Preschool Behavior Problems

by Nancy

Preschooler has speech issues and only lasted 12 days in Preschool.

Question: My nephew turned 5 in October and entered preschool late in January. He lasted 12 days before the school dismissed him. He would grab the other kids by the shirt collar and yell "hedgehog" in their face (his favorite tv character).

He would color on the other kids projects, push supplies off the tables, take toys away from other kids and run away from them, yell words in the middle of class that the teacher couldn't understand.

He would have to sit next to the teacher during circle time, was always trying to touch the other kids. In my time working with my nephew I found he is not able to make the "f" sound and can make the "s" sound if you ask him to hiss like a snake, but can't put it together to make a word that starts with an "s".

He likes to wrestle with his big brother and dogs. He has textile issues, starts to gag when even touching a raisin. Is very picky with food and has allergy issues with dairy and milk. Older brother has speech issues and writing difficulties.

He will be evaluated in 2 weeks by the special ed preschool program, but I was wondering if there was anything in particular that we should being to the attention of the person evaluating him. What do you think?

Answer: I would definitely check out my pages on sensory processing disorder, especially the section related to sensory modulation disorder and vestibular dysfunction, which can cause speech delays.

See if he can also be evaluated by an occupational therapist with a specialization in sensory disorders.

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8-year-old son having difficulties in school

Question: My son has always been a talker in class, though his teacher has told me that this is not her primary concern. Although, in second grade his teacher informed me that he did experience a few problems staying focused and talked quite a bit, he still did very well overall.

However, his third grade teacher has already called me at home twice the number of times that his second grade teacher called me all year, and we are only four weeks into the school year. She always sounds frustrated and judgmental, comparing him to the other students in the class.

Although I do understand why she is calling and do wish to work with she and my son on these issues, I believe she wants instant results. These are the difficulties she states is happening: some difficulty with focus and attention, although she states that is improving, but wants him to continue working on this.

She states he becomes argumentative and cries when he is told something he doesn't want to hear. She makes this sound as though it's been happening every day, yet I have only been told about two different incidents.

At home, he does tend to be sensitive, but only has a meltdown when it is about something major. Some of the verbage she uses leads me to believe that at the parent/teacher conference, she may suggest he needs to be evaluated.

Should I immediately act on this, or is she perhaps overreacting and expecting perfection because that is "how all of her other students are." Please advise.

~Mother concerned about her child!!!

Answer: Unfortunately, many teachers are put in situations where they are overloaded with work and the number of children they have in a class. Put a child in the class that doesn't uniformly behave and the teacher's entire day is thrown off kilter.

It's understandable that she wants help, but just be careful as to what she may be requesting. Some teachers want a quick fix of a child to be medicated, which is not always in the child's best interest.

I would have him evaluated since the crying and argumentativeness is concerning for a child his age, especially when combined with attention problems. Is he getting enough sleep at night? Going to bed at a decent hour and getting up without struggles looking refreshed?

Sleep problems can be a major contributor to all of the behaviors you mentioned. Either not getting the recommended hours per age or possibly having a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea that prevents the body from getting adequate sleep.

Other things to consider that could be influencing his behavior are listed on my page of possible causes of ADHD. Finding the problem and a solution is important to act on now, but don't expect immediate results.

I think if the teacher sees you are trying to find out what is going on she will back off, but expecting the behavior to correct itself without any intervention is probably not going to happen.

Good Luck!

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School Misbehavior

by Linda Hraban
(Horicon, WI USA)

Question: My grandson misbehaves in school. He's 6. At school they have red light if you're real naughty, yellow light warning and green light when you behave.
They sent a note home stating this.

My grandson got a yellow light twice this week and now the teacher said maybe he should be put back to kindergarten. He's reprimanded when he comes home and things that are important to him get taken away.

I guess he talks a lot and disrupts the class. I'm sick about this. He's really a good little boy just a little hyper at times. What's your thought?

Answer: Has there been a conference with the teacher about the reasons she thinks he should be put back in kindergarten? Perhaps putting him in a desk that is away from others to start might help.

Some children just can't seem to calm down when surrounded by other children and need to have that space. If you notice other symptoms of ADHD you may consider utilizing some natural treatments for him to help with them.

This is not to say that he actually has ADHD, but there are some natural supplements, diets and environmental modifications that can all help with these types of symptoms.

It seems a little extreme to make such a dramatic change for him in only one week, unless there are other issues as well (behind in the schoolwork). At the same time he may not be developmentally ready to handle that classroom and going back to kindergarten may give him the time he needs to mature.

Either way, sitting down and discussing these things with the teacher is the best option. Good Luck!

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Behavior Issues at School

Question: My eight year old daughter is having behavior issues at school and when she gets upset she begin crying, screaming, running out of classroom and then she would urninate on herself? This behavior only happens at school !!!! please help....what could this be......she would come home as if she didn't do anything wrong!!!

Answer: It's really hard to determine the cause of behavior in a particular environment without being able to observe and gather more information regarding when she does the behavior.

I would ask her teacher if you can try to observe without her knowing right outside the door. Is she doing it during a particular subject or time of day? If so, it could be related to having problems with that subject and perhaps even an undetected learning disability that is causing her great stress.

Is she having issues with any other students in the class? Does she have friends in the class? Is it possible she may be getting bullied?

What happens right before and after she does the behavior? Does she get to go home or to another room? Talking to her about why she is doing this may help as well. Avoid scolding her for it, but just trying to really help her see that you want to help her and understand why she is doing it.

Good Luck!

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Scared of School

Scared to go to childcare school

Question: I have talked to my daughter who is four and half years old. Suddenly, she cried and told me that she is very scared of going to school and does not want to see her teacher and classmates.

She said that the moment she closed her eyes, her teacher scolded her. I told her not to be scared because mummy is right here beside you, nobody is going to hurt you. Eventually, her tears stopped.

I asked her again for what purpose to cry. She told me I am very scared. What is the solution for me to solve and in order to stop her feeling scared? I want her to go to school with confidence.

Should I find the opportunity to look for her teacher to talk to her and check what and how is her behavior in school?


Answer: I would definitely try to schedule a meeting with her teacher to talk about what may be going on in the classroom.

After talking with teacher privately, it may also be a good idea to have a meeting with her and the teacher to talk about these issues. Your daughter may be sensitive to the way the teacher corrects her, which if her teacher is aware of the situation, may be corrected.

She may do better having the teacher come over to her and whisper in her ear as opposed to saying things out loud so others can hear, which can be embarrassing. If it continues to be a problem, you may want to research other schools or another teacher.

My son was having a problem at a particular place always crying every time I dropped him off. He could never really give me a reason why, but I decided to switch to a new place and he instantly loved going there without shedding even one tear.

Use your instincts as a mother about the situation; at her age you definitely want her to have a good impression of school.

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School Behavior Problems

by Carmela
(Atlanta, Ga.)

My 5 year old doesn't generally cooperate at school, why?

Question: I spent an hour with my son, who is 5 and in Kindergarten. His teacher says he just refuses to do some of his work nearly every day.

He doesn't always sit in his chair. He walks around the classroom. He talks smart to the teacher when she is correcting him for misbehaving.

I get a frowny note everyday because he doesn't do his work or he has hit a student or been talking loudly in the cafeteria. He just does all manner of things he shouldn't be doing.

And I am concerned he won't do well in 1st grade since he hasn't been behaving himself in K. He gets passing marks, but his teachers worries that he won't do well next year because of his behavior.

He has been diagnosed with ADHD and takes daily meds. I think he needs a higher dose. I contacted his doctor about this. Otherwise, I am just worried that his behavior will cause him to fail in school and I am not sure what to do about it.

Any suggestions you could offer would be helpful. Thanks.


Answer: It sounds to me like his medication is not working. Increasing the dose may work, but if you haven't seen any improvement on the dose he is taking, I would be reluctant to continue on the same medication.

Trying a new medication may help, but regardless of medication, ADHD does not cause a child to hit others. I think it would be good to look at what consequences he gets for engaging in this type of behavior.

Does he have to leave the room, escaping the classroom? Does he get attention from the teacher or his peers?

He may be engaging in this behavior because he is having a difficult time learning in the class. It may seem like this is hard to believe since he is getting passing grades.

He may have an auditory processing disorder (can coexist with ADHD marked by inability to follow directions) and might be compensating by moving around a lot to avoid listening to the teacher.

Sometimes talking back to the teacher and aggression can be a way to cover up that he is feeling insecure about not understanding things that are being said.

It may also be that he is reacting to something in his diet. I am a strong believer that some preservatives and artificial food colorings, such as red dye 40 cause behavior problems in many children.

This is especially prevalent in children with ADHD that are more sensitive as indicated by research done by Dr Feingold (Feingold diet for ADHD)

I would talk to the teacher about getting him evaluated for additional learning challenges to see if he would qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Then see if they can make environmental accommodations for him.

This may be placing him in a desk in the corner away from his peers to help him focus, or in the front of the classroom. It might be having the teacher write directions on the board so he can visually process the information as well.

It may include a reinforcement program involving points or using an ADHD behavior chart that focuses on staying in his seat and keeping his hands to himself.

Studies show that with the exception of medication, reinforcement programs are one of the best treatment options for children with ADHD.

Finally, if you are at a loss and unable to do any of these suggestions. You might consider having him switch to another classroom to see if another teacher might work better or consider homeschooling if possible.

Good luck!

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Preschool Behavior

Four-year-old children exposing themselves to each other

Question about Preschool Behavior: A preschool class of four-year old boys and girls have started and continued to touch, pinch, or hit each other around their "bottoms," and a number of girls have started taking turns picking up their skirts and pulling down tights and/or underwear to show each other, or the whole class.

Teachers have given talks about private parts and privacy; parents have been told; some have had discussions; others have threatened (extreme) punishments; and still others have admitted that after a hard day at work, they just don't have the energy to deal with misbehavior, and therefore let their little girls get away with stuff even at home, one-on-one.

What are educators to do?

Where can I find research on "pre-school exhibitionism"?

Answer: While it is very natural and healthy for there to be preschool behavior that involves some sexual curiosity, it is not normal for it to excessively continue after all of the interventions you described.

I would be concerned about the children touching other children inappropriately after being told multiple times not to because it could be a sign of sexual abuse. This is especially concerning if the parents seem to be taking a relaxed attitude about the entire situation.

You may want to evaluate each child that continues to be a problem and discuss with your colleagues whether it is a situation that needs to be reported.

Some concerning preschool behaviors would be(1):

- Touching or rubbing oneself that results in hurting the genitals;

- Demanding others touch him/her;

- Asking people to take off their clothes or attempting to take their clothes of for them;

- Refusing to leave people alone in the bathroom, forcing themselves into the bathroom;

- Refusing to wear clothes or secretly showing oneself in public after several scoldings;

- Coercing other children to play doctor or to take off their clothes;

- Painfully forcing the insertion of an object into the genitals or rectum of oneself or other children; and

- Simulating intercourse without clothing.

As an educator I would not only talk with the parents, but also put into place a policy about this type of behavior. Parents are much more likely to "deal with misbehavior" when it directly affects them.

Something, such as removing the child from the school for a period of time after each occurrence would probably get their attention. Of course this would be something that is put into place only after the children have been talked to about their bodies being private etc.

I would sit down with the parents and offending children and simply state that while you understand sexual curiosity is normal, exposing oneself or touching inappropriately is against the law and you have to consider how this behavior is affecting other children in the classroom.

Then, give a very structured list of consequences for first offense, second offense etc. listing the behaviors very specifically that are considered to result in the consequence.

You may also try educating the children with books as they might be more likely to listen and provide the parents with the same resources to help their child learn about how the body is private.


1. Adams, H. (2008). Sexual Behaviors of Preschool Children: When Should You Seek Professional Help?. 11-9-10.

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Student with spd pinching and kicking

Question: A middle school student with sensory processing disorder occasionally pinches, head butts, and kicks.

Although the students team agrees that he is probably reacting to sensory overload and that much should be done to avoid that, the team still needs to know what to do when those types of behaviors occur.

Answer: I think it is important to work on teaching him an appropriate alternative replacement behavior that results in the same reinforcer (ex. reduction in sensory stimuli).

If he is cognitively able to have a conversation about the situation then I would try the following approach.

After any aggressive incidents, place him in a secluded area where he cannot harm others to allow him to calm down.

Let him know when he is calm he you will talk to him. Once he is calm for a few minutes go into to talk to him about the situation using the following approach.

Ask him:

1. What did you do that was wrong? You may have to prompt him to say it- e.g. “I punched ______.”

2. Why was that wrong? It wasn't kind and hurt another person. You may want to also elaborate on why this is important.

3. What will you do differently next time? It works well to give him a choice of good ways to deal with problems – talk about it with an adult, ask for help, ask to leave the room by yourself to calm down.

You may consider doing some role play with him of the same situation to help him practice the chosen behavior making it more likely to occur in the future.

If he is not able to have a conversation, then I would work to teach him how to signal that he is getting overloaded. Possibly show him a quiet designated area he is able to go to when he needs to calm down. Perhaps have noise softening headphones there that he can put on temporarily.

Practice physically prompting him to do the signal and take him to the quiet area while he is already calm. Once he appears to understand the correlation, whenever he is aggressive again prompt him to make the signal by making the signal yourself and then take him to the area. You may also use verbal prompts if he is able to understand these.

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School Problems

by Virginia Tyra
(caboolture, qld australia)

My son has been having problems since day one at school

Question: My son has been plauged with problems since preschool. At preschool he threw chairs at teachers and fought other children. In kindergarten he learned very fast, but still had kids picking on him and it seems by this time the teachers had singled him out to be the problem child.

First grade was no different. Though he picked up reading quickly he was labeled as the problem child. Thinking that moving to a new school would help I moved him across town for year two. In second grade he was consistently sent home and had problem moving from one thing to another.

I tried behavior charts, rewards, punishments, even more extreme forms of rewards and punishments. I don't think there is a chart or program in the world I haven't tried. The problems have just grown worse in year 3 and 4. He has problems making friends and even when he does he seems very awkward.

He is a different sort of child and loves to make people laugh though some of his jokes seem scripted as a matter of fact I know he practices some of his jokes in a mirror and even mirrors he seems to have an obsession. I've noticed that he never uses his hands to talk though I think that is just because again he is different.

Well now I'm homeschooling to see if maybe I can have a difference and I'm sorry to say that it seems I am failing as much as the school systems. His focus is there and gone depending on days. I can see he wants to learn, but then thinks about things differently than what I tell him to do, even giving him specific directions.

He's not stupid and has always been top of his class, but he is now slipping further and further behind. I still try to encourage him and help him, I even slow things down or speed them up where he needs it. I am just at a loss I know children of 10 are preoccupied but it seems my son lives on a different planet and it's getting harder and harder to reach him.

Answer: I'm not sure how the school systems work in Austrailia, but I would have him evaluated by a school psychologist. It sounds like he may have a learning disability. This is not to say that he isn't smart, because there are many very intelligent individuals that have a learning disability.

He may just need to be taught in a specific way based on what his learning disability may be. Way to go for home schooling him! That shows how much dedication you have as a mom. I think you are on the right track. If you can get him evaluated I think that is your best option.

Also, try attending some homeschooling conferences. There are likely other parents in your same situation that have the answers you are seeking. They also usually have some great resources at these things for parents to learn what works best for their child. Good Luck!

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8yr old boy, talks in classroom

Question: My grandson is getting in trouble because he disrupts the class. Typically it is talking during quiet time, one day he was told to put a drawing away, but he kept taking it out and working on it.

When asked why he talks during quiet time, he says that he is busy working on his papers and he doesn't see the quiet time sign go up. The teacher has moved him to the front of the class, the back of the class, etc.

They have a scale that goes from blue to green, to yellow to red to white. He was red only one day, and the teacher called my son. Since then my son has asked the teacher to write in his book daily and let him know whenever he gets in trouble.

He has gone from blue to green on several occasions. My son has asked the teacher to call, but she hasn't. I told my son, not to worry about it, and he went asking for trouble when he asked for a daily report. The teacher would call if she thought it was important enough.

He is punishing him by telling him he wont start him the first quarter as QB on his pee wee football league. He is the coach, so the first report that comes home for the week, he will make him run laps, doesn't let him be captain, etc.

He has never gotten to the point of not playing. I think he has also grounded him to his room, etc. I think he is too hard on him and I told him positive rewards are better than negative punishment. The child is very smart and getting good grades.

His parents have joint custody and he goes back and forth on a weekly basis. Mom always drops him off at my sons house where he gets on and off the bus. He has done this routine since he was a year old.

I tell my son, that if all he is doing is talking out of turn in school, he should be lucky. I also suggested he may want to test the child for ADD, but he thinks that is an excuse.

My grandson did this last year in class also, but he seemed to not do it as much. Towards the end of the year he was doing much better. He is a very pleasant, very likable boy.

Answer: You bring up some very good points about your grandson, but unfortunately he is the dad and makes the ultimate decision.

It's possible that he may just be tuning out what you are saying because he feels that it is his job to make these decisions as the father. While it may seem that the punishment is a bit harsh for the crime, I do think that it is admirable that he is concerned about this behavior.

His son has a long road ahead of him in terms of classes that require you to be quiet during certain periods of time. Some parents are not concerned enough about their child's behavior at school.

Although it may be an attention problem, consequences are still going to be the best way to help him learn to pay attention to when the quiet sign has gone up.

You may suggest that he gets a reward for having a good week without any talking out of turn and possibly even recommend (gift perhaps?) the following book that helps parents think of logical consequences that teach more than punish. However, respecting him as the parent and his final decisions of how to handle the situation is really the best you can do.

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Problems with Homework

by Kate
(Charleston, SC)

138 IQ , 14 year old, son w/ASD & ADD extremely resistant to school work and homework. How can I get him to do his work?

Question: Fourteen year old son w/ ASD & ADD resists doing school work and home work at any cost. He puts off doing his work until it piles up and then he cries because there is too much work to do.

I check his agenda daily and beg him to do his work, but I usually end up near tears. His grades have dropped over the last to years from almost all A's to Cs and D's. The zeros that he gets keep his grades low, and the low grades keep his self esteem low.

My son has an IQ of 138 ( tested at 8 years old ) but he is in the slowest section of 8th graders at his school. I cannot get him to want to do his work or to want good grades. It seems like it's just too much trouble for him and he doesn't want to fool with it.

I am going nuts and am scared that his is going to fall through the cracks.

Answer: Having problems with homework is a common struggle among many parents. The best way to encourage and establish any behavior is through routine. As mentioned on my pages with compliance strategies for defiant children, I would start by putting together a daily schedule for your son.

Start when he gets home from school with a snack and then immediately doing homework. All other fun activities he likes to do including TV, computer time and video games should not be allowed until after homework is completed.

I think a common problem is allowing a child to do any of these things their motivation to actually think and process a different type of information, which is typically involved in doing homework, is lost.

These things overstimulate the brain, often making it difficult to concentrate on other things after doing them. It will also be extremely motivating for your child to be able to do them after his homework is completed.

Start by telling him you are going to start a new schedule. Write or Type it out and put it where he can see it. I would avoid saying anything like, "If you do your homework, then you can ..." Instead say, "As soon as you finish your homework each day, then you may...."

Leave it at that and allow him to make the choice to do it. He may test you at first to see if you give in and allow him to do those things without completed homework, but don't give in. Remain consistent and he will eventually do his homework.

If he has too much to do in one day, give a set amount he has to complete in one day before allowing access to those other activities. You can also use homework charts to list his assignments and allow him to get additional reinforcers for completing all of his homework in a week, such as a special trip somewhere.

Over time he will get so used to the routine of coming home eating snack and doing homework, you will have little if any resistance. Just remain consistent and avoid getting upset in front of him.

If he adamantly refuses simply say, "Oh what a bummer. I know how much you like to (watch your favorite show). Maybe you can watch it tomorrow after you do your homework." Avoid any other prompts and once again remain consistent with the schedule and do not allow these activities until he shows you his completed work.

Good luck!

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