Physical Aggression at School

Updated on August 08, 2019
N.Z. asks from Los Angeles, CA
19 answers

My son is 4.5 and has been attending the same preschool since he was 2.5. The preschool has one class per age group at this location (there are two locations) so he's pretty much been with the same kids since then.

There's a child I'll call John, who has always been aggressive -- hitting, punching, biting, kicking, etc. There's been some improvement as he no longer bites, but there's still hitting and punching. There's also been some improvement in the frequency, but my son still comes home and tells me on a weekly basis that he was hit or punched. The teachers are all aware John is aggressive. Some parents have pulled their children out of the school or sent their children to the other location because of John. But that’s the last resort because I generally like the school and the teachers.

It happened again yesterday -- my son was punched in the stomach. When I asked my son if he yelled "stop!" to let the teachers know (that's what the teachers teach them to do when they're hit), he told me he didn't because it was in too much pain at that time. And apparently, he never told the teacher. (I've role-played yelling stop! and even pushing the aggressor away because my son is very passive.)

According to the school's handbook, the school's policy on discipline involves warning, positive reinforcement, encouragement, offering choices, redirection, and/or joint problem solving. In stances of physical aggression or extreme disruption, children are placed in a brief time out followed by a quick discussion.

I thought that by the time the kids were in the 4-5 age group, John would've grown out of it, which is why I have never made an issue of it other than to make sure his teachers knew what was going on. But he hasn't. Although I understand that some kids just don't learn to keep their hands to themselves until much older, I've been dealing with this for TWO years so I'm extremely frustrated.

So my question is, should I talk to the mom and/or the grandparents? John, his mom, and his grandparents all live together. John's mom is a single mom in her early 20s, I believe his grandparents are his legal guardians, and I see the grandparents at school more than his mom at school functions and at drop-off, which is why I'm wondering if I should talk to the grandparents. The school is doing what it's been doing for the past two years and it hasn't worked (can't expect to do the same thing and expect different results!) so I feel I need to try something different, like approaching John's mom or grandparents myself. If not, what else can I do?

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D..

answers from Miami on

The school needs to change their lazy routine and you should work on this end. The parents/grandparents have no incentive to listen to anything you say because they have no consequences for the child’s behavior.

Call social services and talk to them about the childcare’s poor handling of this child. If social services gets involved, all of a sudden the adults here will be on the hot seat.

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M.J.

answers from Sacramento on

As the parent of a child with ADHD who was kicked out of preschool, I can offer another perspective. My kid was the violent one and we were doing everything we could to get him help. No one takes you seriously with a preschooler who's aggressive and we had to fight, fight, fight to get him medical help.

Don't approach the family. I don't see any positives to that. I would get on the preschool to do their part in having teachers trained to deal with his behavior. Many areas now have laws preventing schools from kicking out preschoolers, because it sets those kids on a downward spiral (our now teenager has always hated school and we tie it to being told he was a bad kid by his first preschool). They're supposed to have a therapist/psychologist advise teachers on the most effective strategies for dealing with problem behaviors. Get on the preschool to do more. It's not ok that kids are being hurt and they're just doing the same old thing as they've always done.

ETA: I now work in the school system with kids with disabilities, including behavioral ones. There are a lot of things they can do at the preschool level to help the boy who's exhibiting violent behavior. The school can also recommend an evaluation from the local school district to see if he qualifies for their preschool classes for special needs kids.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

*You* like the school and the teachers. How much does your son like it - enough to not care about getting punched in the face on a daily basis?!

You certainly need to move your son. Either to a different class (age group), as mynew suggests below, or to a different school.

8 moms found this helpful

C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

Personally I would tell the school that they need to keep John away from your son and if he gets punched or hurt one more time you are going to take your son out of the preschool. You need to tell them EVERY single time there is an incident. Make a big deal about it...they need to know. I'm sure they are working hard with John, but it sounds like he is a child who needs an adult who follows him around each day due to his issues whatever they may be. At the same time start researching other preschools nearby and be prepared to move your son. Go tour them and take him with you to see the one you have picked...talk about all the things that are so great about it. He will make new friends and will be fine.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I have been in this situation and I would not involve the parents. I would go to the school director again. Explain what happened yesterday and reemphasize the bigger picture. They need to get this under control by doing something different, NOW. If they won't try anything new, I think that you need to be prepared to pull your child (tell the director this and don't bluff, be serious and prepared to do it immediately).

You have to think of the bigger picture here: It's important for your child to know that you will not tolerate someone hurting him. He needs to be able to trust that when he tells you that someone hurt him, no matter who it is, you will do something to protect him. Prove that to him right now.

In our case, what happened was that the preschool required the aggressive kid's parents to arrange for an aide to be with him pretty much all day, and especially be right at his side during times of transition (which is when there is less structure and when this kid was most likely to act out by putting his hands on others). That is what happened and it helped a lot.

I hope that your school director takes this seriously. If not, you may need to pull your child and find somewhere else.

ETA: An alternative is that you could insist that if your child stays, he must be moved to the age group above or below so that he is no longer with John at any point during the day. You can decide which age group would be more appropriate based on your own kid's maturity - a bit more mature, go with older, a bit less mature, go with younger. Regardless, get him OUT of that group.

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T.F.

answers from Dallas on

I would NOT get involved with the mom and grandparents. It is not your job. If you do that, things will get very ugly very fast toward you.

This is the school's job and if it has continued with you and other parents communicating with the people at your level, go to a higher level and complain.

John is ready to start K soon and obviously needs some sort of behavioral intervention.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

ETA: Please do not listen to the wackadoodle advice of Elmnt5. Hitting is NEVER ok. A parent encouraging a child to retaliate is NEVER ok. Suggesting a parent authorized "beat down" of what is likely a special needs child is disgusting.

_____

As others have said, please don't approach the caregivers in this child's life. As a parent to a child like "John," you feel so helpless to control the behaviors of a child clearly out of control PLUS have to deal with the judging that goes on behind one's back (seriously, most folks assume that if the kid is doing this, something must be wrong with the parents). Plus, what would you expect them to do? Control John's behavior with a Jedi mind trick while he is at school?

My heart goes out to everyone our child has hurt (this is not the 19 yr old I recently spoke of in a very recent post of mine, but rather our youngest son who is a locked 24 hr awake facility with a team of people to keep everyone safe), and my guess is so does John's caregivers. As a parent of a child who has violent tendencies, you are caught between knowing this, and wanting to make sure that your child receives the education and help necessary to have the best life possible.

If you feel that your child is at risk, or if you feel that the staff isn't capable of handling John's needs, which is affecting your child's enjoyment of school, then move him. It isn't fair - I know, but you and your child will have the minor inconvenience of a school change. John's caregivers have a lifetime of issues they need to deal with.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

I would NOT talk to the parents or grandparents. If this has been going on for 2 years, it's seems very likely that John is struggling with something far beyond common discipline.

My son was not physically aggressive, but he had meltdowns. We could tell he was dealing with challenges of some type when he was 3. He was just so much more intense than the other kids, and he didn't seem to be maturing like he should be.

I would rehearse what you want to say and then make an appointment to speak with the director. It's very possible that the parents and grandparents are doing everything they can think of, but this is just beyond what most parents know. As the director, she/he may need to suggest they take him to a psychologist and have him evaluated.

When our son was in daycare and in kindergarten, we were in contact with the daycare director and with the kindergarten teacher and principal. We took notes about what they observed and about their concerns and brought those notes with us when we met with the psychologist. We knew we were in over our heads and needed help. The daycare teachers and director, the school teacher and principal all knew that we were working with them and doing everything we knew to do and were willing (and eager) for any suggestions they might have. It was only through working with all those resources that we were able to help our son (who is now 10 and doing amazing!).

This is very likely so much more than just normal discipline. You would probably be helping this boy and his parents and grandparents by telling the director what your child has told you. No anger, no blame. Your son should not be physically hurt at school, and John deserves better. John deserves help in figuring out how to handle his emotions so he can be happy, too.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

Do not talk to parent or grandparents. You do not know how they. Will respond.

Is the preschool part of the public school system? If it is the preschool can ask for help from the district. The parent/grandparents have more resources.

If the school is private, the parent/grandparent can ask that he be evaluated by a program used by the district. Federal law requires that schools evaluate so that the child will succeed in school. I suggest the school director can call them to ask what services they provide. The district office will have their number.

My grandson was angry and hit people and was unable to follow directions
My daughter asked for an evaluation. The district placed him in a therapeutic preschool. He was 3.

I wonder if the director and grandparents know this.

If someone calls CPS, they may be able to get involved. Emphasis on may. It's.possible their office is already involved. You mentioned the possibility the grandparents seem to be the ones who have the responsibility of his care. The mom is young and lives with them. Just a possibility. If CPS is involved the school may know this but would not be able to tell you.

Perhaps knowing this information will help you when you talk with the director.

I agree thst.if the school is unable to protect your son it's time to change schools. I also agree that you keep a record and also call the director or the head teacher each time it happens.

I also suggest that protecting him takes precedent over the continuity that staying provides. He will be in a different setting with different kids when he starts kindergarten. Consider that changing schools gives both you and your son experience that may make starting kindergarten less difficult.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Absolutely do NOT talk to the kids's family. More than likely they will be defensive and nothing will be accomplished, other than creating bad feelings. This is the school's job.
Beyond that,
I can't believe that you haven't been talking to the teachers about this EVERY time your son came home and told you this, especially since he didn't tell them himself, they need to know! Our preschool had something called an "incident report" which was a hand written note left by a teacher any time a child was hurt in any way, be it a natural accident (skinning a knee, falling off a trike, etc.) or if a child hurt another child, on accident or on purpose, it was always documented, dealt with and the teachers went out of their way to make sure the parent was fully aware of what happened.
Since your son is shy about "telling" you need to put his teachers on high alert. A little boy shouldn't be subjected to this during his day at school. And while of course it's smart to role play and teach him to stand up for himself he also should absolutely NOT have to defend himself at this age, that's what the adults are for.

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R..

answers from San Antonio on

No, a thousand times no!!...do not talk with John's parents/grandparents.

Tell the school about the incident and let them handle it...they may even have video of it. Some centers do video the classes.

My daughter had a "John" in fourth grade but he threw things and would tantrum. My daughter loved the teacher and her classmates. I chose to leave her in the classroom even though it worried me enough to ask on here about it.

I ended up meeting our "John's" parents by accident and never revealed my daughter was in class with him. They were so distraught on how the school had put him in a typical class without their input or desire and had been fighting to get him back in his special education room with an aide for the whole year. They were lovely people who had adopted two special needs boys and were trying to navigate through the public schools with their needs not always being met.

So, there are two sides well in your case three...yours, John's and his grandparents. Good luck!! and hugs!!

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R.K.

answers from Boston on

Lots of great advice. I agree that you need to protect your son. I also agree that John deserves better than the education he is getting.

If you think your son would really like to stay where he is, I would schedule an appointment with the director, express what you have been told has happened to your son, and insist that it be addressed in an effective way. The shame is that there are services that should be available from the public school system for this child or to help the preschool learn appropriate teaching behaviors.

If the assaults continue, you really need to find a safe place for your son. It is not his job to protect himself. Within the school, it is the professionals' responsibility. Therefore if the school is not protecting your son, you will need a new school. It will set the groundwork for his future sense of security.

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S.B.

answers from Houston on

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. This has been going on for two years. While there has been some improvement, your son is getting attacked weekly. That is not acceptable. Is there anything in the handbook that states if physical attacks continue the child will be removed?

I would talk with the Director of the day care. I would ask very bluntly that John be removed from the room and/or day care, that he is a continue threat to your son. If they won't, then I believe it is up to you to remove your son. I don't think talking to his mom or grandparents will help. He could be modeling this behavior as that is what he sees at home. The school needs to handle this because it is happening at the school.

I would just say "John has been hitting, punching, scratching, and biting my kid for TWO years. While there has been some improvement, my child is coming home weekly stating that he has been punched by John. This is unacceptable. I bring my child here to be protected and well cared for while I'm a work. He is not being protected. You are not protecting my child. I am requesting that John be removed from this room and/or school. If you are unable to keep my child safe, I will." You need to use certain word because that is the only way you will get their attention.

I know you like this day care center but honestly there has to be something better than this for your son.

Good luck.

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*.*.

answers from New London on

This happened to a friend of mine. She asked for an immediate meeting with the director of the preschool. The director called the Mom, Dad and Grandparent in for a talk. My friend had everything written down and asked that it be shared with them. She kept a journal, The aggressive child had to be evaluated and helped. The parent's did not know how to handle the child's behavior at home--Nor did they do too much as far as rules/discipline (Which means to guide), My friend made sure that this child was not in her child's Kindergarten class.

3 moms found this helpful
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R.M.

answers from Albany on

In my granddaughter's daycare, there is a written report for every act of aggression. When my sweet little granddaughter started daycare at 12 months, a 2 year old boy was a big problem and would bite on average 18 times per day. The teachers tried to be at the ready to prevent it but it was impossible. My little baby granddaughter would come home with bite marks on her arms. I was very upset but my daughter, although upset as well, did not want to create a fuss or move her daughter to another daycare. Personally, I feel that the daycare 'tolerated' the behaviour far too long. Finally, he was asked to stay home for a month and it was suggested he have counselling. It seemed to work. Now, he no longer bites.
I would deal only with the daycare. Obviously what they are doing, which may be too gentle an approach for this aggressive child, is not working. The teachers should have the child sit on a chair and have a calming talk about strategies to remain calm as soon as they see the signs of aggression building up. Not wait until after the aggressive attack has happened. PREVENTION!

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T.H.

answers from Dallas on

You don't specifically mention if you've been in contact with the preschool director or just the teachers. I would set an immediate meeting (or at least phone call) with the director and express your concerns. I think a meeting with both families and the director is an option.

I would also suggest that perhaps you should request to observe your child's class. If this has been a constant problem I don't think it's out of line to see what is happening for yourself. Yes, there's a possibility that with another adult in the room things might be different, but it's still something I would do.

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燕.张.

answers from Los Angeles on

I am sorry to hear that, Ebird’s mom. This happened to a family member of mine at a bilingual school when she was 5 or 6 when kids were like John being mean. It is best to get your son out of the preschool just like how my family member was for the bilingual school.
Yara

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N.K.

answers from Miami on

I would demand that the principal calls the parents/guardians of this kid and have them sit down with you so you all can have a parent-teacher meeting and explain to them how aggressive John is, and how he has not outgrown it, and what they plan to do to curb the behavior. Sure, the principal can claim to speak or have spoken to these people, but I would want to be there myself and hear what exactly they are told, and their response to it. In the meantime, I would document in writing every single time to the principal what this kid has done to your son.

Maybe the principal is unaware of all the hardship other kids have been put through because of that one student, so that is why there is inaction. I don't know what exactly the parents are saying when they withdraw their kids from that school, and to whom they say it, or if they just say they want to move their kids to the other location, no explanation provided. Most principals, especially in a private school or summer camp with tuition, will not risk losing tuition on 4 kids because of one problem kid. Can you talk to the school board about your kid being victimized and the teachers doing nothing? Usually the threat of a lawsuit scares people enough into doing the right thing...

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R.P.

answers from Tampa on

No I would not approach the kids parents.. they would get defensive and rude.. no. It’s your job to keep your child safe.. when he is in their care, it’s their job!

They are not doing this! You either tell the school: teachers, manager etc.. and be a bit rude! Arrange a meeting and make sure you record incidents. I would be fuming! This has been going on for a while.. this kid should have been warned and honestly kicked out. In fact that was done in my kids school with a very aggressive kid.

I get you like the teachers but honestly he is getting hurt.. his safety before your like.

And honestly I always tell my kids never to start anything but do finish.. maybe if that kid tastes his own “medicine “ he would stop.. and I would tell this at a meeting that I am sick and tiered of my kid being a punching bag and I gave him permission to hit back. After 2 years.. that’s about time.. nothing is being done by teachers.

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