Strong Willed Child.. Trouble with Kindergarten... Seeking Help.

Updated on September 17, 2011
R.T. asks from Allen, TX
19 answers

My daughter started kindergarten at the end of August . Since starting kinder she has pretty much gotten in trouble atleast 4x a week with color changes in her take home folder.

The problems she is having are
1. Not sitting in her seat – Wanting to wander around the classroom.
2. Purposely defiant towards the teacher. Teacher asks her to follow instructions and my daughter just smiles and does exactly what shes not supposed to do.
3. Throwing tantrums when she doesn’t get her way
4. Disrupting lessons and not wanting to participate in circle time.

Now lets keep in mind, My daughter has been attending an excellent daycare then preschool since she was 6 months of age until she graduated Prek and now she is in kindergarten. She has always been a very strong willed child. My daughter is typically happy and full of life and a pretty good kid until she just decides she flat out doesn’t want to listen to anyone.

She never went through terrible twos or three’s We are dealing with behaviors now. She decides she doesn’t want to listen at home or at school. I am sure its just a phase but its really stressful right now. Its really hard on me when she gets in trouble at school then she comes home. I can’t reward her for having a bad day. So usually I take away her TV privilege and early bedtime usually. Its not getting through to her.

Perfect example – Last night I took her out to eat. She was eating just the fruit and not her dinner. I told her please don’t touch the fruit until she eats some more chicken. So she picks up the fruit.. pauses for a moment… then shoves it in her mouth. I took the fruit and threw it in the trash.

Another example : Her teacher asks Mikayla to stay in her seat and to only color on her paper. She then goes to color on another students paper moments after the teacher asked her to please stop.

She just smiles and never takes anything I say serious or the teacher. Its really frustrating.

She’s testing every little thing she can lately. I have been reading parenting with love and logic and now I am reading “ how to make children mind without loosing yours “ I am hoping this will help some and maybe trying some new approaches in our home to help guide her.

Its just frustrating for her to have bad days at school then she comes home and I have to take away privileges because I can’t reward her for bad behavior. I just feel like shes has bad days at school and bad days at home so I feel like my child doesn’t even look forward to good days. I think she expects to get into trouble every day so it becomes normal for her.

I just want to find a way to help her. How to help encourage good behavior. How to help her focus. I don’t want her to get into trouble every day. I want her to have good and exciting days.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated

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So What Happened?

P.S - Pediatrician says my daughter doesn't have ADD or ADHD ... She's pretty calm most of the day. Most of the behavior is just for attention seeking is what the teacher thinks and the doctor thinks. She is just strong willed. Im just looking for suggestions on how to parent the strong willed child and things that can help her.

Also - I do discipline my child and we have a very structured schedule and home. MY child is not spoiled or given everything she wants when she wants it. There are rules in our home. There are expectations. She is just starting to push against them.

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answers from Kansas City on

Sounds tough. First off I highly recommend Love and Logic so it's good you're already reading it. I personally think it's the best.

Second, I get what you're saying about not rewarding her for a bad day, but you also don't want to pile on so many punishments that she doesn't ever see a light at the end. Sometimes you need to just let there be a consequence at school for school things at home for home things. So if she has a bad day at school, talk to her about it, brainstorm ways to make it better, maybe make her practice "the right way" but don't necessarily take away all her at home privelages.

As far as the food thing, I think it's fine that you threw away the fruit, make sense but just be careful battling over food, it's not so much worth it! If she has healthy choices in front of her and only wants fruit for dinner then it's probably fine. I know she needs protein and other things but sometimes you have to let them make their own choices on some stuff and if it's healthy and you're offering it then let it go.

As far a sticker chart or whatever, well in a way it's bribery but sometimes we have to motivate kids extrinsictly before then have the intrinsic desire to do it for themselves. So it might be worth a shot. Start with small rewards like an extra TV show or 20 minutes of additional outdoor playtime or game time with mom, etc. and see how it goes.

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answers from Dallas on

When a child starts school, it takes 6 weeks for them to get "normalized". That's probably part of it. Also, just keep open communication with the teacher and get advice from about what you can do to help.

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answers from Rochester on

I really don't like hearing the phrase "strong willed child" to replace what the situation actually is...a naughty, disobedient, disrespectful child who doesn't understand boundaries. She colored on ANOTHER child's paper? If I were that child, I'd be heartbroken, and if I were that teacher, I would probably lose it. Please don't use "being strong willed" as an excuse for your daughter's downright disrespect for her parents, teachers, and peers.

This child needs discipline and she needs it fast.

You say your feel your child doesn't have good days to look forward to, but then you knock the idea of a sticker chart because supposedly that's bribing a child to behave well. Encouragement is not a's encouragement. And since when is a sticker a bribe? It has no real value. I think I'd try the sticker chart before knocking it. It serves as a REMINDED to make those "natural good choices" you speak of.

And I don't think this type of thing happens overnight. You had to have seen this coming before school started.

My overall advice, however, is discipline. Strict discipline, whether it seems harsh or not. You need to find a few books about respect that are geared towards her age, and teach her about it. That seems to be the biggest thing she is lacking...respect, sympathy, and empathy towards others.

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answers from Chicago on


She doesn't want to listen because she doesn't like what you have to say!!!!!

At this age - these are control issues. Your daughter wants control over her environment. So the solution is to GIVE her more that she CAN control, but don't set her up to fail.

Just a note - I typically don't re-punish (especially for small infractions like this - I know they seem big now, but really they're not). so she's already in trouble at school.... now she's punished at home? So, I would stop that. Instead of punishing her, you should be having conversations with her about solving these problems, not just taking things away. She is old enough to be answering for WHY she did what the teacher told her not to do. ask her why she colored on the other kids paper? Then have HER come up with solutions of what she SHOULD have done instead. Then tomorrow reward her with "good job" if she follows through with her back up plan.

Also, for the example concerning the fruit. If you don't want her to eat it until she has eaten chicken, then REMOVE THE FRUIT from her reach. If she ONLY has choices that will suit you, then you won't be unhappy and she will be successful. She is just now learning impulse control. So, if she has chicken, peas and fruit - but you want her to eat chicken and peas first... then remove the fruit completely. Tell her - for every 10 bites you get a bite of fruit. or, eat all of one thing on your plate and you can have 1/2 your fruit. or even, you can have your fruit when you eat the rest of your dinner.

This is the age where you have to walk the balancing act of being MORE involved but giving her MORE control. It's a tough one, but if you set the stage of being her COACH instead of her WARDEN it will pay off for you in the long run!

Good Luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't think she has ADD or ADHD or a medical disorder. For heaven's sake, she's a kindergartener! That's totally natural behavior. She's entering a more structured environment with lots of stimuli. Depending on the temperament of each child, they handle it differently.

She's testing her boundaries. She's testing you and her teachers. She's being defiant on purpose to see what she can get away with.

I would say just keep doing what you're doing. Don't focus on it too much though, she looks like she wants attention.

I've found that good old-fashioned action-immediate consequence seems to work better over sticker charts and elaborate systems. You throwing the fruit out is a good example. Just stick with it. Your consistency will work much better than trying a bunch of new tactics.

And when you look in her bag, if she has bad marks then I would look at her and say "I'm so disappointed, I was hoping we could do XYZ but now we can't." Say it in a quiet voice. Then mention the consequence. And leave it at that. Say no more, put no more attention on it than that.

I think with consistency she will figure it out.

Good luck!

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answers from Tyler on

When my son started school, he got into trouble too. At first, I was punishing him. But, it didn't work. Finally, I decided to reward him when he behaved well at school. Our reward is either his choice for a restuarant to eat out at (we never eat out) or go to a movie. He has to be 100% on his best behavior all week (no check marks, nothing) in order to make that choice. Sometimes, he only gets rewarded every 3 or 4 weeks. But, it is enough to motivate him to WANT to work at being better behaved.

Good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

First of all, day care and preschool doesn't require the focus, attention and discipline that is required in kindergarten.
Second of all, a pediatrician is not qualified to diagnose ADD or any other psychological disorder, only a psychologist can do that. Yes, they can suspect or not suspect a disorder but you need to see a mental health professional for confirmation.
Third, it troubles me that you seem to micromanage how she eats her dinner. What does it matter if she eats the fruit first? Most moms would find that to be a good thing! That's not a battle I would choose.
She sounds impulsive and defiant. Using a sticker chart or other reward system is a good place to start. Her teacher is a professional educator, she is giving you good advice! It's not bribing, it's encouraging her to stop and think about her behavior.
If her behavior continues this way, request an evaluation through the school psychologist. My daughter wasn't diagnosed with her condition (ADHD) until 5th grade and I regret it. I always considered her high spirited and scatter brained and I was content waiting for her to "grow out of it" but it never happened, she just continued to struggle each year. She's not on medication (though I'm not against that) but she gets extra support through her IEP and resource class and she is now thriving in 7th grade.
Just keep an open mind, especially when it comes to what the teacher suggests, that's where you will get the best advice and support.

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answers from Chicago on

A few thoughts:

1. Could she be bored at school?

2. Could it be that she feels like she has no control over anything? Try to give her some control in small ways. An easy example is the fruit at dinner. Is it really so bad if she eats fruit first instead of chicken? They both are healthy choices. Many parents would be elated if their children ate fruit. Choose your battles very carefully.

3. Have you asked her calmly what is going on with school? I know, it sounds crazy, but you might learn a lot with some gentle and understanding prodding. Maybe something is upsetting her at school and she is acting up so she doesn't have to go. You can say to her that nothing she says will make you upset or get her in trouble to let her know that she can tell you anything - and be true to this! Perhaps she doesn't like her teacher but is afraid to tell you. You can tell her that you know she doesn't want to get in trouble so you want to help her figure out what is going on. She might not understand why she is behaving this way either.

4. I would stop taking away the privileges until you figure out what is going on with her. That is just making her feel worse, which just leads to more bad days/behavior and the cycle continues.

5. I agree, sticker charts are not good. That is just another form of punishment because she probably won't get stickers many days. The key is to get to the root of the behavior and deal with that, then the bad behavior will end.

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answers from Dallas on

Is she highly intelligent as well? My daughter did these things, only it got worse as she got older and impacted her friendships as well. When I googled 'bossy 8 year olds' I came upon the issues of the gifted and talented. Check out

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answers from Dallas on

Sounds as if your daughter is a pistol. That's not a bad thing. You need to figure out how to channel her energy and behavior. I've raised 4 kids and each one is very different so I had to figure out how to discipline them in totally different ways. I would encourage your daughter to try to work on 1 part of her behavior until she gets it right. Remember she's only 5 and trying to figure out her place in her new world. I think there needs to be some sort of consequences for her actions at home but taking away everything after school isn't the right way to do it. 1 thing is good, but when you take it all away it most likely makes her even more difficult to deal with.
There are a lot of good answers below. Kids that are strong willed (yes they can be) are not inherently bad or undisciplined. You are not a bad parent because of this. I have a strong willed child and she is not undisciplined or out of control she just knows what she likes and really tries to get you to see her point of view. If she is disciplined at home she takes it well. I see her as a really great leader in the future who others will look up too.

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answers from Tampa on

Future CEO, she seems advanced and bored in her class. Doing some research on different schools or teachers would be a good idea. It seems like the teacher does not have a full control and supervision. Some laid back teachers struggle with sharp students.

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answers from San Francisco on

Doesn't the teacher have ways of dealing with this kind of thing in class?

Unless a child's behavior is really extreme, I think it's unfair of teachers to expect us to do their job for them at home, when the incident has long past, and we were not privy to the incident.

A good teacher can deal with an incident like you described. You shouldn't have to punish your child a second time. The teacher should give the consequence. There shouldn't be two consequences.

As far as eating food goes, if your child is healthy and not overweight, I wouldn't micromanage what portions of food she chooses to eat. If you offer her healthy food, let her eat what she chooses, and then don't let her eat until the next meal. And on that note, my daughter has never been a meat eater -- she wanted to go vegetarian but I wouldn't let her -- but she has mostly avoided meat, preferring instead carbs, bread, cheese, and lots of fruit. She is healthy and slender.

Keep trying the Love and Logic tools, and let the teacher do her job.

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answers from Dallas on

I have a strong willed child too - he is only three. Its hard because I was NOT strong willed - I did things just because someone asked - I wanted to please and do the right thing. My son wants to push and test limits.

One thing that works for us - Instead of saying "Don't touch the fruit until you eat the chicken" say "Eat your chicken first. If you try to eat your fruit first, I will put the rest away" and then follow through. In that situation, my son WOULD have eaten the fruit first, and I would have put the rest away. The next time the same situation would happen, he would PROBABLY do what I said. I was clear about the consequence, gave a consequence I could enforce, and enforced it immediately. He of course will periodically test later on, and I must enforce the consequence.

I try to be matter of fact and not make a big deal about the behavior - no begging, pleading, chastising, repeated reminders, drama, vindictive consequences - which would give more attention to the behavior.

In the school situation, "Stay in your seat and do your own work. If you get out of your seat, you will lose your crayons and either need to sit quietly or do (some sort of not fun activity).

I think its really normal your daughter is doing this now - she is in a new place and testing the limits and trying to get attention.

I read a book called something like Parenting the Strong Willed Child by Mackenzie. It was very helpful.

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answers from Tyler on

I had such a child and I'll warn you now, it's going to be a rough road. I got much help from DARE TO DISCIPLINE, and THE STRONG-WILLED CHILD, both books by James Dobson. Good luck.



answers from Dallas on

I agree with some of the other moms...go with a postive reward system. Each day without a conduct mark, she gets a sticker on a chart at home. Then set up a "store" that she can trade her stickers in for better prizes or treats. Have the ultimate prize available for no conduct marks for the whole week!

Some prize ideas would be dollar store "treasures", real money, candy, new toothbrushes, movie night, going out for ice cream, playing her favorite board game....

It may also help to not punish her at home too after school, in order to limit the attention she gets from it. Just state, "oh that's too bad you don't get another sticker today." Of course on days she does earn a sticker, you would go all out, and tell everyone you know...even calling relatives on the phone to let them know how proud you are of your daughter! At school, her teacher can give her choices for making a good decision, such as "are you choosing to not follow directions and lose a sticker for home, or are you choosing to participate with the rest of the class." It's her choice, which gives her all the power, but the consequences are clearly there too.


answers from New York on

I would have the teacher deal with behavior at school. Do not re punish her at home. IF she doesnt get in trouble at school you can reward! Do continue dealing with behavior problems at home. but start each afternnoon or evening when you pick her up with LOTS of positive attention. Most kids prefer negative attention to not enough attention and she may crave more attention than the typical kid. So when you pick her up from after school care or school try to spend one on one time with her first, before you start making dinner or ..... This could be hard, we are so busy at this time of day, but you have to see if this will help, Of course it wont help the first few days, Try this for a couple of weeks to see if her behavior starts to change. once you can get her to behave at home, she will prob start doing better at school. The example you give are not a strong willed child. (maybe there are other things that make you think she is strong willed?) Those are examples of a child who craves a LOT of attention. and would prefer to be punished then to be ignored.



answers from Dallas on

I have similar situation. DD takes after Dad. I had her on a reward system for specific behaviors (including cooperation) that worked great. Remember to act sorry and disappointed instead of angry. It is a bid for control. DD is amused when Dad gets mad. Careful not to swing too far to the negative because then they won't behave because they think there is no chance. The rewards may have to be small to get moving back toward the positive. Also, do positive surprises like note in lunchbox, surprise snack, joke of the D., surprise jiffy pop etc. Must be unexpected. Same stuff you do to get rid of bad mood. Good luck!



answers from Sacramento on

What if she can't control all of this? There are a number of medical conditions that can cause defiance, lack of focus and impulsivity. You might talk to her pediatrician about getting a referral to a specialist who can do a thorough evaluation. That way, you can at least rule out that the behavior is out of her control. Either way, you'll be in a better position to address the behavior issues.

The constant notices from the teacher are a big red flag to me, as the mom of a son with ADHD.

ETA: You're right. If it's just a problem in one location, it's not likely medical-related. You might give the 1-2-3 Magic system a try. That's what Kaiser had us use in the early stages of dealing with ADHD. Doesn't work for kids with this condition, but I can see it working on normal, strong-willed kids.



answers from Dallas on

After reading most of the replies you have from other mom's I don't have anything to add, except you have the right idea that this in time will pass & there is nothing you can do or say wrong or otherwise, cause it sounds like your handling it quite well & take it one day at a time.
I must add, on the fruit at dinner, nutritional-wise she actually should eat the fruit 1st & then the chicken, the reason is that fruit ferments in our bodies & when you eat protein first & then the fruit it compiles and causes more problems (stomach-aches, bad digestion etc) when we eat fruit or salad first we are actually setting our system up to work properly and digest better, then the protein (chicken) is absorbed better. Good luck on your continued discipline your already taking. = 0 )

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