Problems at Pre-School

Updated on October 05, 2012
T.N. asks from Houston, TX
13 answers

My daughter just turned 4 in August and is attending a Pre- School for the first time. She is having a very diificult time adjusting. She is being very disrespectful to her teacher, throwing tantrums non- stop, and just being a down right terror. I am recieving calls about her behavior on a daily basis. I have punished her by making her sit on her knees, talked to her until I am blue in the face, and still nothing!!!!!! She is just not doing well. She is very spoiled and stubborn. I don't know what to do. My husband is working out of town for 30 to 45 days at a time. Therfore, it is just me, myself, and I with three kids to juggle... What to do? Help!!!

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answers from Milwaukee on

Tantrums at that age are usually a symptom of something else and since kids at that age don't yet have the coping skills or the ability to fully express themselves in words it has to come out some how.

I would trying showing her empathy rather then punishing her. In a calm moment, (like snuggle time before bed), ask her why she is having a hard time at school....she may still not be able to tell you, but if she starts to realize she can come to you instead of being scared of getting in trouble it might lessen the tantrums.

She may also just be scared/nervous/missing you, etc.... letting her know you realize that will help immensely.

When you drop her off in the morning set the expectations that she be a good listener, etc... and then when she accomplishes it and you learn about it at the end of the day praise her like crazy...and when she has a less then stellar day let her know there are consequences for not watching her favorite show that night. It will take her awhile to adjust, but eventually they catch on to the cause and effect. You have to be consistent though.

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answers from Chicago on

I'm going through somethin similar with my 4 yr old son.
I *think* what I've figured out is that he needs attention from me. Not DH, not the teachers....the ME time has been lacking, and getting discipline from me is not helping the situation. It's just making things worse.

So I'm trying a different approach with forcing myself to be patient. Take special time out for him...yes that means that his sister is getting the short end of the stick for a little whle...and just being softer with him.
He seems to be responding well. The anxiety seems to have improved, and our behavior issues are getting better.

I don't know that that's the answer, but I'm giving it a shot.

I'm generally not in the attachment parenting..earthy mother...kind of camp. (not suggesting there's anything wrong with that, but my solution to a problem isn't generally that 'my children need me more')....but in this case, I'm giving it a shot. Nothing else has worked for us.

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answers from Honolulu on

Does she get enough sleep? Over tired kids, have less patience and act out more etc.

2) Being in a school/classroom, means MORE kids around, MORE personalities, MORE noise, MORE everything all at the same time. HENCE, some kids have trouble adjusting. But this is normal to an extent. It is a WHOLE different dynamic, socially and personally, to adjust to. It is not like being at home. So, a young child, being they do not yet have fully developed social skills... get frustrated. Hence they act out etc.
And they don't yet know how, to fully express themselves and they don't know their feelings much less have the ability to communicate that nor do they have coping-skills. Hence they act out. Frustration and stress and they get tweaked.
And then there is another person to "learn" to listen to. ie: The Teacher.
So its a ton of different stuff, a young child is having to... deal with... and adjust to.... and manage. But they do not yet have, self-management skills nor skills about how to deal with others.
So yes, they can get like this.

Your daughter is not "bad" nor the only child that has this to deal with.

Also, if a child is hungry, it can affect their moods. Kids need snacks in between meals. Too. Or they get cranky. Especially young kids.

So look at it in the whole.
Work on communication with her and in knowing her feelings and teach her the names of feelings... so that in time she can recognize and SAY how she feels, when irked with things, or even if just grumpy.
It helps the child, feel more supported. Then "hear" when your child is saying how she feels etc. Then help her, to cope, even if that is just giving her a hug.
They are so young, and can't do it themselves.

This is your child's first time in "school." So good. She will get adjusted and with you being aware of all the dynamics involved... and helping her, she will come along. That is what Preschool is for.

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answers from Los Angeles on

T., these issues require consistency and understanding. I do not understand what having her sit on her knees really means but it sounds abusive. This is not the way to help a small child understand their behavior choices. Please talk to your pediatrician. There may be dietary issues, sensory issues or other health related causes for her behavior. Please ask a professional for help.

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answers from Houston on

Oh yes, I have been there, both as a parent and a teacher! You and the teacher need to work together to find discipline tactics that are consistent at your home and school. She may respond well to a reward system and positive reinforcement. My defiant 4 year old really seems to do well with this.

I would not do sitting on knees, it is painful, try a timeout where she can reflect on behavior and calm down. We usually do a 'nose on the wall' time out!

Dr Sears is a childhood expert and has some great advice on discipline tactics here:

for ways to help specific behavior problems, look here:

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answers from Austin on

Well, I do not think the sitting on her knees and talking to her, after school is going to do anything.
How does she behave around you?

"She is very spoiled and stubborn." Is she, or is she needing some attention?

She is 4. dad is gone for long periods of time. You sound incredibly stressed and over whelmed.. Do you think she senses this too?

The best way to teach a child behaviors. is to actually model these behaviors yourself.

If you want her to learn to listen.. Then YOU need to make sure to listen to her. That means., stopping what you are doing, looking at her and then listening to her words. To assure her you heard her, you then repeat back to her what she said or asked.

How do you handle tantrums at home? When a child has a tantrum, the best thing to do, is to ignore them.. Step over your child and go to another room. If you cannot do that, then pick the child up and place her in her room until she calms down. If she is whining, you say to her, in a soft voice, "I cannot understand you when you speak like this." or "I cannot understand your words.." Or, "I need you to go to your room and look for your regular voice. "

The daycare teachers need to do the same. If she throws a fit, They need to place her in a chair, away from everyone in the room, and ignore her until she can calm down.. They can tell her, "You seem upset, sit in this chair until you calm down." Then ignore her.

You need to do this every time. you also need to remember, she is only 4. It is frustrating to not be able to verbalize your feelings, To not be able to feel like people understand or hear what you are saying.. And sometimes, they still, just want to be held, for a few minutes..

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answers from San Francisco on

You said it yourself, she's spoiled. She has no respect for her teachers because she wasn't taught to respect adults.

You need to sit her down and tell her in a very stern manner that her behavior is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable and lay down the new rules. Also, set out the consequences for breaking the rules. THEN STICK TO IT! And the consequences have to be severe - anything less and she's going to think you're a joke. She already doesn't respect you.

Do NOT allow her to use her father's absence as an excuse. Tell her that you would love to talk with her about daddy, but NOT when she's in trouble. When she's in trouble, no mentioning daddy; yes, he's gone and she misses him but that is NOT an excuse for bad behavior. If it were, the schools on military bases would be chaotic.

And when daddy does come home, he has to tow the line as well.

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answers from Washington DC on

Some good ideas here already, but also some kind of harsh posts. Hang in there momma.

She is still adjusting. This is a huge change for her. My (almost) 4 year old son just transitioned from "junior preschool" to regular preschool. We thought that since he was already in the jr preschool this would not be a big deal. But he was going from a class of 12 with 2 teachers, to a class of 40 with 4 teachers. And a bigger room. And higher expectations for "self care" like getting out his own lunch and putting his sheets on his cot and stuff like that. He was more overwhelmed than we had imagined, and he definately was acting out at school. He is just now settling in. So, I would imagine that for your daughter to go from home to school is quite overwhelming. She may need some more time.

Here are some ideas that might help.
1) set up monthly meetings with the preschool teacher or director to keep tabs on progress, and to make sure you are both handling situations in a consistant manner.
2) dont punish her at home for what she did at school. the teachers will address her behavior at school. she does not need to be double punished when she gets home. She just needs to be able to be happy to come home. Imagine if you made a mistake at 10am and got reamed by your boss, then you get home around 6pm and your husband reams you for the same situation again. she wont be able to properly connect the dots and might get worse behavoir cause now she is anxious about everything she does during the day and will this get me in trouble at home.
3) make sure she is getting enough sleep, and a good breakfast before school. with all the extra activity she might need more sleep than she did before. I find a high protein breakfast helps my son too.
4) you could try a reward chart at home to reward good days at school and reinforce positive behavior instead of punishing negative behavior. If she has a "good" day at school according to her teacher, then she gets a sticker on her chart. X amounts of stickers = a reward. Also, we just make a big old excited deal out of really good school days. High fives, hugs, cheers. He gets very proud.

Hang in there, I am sure it will get better soon!!

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answers from Houston on

Call the school district and find free Parenting With Love and Logic classes and read the book.

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answers from Dover on

Sounds like Dad being away and starting school has overwhelmed her. Talk to her. See what she is thinking/feeling. Then establish rules and consequences and rewards but the key there is follow through. If she does better, you can build from there. Have little daily rewards...a sticker, tv time, something that she likes. So many daily rewards each week can lead to a weekly reward (coloring book, etc). And that can build towards maybe an outing (skating, bowling, trip to the park, etc.). But you have to be consistent w/ the consequences when she has acted out (establish them ahead of time...if this happens then this is the consequence, if this happens then this is the reward).

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answers from Washington DC on

She's about my DD's age, also 4, also in preschool for the first time.

I find that many times when my DD gets riled up (many 4s have quite a temper), there's something else going on. Sometimes she just needs a hug. Have you tried meeting with the teacher to talk about the trigger points? Is it that she goes 5 days a week for full days and she melts by lunch? Do they have a lot of kids in the class? Is she the youngest and used to having more attention? Does she simply just miss you?

Do you know about The Kissing Hand? It's a book that helped my DD in the beginning.

Also, is this behavior worse when Daddy is gone? You might get some tips from military families dealing with deployments. She might be missing him and unable to use her words. Maybe she's not spoiled. Maybe she just needs TLC and doesn't know how to ask.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Waco on

T., many 4 year olds are still in the "terrible threes" and have difficulty controlling their emotions. You must model for her OVER and OVER how to behave. Pre-school is a big adustment and having a dad gone for that length of time is not good for anyone. You mentioned punishments (which sound extremely harsh for a 4 year old, btw), but you made no mention of rewards. EVERY expert in child development will tell you that positive reinforcement is the way to go with a child that age. What are you doing to reinforce her good behavior? I'm not saying she shouldn't have consequences for her behavior, but you need to start rewarding the good choices she makes. She'll pick it up. I also second the recommendation for picking up a copy of Parenting with Love and Logic or finding in class in your area. You will be so glad you did! Best wishes to you!



answers from Oklahoma City on

I would suggest you go to the school and have a meeting with the teacher and the school director. They can offer you a lot of resources that could help you.

BTW, making a 4 yr old sit on their knees is not nice or any way to be making her sit to try and force her to conform to your say so.

I suggest you find some love and logic classes to take. I think that natural consequences make the most difference. For instance, when she acts out at school THEY need to have the consequences. They need to immediately have some sort of consequence, such as no recess outside, not getting to do something she likes at school, going to sit with the director for a while, some thing school related.

They should not start sending her home either, that is a reward for bad behavior, not a consequence. This means they just don't want to deal with her, not teach her to mind.

If you think of your child as your student and not your child then you will try different techniques with them. Consider this next time, how can I teach this child a different way to do this? Thinking of them as a student does change how you handle things.

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