Problems at Preschool with 4 Year Old.

Updated on March 04, 2008
A.B. asks from Franklinton, NC
24 answers

We are having behavior issues with our 4 year old boy at preschool. He goes to a private Christian Preschool where he has gone for over a year. When the school year started last fall there was about 13 children in his class since then they now have 19 children in his class. My husband gets a call almost every day that our son has either hit, kicked, spit, thrown a chair and is being defiant during school. This seems to happen when they are moving from one project to another (clean up to lunch etc..) He has been put in time out, taken to the office and my husband has even gone to school to talk to him nothing is working. We have taken things from him at home, and rewarded him when he has a good day and this behavoir has continued. I am at my wits end and don't know where to go from here. He does not do these things at home. He is a very smart and sweet little boy, I do not understand why he does this at school. I have spoken with the director and we are going to set up our video camera in the classroom this week so that we can maybe see the whole picture of what is going on. If anyone has any suggestions I would greatly appreicate them. I am very concerned they will kick him out of this Preschool if his behavior continues, and if this is starting now what will I do in another couple years if I don't get it under control.

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So What Happened?

I would like to thank everyone for there advice and suggestions. I would like to let everyone know that the school is within the state requirements of 1:20 (provider/children) with a maximum of 25 children. I would also like to say that I do not think removing him from this school is the solution. He has been there for almost 2 years, and although we are going through a tough time now I believe moving him to a new school could be more traumatizing. We are working along with his teacher and the school director to figure out what is going on. We have seen a pediatrician and he has gotten us in contact with a state program that assists with behavorial problems in preschoolers. It is really tough when both mom and dad work full time and are trying to do what is best for our son. We continue everyday to praise him for good behavior. Things have been going a little better and of course every day is a work in progress.

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B.M.

answers from Charlotte on

I would definatly see what's going on in the classroom. I worked at a daycare in the afternoons and the teachers where having so much trouble with this one little boy. I didn't understand it because i rarely had trouble with him. I ended up subbing one day and saw first hand yeah he was getting a little roudy but it was how they handled it they treated him so badly yelling at him and such. It broke my heart. He was relly a good kid but with someone responding to him like they did it just made him worse. In the end I noticed that all he wanted from them and me was a little compasion and one on one time. He was a very smart and wonderful kid for me and the other teachers couldn't believe it thay said that I was just babying him. So what if I was sometimes kids just need a little extra attinion.

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H.I.

answers from Charlotte on

That sounds to me like a lot of kids to be in one classroom of four year olds. I am not accusing you or your husband of anything but has anything happened at home like the birth of a new baby or anything thing to make your son feel different?
Has anything change at the preschool, any of the children changed, are the teachers out alot when things happen like does he have subs the day these things seem to happen? It just seems that something would be bothering your little boy for him to be acting this way. My oldest who will be 6 in april had an issue last month in kindergarten with a kid on the school bus that caused behavior issues in his classroom and he taled to the principal and the school counselors without me there and all of a sudden he was a new child what they said to him I haven't a clue but his behavior and attitude did a completee turn around and I was thankful. Have you tried asking you little boy if thre are any of his little friends in his class that are mean to him or that are upsetting him to make him act out the way he is? They could be doing something to be making him uoset and with that many children the teachers may not see it and your son may be getting all the blame. Best of luck to you!

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M.B.

answers from Knoxville on

Just a possibility, my mother went through something similar with my brother many many years ago. It turned out that it was a food allergy which was causing the problems. In my brother's case, the only time he drank milk was at school. It turned out that he had an unusual allergy to milk. It causes him to become extremely angry and violent!! If all else fails, look and see if there is something that he only eats or drinks at school. In my case it was chocolate, and that caused me to be depressed as a child (as in look at me the wrong way and I would burst in to tears.) I hope this helps give you one more option, although I wonder if the video cameras will show something else.

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A.M.

answers from Charlotte on

Sounds like he is having trouble during transition times. I use to teach elementary school so I am not sure if this will help. They my need to have signal that tells the kids they are getting ready to transition to something else. This does two things it lets them know they need to finish what they are doing and always them to prepare for the transition. He may feel rushed to clean up or transition and this can make kids get angry or upset. My sons preschool had a little bell they would ring as a 5 minute warning. Good Luck.

A. M

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S.M.

answers from Raleigh on

The correct ratio for a 4-year old preschool class is 1 teacher to 5 children with a maximum of 10 children in a class with two teachers . . . 19 children is a violation of the law in this state (North Carolina). Your child is not the problem . . . the preschool is the problem.

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A.N.

answers from Nashville on

obviously he is unhappy there. I would pull him out he doesn't need to be in school yet anyway, it is young for a boy to have to be so regimented. I would never put a boy in school before the age of 6, I have 3 boys and they have been very successful doing it that way. Once you set a pattern of hating school for them it is there for life, just get it controlled now. School should be a pleasant experience, in my opinion. Since I waited they were so anxious to go to school that they never looked back.

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T.M.

answers from Charlotte on

Dear A.,
My name is T. and I am currently a teacher at a preschool in Charlotte. I am also studying for my master's in counseling and guidance with children. Routines and Transitions as well as group times involves one shift change after the other. Children's behavior at these times is most likely to be uncertain and they become emotionally charged or unfocused. Some you'll find wandering or chasing; others will become oppositional, or withdrawn. Teachers help children best by creating an atmosphere of trust and clarity. Maybe your four year old had a comfort level with just 13 children, and now there are 19 sharing his space, and he doesn't know how to cope or communicate with the change. In my classroom, I had a child with the same actions, so his parents and I came up with a plan to assign him a specific job such as sponging the table or giving out the napkins at lunch. We Perhaps if he feel in control of a situation, he'll refrain from "reaching out to touch someone." Here are some ideas you probably can suggest especially at lunch or snack time. Meal time is usually a time of stress and chaos rather than nurturing with food and company. Some of my ideas include: 1.Planning a transitional ritual such as washing the tables or setting them; it can be very soothing.
2. perhaps talk about food choices to establish self-identity. (you can do it at home also)
Above all else, Pray every night; asking God to control the situation. Here ia a book that also might help, "Beginnings and Beyond" Basics in Early childhood by Ann Miles Gordon and Kathyrn Williams Browne. I hope this can help you. God Bless.

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J.B.

answers from Charlotte on

The first problem is there are entirely too many small children in that class. A four year old needs encouragement and nurture both in school and at home. I am not an expert, however I am a retired (29 years)preschool and elementary teacher. I can not imagine having that many four year olds in one class. Are there any other options besides this school? I would look into finding another program.
Now for a possible solution.You should stop focusing on the problem and start giving him lots of praises, hugs and kisses before he goes out each morning and when he returns home. Can you just imagine his day struggling to get some attention? Small children need attention and they will get it anyway they can (negative or positive). In his case, he seeks negative because that gets immediate attention. Let him help to make a treasure box. If he has a good day, he gets to go in the treasure box and get one thing. Immediate gratification. This is what little children need. The box is decorated with what ever you choose. (Your child's name) Treasure Box. Then take him to the dollar store and let him pick out anything he wants to go in it. Try to discourage the sweet things. Give him some limits. Set a budget for yourself. $20.00, twenty things to start out with. Remember, your goal is to reward him for good behavior everyday. Remember he is 4 not 14. This way the focus is not poor behavior any more. I guarantee the poor behavior will subside. Remember hugs, kisses and lots of encouragement. Ex. I know it is hard sometimes to get the teachers attention but, you have to be patient (hugging him while you are reinforcing to him that you know his frustration. See, children need to know that the ones they love, are on his/her side. Go have lunch on a regular basis if possible (once a week). Let your child know that you haven't abandoned him out there in the jungle to be alone. See his situation through your child's eyes. Rome was not built in one day. Give it some time to work. I know because we went through the same thing with my granddaughter in Kindergarten. She was having a very difficult time adjusting. She is doing great now, with green five days a week for the last three weeks. Before that it was yellow every day, some reds and she was miserable. We did exactly what I am suggesting to you and we are all happy campers now. Good luck and be blessed. Let me know how things work out. [email protected]____.com
Grammy Boyd

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T.K.

answers from Louisville on

We had this problem with my son when he started school. He is a sweet kid and had zero problems with hitting and biting other kids until he started going to school. I dreaded picking him up from school because I knew I would get a "bad" report, whether it be about his violence, inadequacy in handling the transitions, etc. I decided to have him evaluated (actually, the teacher requested it and I was so distraught I did everything suggested) and I'm so glad I did. My son has something called Sensory Processing Disorder. It causes him to get kind of crazy when he's in situations like preschool, things are too loud, kids are too close, there's too much going on and he just can't filter it all. He's currently in Occupational therapy which is teaching him how to do things that help him cope in acceptable ways to all the stimulus. Here's a pediatric checklist for SPD, if things resonate with you maybe that's what you're dealing with. The good news is, the younger they are the easier it is to get them on the right path without medication and the like... Your kiddo won't match everything on the list, but if you find yourself checking a lot of them, you may want to call the CP KIDS Center###-###-####) and get him evaluated. It's free for the evaluation. If he doesn't have issues and it's just some behavioral "tweaking" that's needed they'll have suggestions. If you want to e-mail me offline, my e-mail is [email protected]____.com Symptom Checklist For Infants &Toddlers

__ Resists being held or cuddled

__ Cries and/or arches back when people try to hold him/her

__ Distressed by diaper changes

__ Distressed by baths and/or water splashing on him/her

__ Doesn't fall into a predictable sleep/wake pattern or cycle

__ Cries excessively throughout the day (more than a half hour or hour at a time)

__ Doesn't smile often, appears “sad” or “uncomfortable” much of the time

__ Has distinct preferences for adults of certain energy levels or voices (i.e., intonation, loudness, high pitched, low pitched, etc.)

__ Avoids eye contact, has difficulty focusing on objects or following them with eyes

__ Distressed when moved suddenly or whole body and/or head is tipped

__ Distressed by rocking motions

__ Distressed when moving in space (i.e., swinging around, bouncing up and down, or being “thrown” up in the air)

__ Doesn't appear to respond to name or familiar voice

__ Can't seem to calm baby down no matter what you try (or there is only ONE thing that does, i.e., a car ride)

__ Difficulty breastfeeding

__ Difficulty with sucking, chewing, or swallowing

__ Doesn't tolerate new foods well

__ Gags or vomits from textured foods or on variety of different foods (very limited diet for age)

__ Does not seem to sense when diaper is wet or dirty

__ Cries inconsolably until a wet or dirty diaper is changed

__ Prefers to be without clothing

__ Severe separation anxiety

__ Tantrums many times a day

__ Distressed by sunlight or bright lights

__ Distressed in public places, especially if crowded or noisy

__ Doesn't enjoy regular interactive movement games, i.e., peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, etc.

__ Doesn't notice new toys/novel toys and/or resists playing with them

__ Only uses one hand to manipulate and explore toys and/or can't switch from hand to hand

__ Unable to bang toys together or clap hands (at appropriate age)

__ Keeps hands fisted and closed most of the time

__ Distressed by dirty hands or face

__ Cries inconsolably when left with strangers or less familiar people

__ Significantly late to talk, walk, gesture, smile, hold bottle, sleep through the night, manipulate/play with toys, etc.

__ Major difficulties transitioning to solid foods and/or rice cereal after bottle or breast fed

__ Can not hold onto or use objects or utensils well for age

__ Regularly avoids certain foods, food categories, consistencies, temperatures of food, eliminates whole food groups, etc.

__ Difficulties with excessive reflux or allergies to foods and/or formulas

__ Doesn't seem to notice sounds others do

__ Frequent ear infections

__ Sensitive to sounds others don't seem to be bothered by

__ Difficult to engage; is an observer, doesn't interact with peers or adults

__ Apprehensive and/or distressed by playground equipment

__ Distressed by baby swings, jolly jumpers, wagon/stroller rides, car rides, etc.

__ Avoids putting toys in mouth, exploring them with her mouth

__ Baby gags or vomits when objects are placed in his mouth

__ Beyond teething stage, always has something in his/her mouth, or chewing on clothes, hands, fingers

__ Avoids categories of toys, i.e., vibrating, stuffed animals, rough textured toys, slippery/slimy toys, brightly colored objects, etc.

__ Appears overwhelmed, cries, or falls asleep when overstimulated

__ Refuses/distressed by certain positions, i.e., being on tummy, on back, sitting, etc.

__ Stays in one position and becomes uncomfortable when moving to another; if moving on own has significant difficulty transitioning to another position (hard to do, awkward)

__ You find you are always trying to be one step ahead of baby; trying to control his environment and “warning” people what to do/not to do so baby is comfortable

__ Difficulty staying asleep for more than 30 minutes at a time, or wakes up frequently throughout the night, unable to soothe himself back to sleep

__ Seems to get too much sleep, very short time when he is alert, playing, responding, and interacting

__ Has significant difficulty waking up

__ Needs a particular sound to stay asleep, i.e., fan, nature tape, white noise, music, etc.

__ Will not sleep if there is any noise

__ Wakes with the sun

__ Can not fall asleep anywhere but home, in familiar environment

__ Needs excessive help to fall asleep...rocking, bouncing, singing, rubbing back, etc. for long periods of time

__ Uncomfortable if not swaddled tightly; or, if older, needs heavy blankets, stuffed animals, or tighter pajamas for weight and pressure on them to fall asleep well

__ Able to switch moods effectively and relatively quickly... easily distracted if upset, “gets over it” within a reasonable amount of time, a favorite toy/face/sound will soothe him/her

__ Excessively attached to a pacifier

__ Never attached to any comfort object, i.e., blanket, stuffed animal, rubbing something, pacifier, thumb, etc.

__ Doesn't reach for or hold toys (especially textured toys) at appropriate age

__ Closes hand if toy coming near it, or drops it immediately if placed in hand

__ When begins to walk, walks on tip toes only, will not put bare feet on ground/floor

__ Distressed by textured materials under themselves

__ Appears distressed by movement; i.e., a startled response, arches back, frightened look in eyes, etc.

__ Does not crawl before walks (or limited/different type of crawl)

__ Craves movement, distressed if not moving, being swung, rocking, bouncing, rocks self constantly

__ Does not play reciprocally with caregivers or familiar people

__ Frequently engages in repetitive, non-purposeful play with one or two objects

__ Can not switch activities or participate in daily routines without distress when transitioning from one to another

__ Baby is not understood using language, cues, gestures, etc. and becomes frustrated frequently

__ Frequent head banging, hitting, biting, pinching, or hurting self or others

__ Breaks toys frequently

__ Unable to be gentle with animals

__ Appears uncoordinated, frequently bumps into things

__ Can not focus attention on play, caregiver, or toy long enough to interact (for age level)

__ Wanders around aimlessly or engages in non-purposeful activities in excess, i.e., spinning, rocking, staring at certain objects, etc...not interested in play or doesn't use objects for purposeful play

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L.R.

answers from Huntington on

Dear A., You didn't mention if your son was a young 4 year old or closer to 5. Boys mature at a much slower rate then girls and you might want to consider bringing him home and starting again next year for preschool. How I wish I had waited for my boys start school when they were a little older because it makes all the difference in the world. I was a kindergarten assistant for six years and learned so much that I wish I could have applied to my sons. My boys were smart enough but one was a Sept. birthday and one was an Aug. and they were always just a little behind in the other kids when it came to their maturity level. Hope this helps. L. R.

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C.C.

answers from Knoxville on

Why is your four year old in preschool? Is it requred? Maybe he is just not ready. Maybe he is having a problem with one of the other kids. It could be so many things! The thing is, having him home for another year - or even two - would not be the worst thing in the world, would it?

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C.S.

answers from Asheville on

Clearly he doesn't like it there. Too bad you can't go for a day and just observe, but the video camera seems like an ok idea.

If it were me, I would take him out of the school and find one that is more compatible with his personality. Every day calls like that are a red flag that a kid is not happy. There are all kinds of preschools, try to be open to other ones that are not Christian.

Best,
C.,RN

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N.M.

answers from Parkersburg on

Maybe the structure is too structured. Maybe there is a deeper problem with the school and not with your son. Personally, if my son came home with this sort of report on a daily basis, I would change schools.

Maybe he just wants to be a free kid.

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T.A.

answers from Raleigh on

Hi A.,
The suggestions the other ladies gave are very good. But if they fail then try to ask your dcotor. My neighbour works in the special needs group and she said one of the kids there had this problem. He would be fine but then once they changed activity he would through a bad fit and he even bit her once. So it may not neccesarily be a bad behaivour problem which can be corrected by rewards and punishment. It may be a problem related to his brain activity. Something to check out with your pediatrician.
May God bless you and your child.

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M.T.

answers from Nashville on

I think a video camera is a good idea if they will allow you to do that in class. My kids went to a christian school when they were little too and they will tell you that he is disturbing others and too hard to handle and make you take him out because the other parents will start complaining and they depend on that money to keep the school up. If other parents start pulling out or threatening to pull out, they will ask you to leave. I have seen that done before.
I would review the camera and see what is going on for myself. But it sounds like he is trying to get others attention and he doesn't know how to go about it the right way.
But I would do what I could to get a handle on it because they will ask you to leave if he keeps on becoming more of a problem especially if other parents complain.
Sorry I don't know what the solution is. Sometimes children just have a certain personality that you can't change.
Good luck

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P.O.

answers from Memphis on

I have worked at a church preschool for 9 years and am the mother of a 24 yr old son with special needs. The preschool teacher could help with transitioning by saying "we will be cleaning up for lunch in 5 minutes". You described your son as a "smart and sweet little boy". The demands at preschool are very different than at home with you. Our preschool classes are on a schedule, which is based on state requirements. With 19 children in her class his preschool teacher doesn't have time to give him the attention that he gets at home. He could be frustrated with this. He needs to learn that the teacher decides what happens in her classroom.

I have read John Rosemond's column for years. He is very tough with eliminating behaviors. He recommends clearing the child's room of all fun stuff. Before preschool you tell him how you expect him to behave at school (ex: You do not hit, kick, spit or throw things at school) in a serious voice (no emotion). If you do any of these, your teacher will call me immediately and you will come home to your room until dinner. Then you will go to bed 30 minutes early. No discussion or explaination! He knows what he is doing is wrong. Just take him to his room and close the door. The punishment needs to be severe enough to get his attention. The next day you tell him again what you expect and what will happen if you are called. You follow through every time. If this doesn't work, you move his bedtime up 30 minutes. It may take a week, but he will understand.

With my son I had to find what he valued most, a "red ball", and take it away every time. It worked. Today no one believes that he ever had a behavior problem. He is one of the most loved young men in a church of 6000.

Remember he is still your smart and sweet little boy. He's just adusting to a different situation.

P., mom in Memphis

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L.R.

answers from Greenville on

A.,
My name is L. Roe. I currently work for a non-profit childrens agency and I also have experience in Early Childhood Education to include teaching preschoolers and owning and operating my own family childcare home several years ago.
First, let me just state that though it seems like the end of the world, the problem you are facing with your son is very common. I have worked with all types of children and each child has different personalities and needs.
You stated your child has been demonstrating behavioral issues for quite some time and it especially occurs during transition time...Again this is very common. Have you asked his teachers how they go about their tranistion time? Are they simply telling the children its time to move on to something else or are they giving them a warning leading up to transition time? Whenever I have worked with children, I have never gone from one thing to another without letting the children know that change was going to occur. I would remind them at least 15 minutes before hand that it would be time to go to another activity and again around 10 and 5 minutes. It could be that your son is so engrossed in what he is doing that he does not want to be pulled away abruptly and in doing so he becomes very upset and lashes out.
Also, children love music. Maybe you could ask your teacher to incorporate music during transition time. Music motivates children and they love moving to the beat. There is a wonderful CD called transitions by Shawn Brown. I have used his CD on numerous occassions and it seems to work exceptionally well for children demonstrating behavioral issues as well.
Last, I also want you to ask his teachers and administrators how much time they are focusing on your son's downfalls than his triumphs. No, it isn't ok to hit or bite another student but he should be rewarded any time he does something positive whether it be simple as a high-five or having the class clap for him when he does something nice. His teachers should take the time at story time to read books that are based on behavioral issues so that your son is able to understand why his behavior is problematic and how he can go about expressing his frustration with his words instead of physically. Reading stories is a great way for him to learn this without being singled out or embarassed. It also provides a teachable moment for the rest of the class as well.
I hope this information helps!

L.

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B.S.

answers from Huntington on

A., sounds like you are on the right track! Video.

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P.S.

answers from Louisville on

This sounds like a problem with transitions. He might do better with visual supports-such as a literal photo of the next place or activity he needs to do. the picture is laminated and could be on the wall near cicle time or put on a ring so he can hold and look at the picture. Kids tend to get upset and wig out if they are engaged in a prefered task and told to move to the next thing without enough warnings. There is also another group of kids who are alot like big people and need their day timers (pictures) to tell them the next thing to do.
Hope this helps.
P.

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K.B.

answers from Nashville on

I spent many years (13) before I was a mom working as development specialist with preschool-age children. I would suspect that your son's class size is simply too large. The 4 year old children that don't act out really don't get any attention in a classroom that size, the children that do act out (hitting, kicking, etc.) get attention, albeit negative- and they get mom or dad to come pick them up. Unfortunately that helps the teacher, and rewards your son by letting him escape from a chaotic. I would suggest searching for another program that has a 2:14 ratio or better. Any more than that really isn't preschool, it's daycare.

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N.G.

answers from Louisville on

When my oldest son was in preschool i remember this very well. My son also had problems with ending one project and going to another.But it was alot of the children. Have you asked them to give your son a 5 or 10 minute warning to get him ready to wrap things up. Some children get really involved in what they are doing and get very upset when all of a sudden they have to quit doing something they want to do. Just giving my son a heads up that the activity was going to be changing and to finish was he needed to before it was over was all he needed.Hope this helps.

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V.J.

answers from Nashville on

Dear A.,
It sounds like your son is having difficulty transitioning. His teachers could try several things and try to remain positive. 1. A five minute warning prior to the transition to let the class know what the next activity will be could help your son know that the current activity is almost over. 2. When it is time to transition, the teachers should remind the class or your son how to transition. 3. To help your son with the aggression, I would recommend a sticker chart which focuses on the desired behavior. For example, if he is working on keeping his hands and feet to himself then reward him with a sticker after each activity of the day that he keeps his hands and feet to himself. The important thing is to teach the desired behavior and provide your little one with positive feedback and praise when he is able to accomplish the expectation. Also, breaking the day into small chunks of time will help your son be more successful. If stickers do not appeal to him, then 1 or 2 m&m’s or a skittle. The nice thing about a daily sticker chart, the goal for the first week could be for him to get 3 stickers each day and on the days that he earns 3 stickers, maybe he can get a trip to the park or watch a special video on TV again to reinforce how well he did at school that day and you praise him for how proud you are that he remembered to keep his hands and feet to himself. Good luck! By the way, I teach preschool children ages 3&4 and I am the mother of 4 ages 10, 8, 3 & I have a 1 month old. V. J.

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M.Z.

answers from Charlotte on

We are living this experience right now...... My son is 4 1/2 and he was in a class with 12 kids. But, our aupair left and we decided not to get another one, so he had to move to the full-time class which has 16 kids and a different teacher. He was normally a compliant, sweet child who are started hitting, punching, and fighting the other kids and the head teacher! We have some other things changing -- but I feel our son is angry about the change in his classroom and at home. However, he does not have any behaviors at home-- he has a little sister-- and it has not changed.

We got a timer so they can set it for him when he only has 1 minute left to play before clean up. We just started this at the end of the week-- but it helps. Also, his teacher from his old class is a part-time employee and he LOVES her-- the director is paying her extra to spend some "transition" time in the afternoons in his classroom for right now. My son gets private occupational therapy weekly and I asked the OT to go to his school and observe him socially and with the teachers this coming week so maybe she can write a behavior plan for him.

Sorry I don't have much advice, only ideas at the moment. Friday he had a "good day"-- so I am hoping for some more of those......

M.

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N.K.

answers from Nashville on

A.,
Preschool is a great time for children to learn how to act socially-don't worry too much! Remember, when your son is at home he is the only one and does not have to share/take turns/wait on line, etc. My sister has an only child and he had a longer time adjusting to school but is fine now!
Make sure to put him in different social situations where you can observe him getting along with other children-you may need to praise him when he waits and shares!
Good luck!!!
N.(mother of 4 boys)

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