the teacher is not doing her job. She is expecting you to discipline a 3 year old from afar. As we all know, discipline of children this age is best done immediately, or the undesirable behavior will never change. The teacher needs to be accountable for discipline in her classroom. I'd also ask why there is no aide with 14 preschoolers in the classroom. Is that even legal?

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answers from Champaign on

My son is five and currently his head teacher in his pre-school class he doesn't respect very much. He likes her, but she is very timid, very quiet and doesn't do well when it comes to discipline. Her assistant has been with my son since he was 2, she has followed with him from room to room (she's attached to all the kids). But if the assistant teacher is on vacation or out sick and there is a sub in there (possibly one of the young kids that usually help), he is a completely different kid because he knows he can be (loud, disruptive, not listening). I've addressed it with him and it's getting better - cause lets face it, he's got to learn to respect all adults, teachers, etc. But if he knows he can get away with something - he's going to try. Maybe your daughter just needs some time to build a bond with her - but she needs to be firm with your daughter and not let her tell the teacher what she will and will not do. It sounds like your daughter is testing her limits - but I also think your right that the teacher needs to figure out a way to deal with her, cause just writing her up is NOT how to deal with the situation.

Another thing - she shouldn't be the only teacher with 14 kids - there should be another teacher, helper, etc in that room with her at all times, not one person can keep dips on 14 kids, which is probably why she doesn't work on ways to get your daughter involved - cause she has a group that is together and she can't chance losing all their attention.

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answers from Washington DC on

ETA: I think you need to put on your mom hat here and evaluate if this is the right place for your DD or not. For one, I think that they need another teacher or an aid. For a daycare, for example, in TN, they need 1 teacher per 9 kids: - If they "don't have enough kids" what's the legal ratio they are waiting for? What those ratios mean is that you can have UP TO that many kids per one person, but more kids than that needs more teachers. So going by that website, 1:9 means that 10 kids needs 2 teachers, not that you can have up to 18 kids with one teacher. Were it me, I'd be verifying their story with the state.

For two, they move children out if they don't listen, yet the teacher doesn't punish effectively. Keep an active 3 yr old sitting all recess for not listening in class? That's 1, too long (both length of consequence and length of time between action and result) and 2, backwards. You want a kid to be quiet and calm? Wear them out!

Three, I think that even if your DD cries when leaving that class or school, it's in her long-run best interest. You need to choose for her. If my DD chose her breakfast, it would be ice cream every day.

I would be looking for another school and I would give her friends' parents my contact info and say, "Let's get the kids together sometime." She can maintain friendships beyond the classroom. The director either isn't "getting it" that it's just with this teacher or doesn't want to get it. My friend got to a point with her DD's old school where she felt like they were just waiting for her DD to be bad. She moved her child to a new school and the kid just blossomed. Not every school/teacher/class is right for every kid.

Is it your DD or is it a class management issue? What is the ratio in your state? Here a class of 16 would have 2 teachers (1:8 for 4 yr olds).

There are also teachers where the kids know they can push buttons or where the personalities clash. I had a rotten bus route. Nobody liked us. Got so bad that there was literally a riot on the bus and the driver had a nervous breakdown and quit. The next driver eyeballed us all on the first day and said we WOULD sit down and behave on HER bus and she would take no nonsense or we'd be finding another ride. Didn't have a problem after that, and I ended up loving that driver as a person and she even came to my HS graduation party. The difference in behavior between teachers makes me wonder if the teacher is one of those who doesn't manage a class/command attention as well as the other one.

So...about that...since she can't have her old teacher back all the time (does she miss her?) how are you going to get DD to behave? I would talk to her. Ask her what's going one. Why doesn't she listen to her teacher? See if you can get any insight there. You can also ask for a meeting with the teacher and the director. Clarify their response and expectations for DD. Find out if the teacher should have an aid and if so, why doesn't she?

When SD was clashing with a teacher, we told her that her job is to listen to the teacher and not read during science or get up or talk to others during lesson times. We worked really hard to get her through the last few months of that year. We worked on her behavior at home, too, and if she wanted to go to a party, she couldn't have any really bad notes sent home that week. I do agree that a 3 yr old needs something immediate,too. If all the teacher does is talk to her and write you a note, what is the consequence? Not much.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

The teacher needs to build a relationship with your daughter. Apparently she has no connection with your daughter. She should be getting down to her level, making sure she has your daughter's attention and then speaking to her. Is this what she is doing? She needs to talk to your daughter about why she doesn't want to come and sit on the rug. Three year olds should be spending most of the day playing - the is how they LEARN. She should NOT be spending most of her day in structured activities. It also should be fine if she opts out of some activities - as long as she is not loudly disrupting the class.

She also NEEDS a second teacher. I looked it up and the Tennessee ratio for 3 year olds is one adult for every 9 kids. So rourteen 3 year olds REQUIRE 2 teachers. Tell the director - and let her know you will be reporting this to the state - it will be a BIG deal for her to lose her certification, so she WILL fix the problem.

Your daughter is 3. Preschool is about learning to socialize with other children and learning to love school and learning. It is not about punishing and 'writing up' little kids. @ Catherine - threatening with dire and severe consequences for not participating in mandatory circle time. Really? I don't see how that will instill a life long love of learning.

Nothing you can do hours later - either punishing or rewarding her - will change what she does in class.

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answers from Washington DC on

Punishing her at home won't work (as you have found) because she does not in any way connect the punishment you're giving her with her own actions much earlier at school. She just can't connect things that far apart in time, even if she says she understands. The teacher needs to have some form of correction that is immediate, which is the only way kids learn to make firm connections between doing X and getting consequence Y.

If it is shown on the cameras (how do you see this? Online? Never heard of a preschool doing this in ways parents could watch) that other kids are doing the same thing, and it's not just your child getting up and not participating as asked, then that is a record right there that the teacher lacks control over the classroom. She may not be engaging or interesting enough for the kids. She may have a very soft and quiet style compared to the previous teacher who may have been very outgoing. She may be a "commander" type who expects a child to obey when she yells "Come over here now" whereas the kids are used to a differetn style. She may not know how to gain a child's attention and get it focused back on her or on the group activity.

I would talk to the director and say what you observe on the camera and that this seems to be a problem beyond one child (though don't sound like "My darling would never do anything wrong" -- that only makes the director and teacher defensive). Ask if you can observe a day in person if there is some way you can do that and not be seen by your child, since you would distract her. Get other parents involved if you know them, and ask if they too feel this teacher is not getting the kids to do what they need to be doing; ask them to go to the director or teacher with you.

Talk to the teacher about whether she gives your child any immediate consequences for not listening, for instance: One call to come over here is the warning, the second time, you have to sit out of an activity or whatever is appropriate. You should not be disciplining for this at home.

The teacher may be inexperienced or very experienced but with a style that is not meshing with these kids. Point out that these problems evaporated when the other teacher returned temporarily.

You don't want to be harsh on the teacher but you also need to work with her and the director to see if your child needs a different teacher.

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answers from San Francisco on

I agree that the teacher needs to step up. Your daughter does this to this teacher because she knows she can get away with it. Apparently the other teacher has already established her authority and your daughter does not push that envelope.

The preschool teacher does need to implement some consequences for negative behavior. If she doesn't, she's going to end up with 14 kids running all over her.

I also believe, however, that you do need to punish her at home, even if there has been a consequence metted out at school. She needs to understand that there is communication between you and the school and that if she does not meet your expectations for her behavior at school, there will be a consequence at school. You say you tried that but it didn't work. Please don't tell me you put her in time out for 2 minutes. If so, no wonder it didn't work. If I thought I could do whatever I wanted all day and my only consequence would be sitting in a time out for 2 minutes, you bet I'd continue to do whatever the heck I pleased. Not really a deterrent there.

So, the teacher needs to step up, but so you do. If you both step up, your daughter will step up also.



answers from Los Angeles on

in my daughters class there is 8 children per adult (this is in ca though). if there is only the teacher and the aide then there is only 16 children that day in the class. the teacher needs an aide to help weather its a parent or a teachers aide. my daughters teachers with grab their hand and guide them back to where they need to be. if they refuse they have to move their name to yellow or orange then they do not get a sticker that day.



answers from Dallas on

She does it because she knows she can. I think you need to get with the teacher and you both need to be on the same page! She may not be able to do much besides make her sit out. If you are not on the same page with the teachers now you will not be once she's in school. Kids need to know that you communicte with the teachers and that you are both on the same page and yes is she gets in trouble at school it's not just their responsiblility to dule out punishment you need to too. If you meet with her you might beable to figure out ways to help her know how to deal with your daughter. I have to have meetings with my 9 year olds teachers each year and let them know this works with him this does not or they are lost. That is a lot of kids for one teacher of that age. I would found out what ratio is allowed I don't think 14 to one is right for that age.

Good luck and God Bless!

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