OMG!!! How Do I Help My 5 Year Old???

Updated on October 03, 2013
B.K. asks from Purchase, NY
27 answers

Ok, so my son turned 5 in may. He has always been a little bit of a hitter, but nothing extreme. He started kindergarten at the end of august and things have gotten bad. This week we had to start half day kindergarten because the teacher felt like he was wearing out and acting out after lunch. Last week he got a detention IN KINDERGARTEN!!!! He walked up to a kid and just kicked him. Out at recess he hits and kicks. He is not a mean kid at all, I know it seems like it, but he really isn't. When I told him that he couldn't stay at school all day long anymore, he got a sad look and said "fine, I don't like school anymore". In the morning, he does amazing and the work he brings home is excellent. I don't know what I can do to stop this behavior. I started seeing a counselor about this yesterday and he see's her tomorrow for the first time. I get 8 free visits, so why not?! She said that with how demanding kindergarten is now, and the lack of play time, if she were in kindergarten, she would have "hitting hands" too by the end of the day. I have tried spanking, taking toys away, giving rewards for no hitting/kicking/ 123 magic, love and logic...nothing works. I'm scared that he's going to get kicked out. Please Help!!

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So What Happened?

Edit...I should have said that I have not tried all these things in 1 month's time. These are just things I've used over the course of 2 years. Yes, I tried spanking...for months when he first started, it helped tremendously. I do not fly off the handle and "hit" him. I don't believe hitting and spanking are the same thing. I think abusing and hitting are the same thing. And yes, he is doing mean things, but he is not a mean kid...I guess you'd have to know him to understand. I feel like somethings going on that I'm not seeing. I ask him why he does it and he says because kids make fun of him.

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answers from Reading on

How is spanking going to teach him that hitting is wrong?
He's too young for K. I would enroll him in a pre-k program and keep him out one more year.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

No spanking....that is just way too confusing if the behavior you want to stop is hitting. Have you asked him WHY he is doing this? He might not know right out, but that is where you need to begin the conversation. Is he very young and perhaps not ready for kindergarten? You say he is fine with the school work, but the social skills are very important and some kids (especially boys) need a bit more time to develop their social skills.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Have you tried simply putting him to bed earlier. All day school is exhausting for a five year old. This is another reason why people should not send their boys to Kindergarten when they are so young. Much is expected of them and sometimes they just can't handle it. Give him a calm environment at home, talk to him about expectations, have him sleep more and I bet you will see a different kid.

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answers from New York on

Hi B..

First of all, breathe. It's going to be okay.

I may be misreading your post, but if half days are an option, maybe that's just what he needs right now. The way school is set up these days, it often conflicts with kids' maturity levels. And if he just turned 5, he's likely a whole year younger than many of the kids he's with. Honestly, if you've been handed a workable solution in the form of half-days, then that sounds like a blessing.

In terms of the discipline methods you've tried, I agree with everyone -- you can't hit a hitter. Other than that, every single discipline method takes time. You really just have to pick something and stick with it. What makes it work isn't the method per se, it's the consistency, calm, and commitment you bring to it.

I hope this helps. If I've misunderstood, please let me know.

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answers from Dallas on

How can you justify spanking him to make him stop hitting when you are hitting him for hitting.

I am glad you are seeking professional help with this. At 5 yrs old, this behavior should have been stopped a long time ago.

Maybe he should either be held out of K or only participate in the morning session because he is not emotionally ready. There is nothing wrong with that... children mature differently.

At our school, we use daily reward charts and if you have the specified numbers of GOOD marks, then you go to the treasure box on Fridays.

Hopefully dad is also involved here and whatever consequence you choose with guidance from the counselor be consistant. It would probably be a good idea to take a couple of parenting classes as well so you can learn how to re-direct and stop behaviors before they get this far.

Best wishes.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Keep on with the counseling. One thing that you didn't mention-- but could be a huge factor-- is that he has a new sibling who is still wee little and needing a lot of your attention right now. I am not making excuses for his behavior but I have noticed that when kids act out during times of transition, the best solution is one which will involve the parents and the child (be sure not to just focus on his behavior).

Because you are already starting counseling, I don't want to interfere by telling you about consequences or punishments. Instead, here's one thing I have found which works *really* well in situations like this: positive attention during times of "neutral" behavior. Let me back up and explain:

Children typically show us three kinds of behaviors:
Positive-- they are pleasing us, we are happy
Negative-- a problem for us/others, we are unhappy
Neutral-- engaged in something they enjoy which neither pleases us nor upsets us.

I'll use myself and my son as an example:
When he puts his toys away, I am pleased. POSITIVE behavior.
When he leaves his toys out after being told to put them away, I am not pleased. This is a problem for me. NEGATIVE behavior.
When he is engaged in playing with his toys, just for his own pleasure of it-- NEUTRAL behavior.

Kids will show us the behaviors we focus on most. While hitting is certainly a negative behavior, the consequence should be given immediately and no more should be said about it. Not a lot of 'why are you doing this and that'... first, because kids cannot always articulate the 'why' and second, because of all the things they do, if we focus mostly on this, they will see that when they do this behavior, they get our attention.

When a child is having a rough time, I use Positive Non-Verbal Attention during Neutral Behavior. This is about affirming the child's *being*. Often, when parents are upset with their children, they tend to pull away a bit. The thinking is "I don't want to reward the child for misbehaving". That said, when the child is engaged in a neutral behavior, they are not misbehaving and THIS is the most influential time to silently acknowledge them. So, we do this with touch-- a gentle squeeze on the shoulder, a rub on the back, a kiss on the head, tousling their hair-- gentle touch conveys our love for them, our validation that they do exist. It's most powerful when done during a time when the child is NOT trying to please us or upset us, because it is what is termed "being love".. that is, we show them that we love them JUST for being. That their just existing has value to us. And it's important, too, that we NOT talk, not pull their attention to our own selves, but allow them to continue in the activity. So, a smile across the room, a wink, gentle touches all fulfill this need of every human being to feel loved.

I want to reiterate that this technique is not a discipline technique-- it is, however, one which supports the child in a really beautiful way. When a child is having challenges, I actually will keep track of how many times I am giving them this sort of attention--- I aim for about 20 times each day (you can mark it on paper or move a number of small objects from one pocket to another if that works better, magnets from one side of a board to another-- just keeping track helps us to be aware if we are doing this enough. I've used this with my own son as well as my preschoolers and saw good results when used in conjunction with age-appropriate consequences. Good luck!

ETA: respectfully disagreeing with the suggestion of asking a kid 'why'... I have found that it is very hard for kids to get at the root of this word. And as children get older, it has been observed that when they don't really know "why", they might lie, which puts them both in conflict with their selves as well as the adults. This is all about perception. So, instead, you might try asking very specific question: "what was hard about that for you?" "What happens for you/inside you when so and so does X?" "Since hitting is not a choice, how can you show So and So that you are upset with them?" I find that when I ask a child (restating the situation) "Sarah says she wants to play blocks by herself and I see you look very unhappy. What is hard for you about that?" I usually get a better answer and it helps the child to become more aware of their feelings, then we can lead the conversation to "what can you do instead? Let's make a list" and this often really helps kids when they can brainstorm on their own as to ways they might solve a problem.

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answers from New York on

If he's always been a bit of a hitter then this is something you should have been working on for the last 5 1/2 yrs. I think it's interesting that you've tried to teach him not to hit by spanking him. "Honey you shouldn't hit other people and I'll teach you that by hitting you." Kind of a do as I say not as I do situation.

How about taking it back to the basics of people don't hit living things. Period. We don't hit each other, we don't hit animals, we don't hit living things. Do whatever the counselor says and send a consistant message every single time instead of trying 500 different things hoping something sticks.

Maybe he does need to be pulled from school to give him a chance to mature a little.

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answers from New York on

My 5- and 6-year olds turn into Dr. Jeckyl when they haven't eaten or eat too much sugar and too little protein. Try a high-protein, low sugar breakfast and send a good healthy snack to school (cheese sticks are perfect) and see if that helps. I've also learned that high-fructose corn syrup makes them act this way, and was shocked to see that the Eggo Waffles, bagels, and whole grain cereals I was feeding them had corn syrup. I found the book "Little Sugar Addicts" to be very helpful in altering their diets and "fixing" their behaviors. Good luck. I tried it all too, and know how hard it is.

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answers from New York on

If the counselor says she would have hitting hands by the end of K You need a NEW counselor!!! ASAP! Lots and lots of kids are in full day kindergarten. Some start K not knowing any letters and are expected to learn to read and write by winter. Many have to learn to speak English as well. Some start k without any experience leaving mom. Hitting is not excused by any of this. Do not allow her to make excuses for your child. It is not ok for him to hit. A good counselor might find out IF he is angry, IF he is overwhelmed by K (another yr of preK might be a gift)

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answers from San Francisco on

Aside from taking him to the counselor, which I think is a great idea, you may also ask for a referral to a child psychiatrist. It's going to be a good idea to have him screened for any disorders.

That being said, at this point, he IS the mean kid. He's assaulting other children. The other children don't have "hitting hands" after a day in Kindergarten. I had full-day Kindergarten 35 years ago, and nobody hit anyone else! It sounds like the half-day of Kindergarten will be a good first step, but most of all, you need consistent discipline for your son. Stop making excuses for him. His behavior is not excusable. To me, when my kids do things that are blatantly unacceptable (and any kind of violence or willful defiance falls under this category), their whole entire world comes to a screeching halt. I get right down to their level, get right into their faces, and absolutely read them the riot act. Then, I find a memorable and persuasive punishment for them. So memorable that they think twice about ever doing it again. Surely you know your child's motivators. Use them ruthlessly.

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answers from Washington DC on

'always been a little bit of a hitter.' good for you for being honest about it, but i think you are a wee bit blind to the implications of this. i'm sure he's not a mean kid in your eyes, but to the kids whom he's hitting, he is indeed That Mean Kid. and do not grasp onto the lifeline of the post that suggests that he's the victim here. little guys don't respond like adults do the question 'why are you doing that?' and often just give an answer they think will please. and if the other kids are teasing him, he STILL needs a better response. kindergartners tease each other. i weary of every little hurt feeling getting hammered with the 'bully' label.
i think half-day kindergarten is a great idea for this little guy. afternoon exhaustion may well be a big part of the problem.
i'm very taken aback by your counselor suggesting that 'hitting hands' is okay. she's right about 5 year olds getting insufficient play time, though. putting him in for a half day may well take care of that.
i get that you've tried different methods over a period of time, but that's still a lot of different methods. and i think even spankers can agree that hitting a child for hitting is a very, very confusing mixed message. you've got to take a very firm, very no-nonsense stand to the hitting. if he's 'always been a little bit of a hitter' it shows that you haven't yet made it sufficiently clear that YOU (let alone the school) have a zero tolerance policy toward it. if this little guy were mine, every time he hit or kicked another child he would have been taken straight home and put in his room (or time-out, depending on his personality) and given zero attention. period. now that he's in school you can't take immediate action, but my kids would be in fear of the Wrath of the Gods if they came home repeatedly with reports of hitting. i would not hit them or yell at them. but they would lose all privileges that evening, no tv or play with friends, and if pushed i might institute a policy of Hard Labor (naturally adjusted for age- weeding or clearing rocks from the garden, sweeping the basement etc.)
don't make excuses for him.
develop a good Scary Momface.

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answers from Denver on

So, he just started the half day and the counseling, right? See how that goes. If he does OK in the morning, this issue is probably resolved. I need a nap in the afternoon too. I don't get one, but I need one. And I am not 5.

You may also want to get his blood sugar checked if he is usually sweet, because no one enforces good eating at school, and his mood change may be a sign of a blood sugar issue.

Also I'd advise against spanking in this case. If the lesson is that "hands are not for hitting", that's one method of discipline I'd leave alone. Too confusing.

Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

I am not an opponent of spanking, I believe it is one tool in the toolbox. However, I do not believe spanking is warranted when trying to stop hitting behavior in children, it sends a mixed message even the youngest pick up on. It sounds like you've tried a lot of things to stop the behavior, I wonder if you've tried too many. Trying new tactics with kiddos takes consistency and time; maybe you are not being consistent enough or commiting to a tactic for a long enough time to see the benefits.

Keep going to the therapist, but make sure she knows that however warranted she thinks the behavior may be ("if she were in kg she would have hitting hands too") it needs to stop and you need her to help you and your son learn tools to control his impulses.

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answers from Wichita on

I could say a lot to this post, but you've already got lots of good suggestions. One thing that I really want you to consider (and I didn't read all of the posts, so maybe someone else mentioned it, and I didn't catch it), but I would encourage you to back off on full day Kindergarten for right now. I know that daycare can be expensive, but I would seriously consider continuing 1/2 day Kindergarten (or going to preschool for this year), and then try full day Kindergarten next year. Your son is young for his grade, and he may need another year to be ready for Kindergarten. I am not an expert by any means, but I do have a 5 year old son in Kindergarten (and he will be turning 6 this month). There is a HUGE difference in his readiness from last year to this year, and I am really glad that he is going to be one of the kids who is a little older for his grade. I am also a high school teacher, and if you give me 1 month of teaching my students, without telling me their birthdays, I can almost always pick out those students who are young for their grade. It's not typically an academic difference so much as it is a social/emotional difference. I really think it could be a huge benefit to your son if you back off the pressure of Kindergarten. Choose 1 method to deal with the hitting and be consistent with it. Try full day Kindergarten next year.

Good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

You've tried all of those disciplinary measures in one month! No wonder you think nothing will work - you're not giving it long enough to make a difference.

And change your thinking about your son. He IS the mean kid. I'm wondering if he still naps. Seems to me that he gets overtired and that is what is causing him to be mean. I know when I'm tired, I'm certainly not at my most friendly state.

I think he needs to come home and take a nap and perhaps next year he will be ready to give up the naps. My GD took naps all through kindergarten.

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answers from New York on

"Hitting hands"? Why is it that every other kid can deal with the demands of kindergarten and not hit but your son can't. You and this therapist are making excuses for bad behavour. He is almost 5 1/2, a great age to start school, and he is having major issues. You need to get a better therapist, make sure he gets enough sleep and is well nourished.

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answers from Washington DC on

First, find another therapist. She is making excuses for his behavior. I can't imagine a competent counselor saying something like that.

Second, I'm sorry but randomly hitting people without cause is mean. You say he has always been a hitter, you need to look seriously into why he is that way. I am concerned for the children he hits.

I think you're doing the right thing seeking help. He may not be ready for school just yet. It may be better for everyone if you wait until next year to have him in kindergarten.

How did he do in pre-k or daycare? If his hitting was an issue there as well, his problems may run deeper.

Good luck!

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answers from Williamsport on

If he has no medical disorder, you can try to be more consistent and increase the consequence. Spanking stopped my son's hitting after one attempt at age 2. He's now five and more logic and empathy based for things and rarely needs a spanking to enforce a very serious behavior (which this would be imo). But don't just do your firmest thing sometimes. Do it every time if that's the path you choose. Whatever you deem firmest, compound some consequences if one isn't enough. Just be the SAME each time. Warn first and follow through if he uses the behavior. I'd probably tell my son very sternly that he cannot ever hit or kick other kids and if he does he will be spanked and lose his favorite thing PERMANENTLY to the thrift store and do a hard chore every day for a week. And I'd repeat as much as necessary. He is old enough to follow through at home after the fact.

You'd probably only have to follow through on that threat once for him to control hurting others because five year olds CAN control themselves (barring disorders) but hey, if it took one or two more times...

And in non-discipline moments be sure to teach him with calm talking that it is wrong to hurt and hit and kick other kids. But that alone won't suffice in stopping the behavior if he's set on doing it.

Otherwise if he absolutely cannot respond to discipline, there may be something wrong medically.

Be sure dad steps up to enforce as #1 role model if he's around.

Beware of counselors who tell you not to discipline.

btw, kids are not at all confused that spanking is a consequence for wrong behavior-including hitting. They are much smarter than that. That's a non-spanker's rumor.

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answers from Sacramento on

I would take your concerns to his pediatrician. He/she may have some useful ideas for you or suggest seeing a specialist to rule out any medical reasons for the lack of impulse control.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Let the next kid that he kicks kick him back. Let the next kid that he hits hit him back. When the kids that he assaults are allowed to fight back,he will stop.

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answers from New York on

Hi B., I'm so sorry you and your son are going thru this. I had the same experience when my 3-year old daughter started school. But she was just a ball of anger, there where many changes going on. Her dad and I separated, we had to move to a much smaller apt from the suburbs to the city, and I had to change her babysitter (who had her from when she was 4 months old). So as you can see, she had issues. Thankfully, I was very honest with her teachers and they helped us tremendously. She's now 6 and her problem is that she can't stop talking.

Have you tried getting a conduct sheet from the teacher?. Basically is a sheet of paper divided into how many days of the week- they also divide the days into AM/PM. The teacher just draws a happy, sad or neutral face depending on how the day/session went and a little comment on why she gave him that particular face.

My DD last year because of her talking had one and if she got 7 happy faces in one week she got to go to pinkberry, or just got a special treat. I say 7, because her teacher divided her sheet into am/pm sessions. 7 out of 10 ain't bad.

Taking away privileges also worked for me.

Big hugs. And it gets better.

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answers from St. Louis on

Ask you Dr. about ODD, way too many kids are misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD when in reality they have ODD. And with your son being only 5 there are many ways to learn to reparent him. And teach him better coping skills. My son suffere's from ODD, unfortunately he wasn't DX until he was 16. Wish more educators knew the signs to look for. Good luck with your little guy, don't give up. Your starting early in your search for answers. Also public school might not be the right fit for him. My son did much better, once out of the "system". He's not one of those kids that fit in a cookie cutter world. His 3 sisters did, he however marches to a different drummer.

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answers from New York on

Hi. I haven't read all of the response but wanted to share how we dealt with a similar issue. Our son is now in 1st grade. He was bored in K last year and needed more to keep him occupied. We were getting e-mails every week about not hitting, but attention grabbing acts that distracted the class.
Our solution was to pick a sport to keep him occupied. We actually picked Hockey. It helped him so much because his attention grabbing and aggressive behavior was redirected.
EVERYONE in my family wanted me to pull him out of full day K but I explained to do so would be to have to deal with it the following year where honestly I felt it was more tolerable for a K student than a 1st grade student to learn how to keep his hands on his own body.
I wish you the best.

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answers from Santa Fe on

I think going to a therapist is always helpful...just to talk over things. One thing I would do is go over scenarios with your son and teach him what to say and how to handle it. Have him practice it back to you. A frustrated 5 year old reaches a point where they may hit or be mean when they are not getting their way. Teach him what he IS to say to those kids being "mean" to him. I remember doing this with my son at that age. It helped. Do this daily. Remind him each morning he is not to hit or kick or physically hurt anyone. Remind him daily to tell an adult if nothing works. Praise and reward him like crazy when he gets it right! This is something that takes maturity....this will all be over with eventually. Hang in there!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

You are very frustrated for sure. But what I would do is tell the teacher she is going to have to figure this out and deal with it at school. It's her job to be his boss during the day and give him consequences during his time at school.

He is learning nothing by doing it your way, sorry. He needs instant consequences AT school. And sending him home is NOT a way to deal with this. They are taking the easy way out because this teacher just doesn't have the skills to manage your son. I'd be pissed they said he couldn't come to school full day. That had to hurt him and it did no good. He's still doing the same things correct? So they didn't serve your child at all, they got rid of him so they could have an easier day.

Tell the teacher that he isn't going to come home and get punished for what he did at school anymore. That there has to be something they can do to him there.

If he kicks or hits or pushes someone during recess he doesn't get to do recess anymore that day. If it's the last recess of the day he gets to stay inside the next morning at recess. If he does it again he stays inside the next recess again. And so forth. They have to get him to listen to them. If they don't he's NEVER going to listen to another teacher at all.

He has it figured out. He does what he wants at school, they're going to "tattle to you" on him and you can't really do anything to him that you haven't already done, he's okay with what you did and he lived through it so he's ready to do it again so he can have no consequences at school.

HOLY RUN ON SENTENCE! Sorry about that.

Tell the teacher you don't know what to do. Perhaps he needs some sort of behavior plan. Say that to her and she'll start managing him so she doesn't have to go through all the hoops and red tape to form a plan then have a team meet to approve it. She'd rather just manage him, really she should anyway.

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answers from New York on

I see you've already found your answer, that kids make fun of him. Now you need to deal with the teacher and school district. "Making fun of" translates into bullying in adult terms. What can you expect him to do? I wouldn't be surprised if he tried going to the teacher and nothing was done, so he takes it upon himself to try to solve the problem with hitting/kicking. In order for your DS's behavior to stop, the other students have to change/stop as well. Otherwise it will keep going. Each child resonds to bullying a different way. Some victims become extremely submissive and quiet, while others turn into a bully themselves. You've got to find out more details and let your DS know that you are trying to help him and promise not to yell. You've got to find out who, what , where, when, and how. Some of those details can be very important and your DS's teacher, principal, and school psychologist/guidance counselor will need the details in order to get it to stop. It is very important to stop the teasing as soon as possible. Here are some suggestions to help out with the hitting/kicking:
1. As I keep saying..get the other kids to stop teasing/bullying your kid.
2. Find a more constructive way your DS can let out his agression/frustration/depression at home. - A musical instrument, painting, sculpting, building things like models, crafts, punching bag, etc. It needs to be a physical activity. Why? Things like meditation allow his mind to keep replaying what happened on that day, instead of letting it go. Reading seems too much like school work.
3. Enroll him in a traditional martial art. Not the new stuff for self-defense. When you interview a martial arts teacher and the first words out of the teacher's mouth are about using it for self-defense, turn around and walk right out that door. You want a martial arts teacher that teaches self-control, confidence, respect, and self-esteem. Kung Fu and Karate are the more traditional martial arts that do not teach the art for self-defense. Self-defense is just an extra perk.

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answers from Los Angeles on

If it makes you feel any better, my middle child was put on detention in kinder. He and his best friend (two peas in a pod - smallest kids in the school, out to cause trouble) were running up to the high school kids (this is a kinder to year 12 college) and kicking them in the shins.

The school sorted it out there and then. They have a zero tolerance on this behaviour.

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