Young Kids Acting Out in School: The Top 3 Issues Parents Worry about Most

by Dr. Joan Simeo Munson
Young Kids Acting Out in School: The Top 3 Issues Parents Worry about Most

If you’re the parent of a young child who acts out at school, you’ve probably asked yourself, “If my child is out of control now, how will I be able to deal with him when he’s ten—or a teenager?” Once a toddler or kindergartner becomes known as a child who “plays too rough” or “always has to have his way,” parents often find that invitations to playdates and birthday parties begin to dry up. Instead of hoping your child will be well-liked at school, you might be saying to yourself, “If only Ben could find just one friend to play with—and maintain that friendship for longer than a day!”

“If my child is out of control now, how will I be able to deal with him when he’s ten—or a teenager?”

Let me start by saying that many of the difficult behaviors your young child displays— including pushing, hitting, and refusing to share and take turns—are perfectly normal for their developmental level. While you still need to address those issues, I think it’s helpful to understand that they are very common amongst young kids—and you are certainly not alone in what you are dealing with. I personally believe that one of the keys to helping your young child improve their behavior at school lies in having them work on this same behavior at home. The good news is that as a parent, you are in the best position to coach, teach and hold them accountable for their behavior.

In my experience, of all the issues parents have concerns about when it comes to young kids at school, these three tend to be the most common—and the ones parents worry about most:

“My Child is Overly Aggressive.” 
Nobody wants their child to hit, yell, or play too roughly with others, but it’s important to realize that this is typical in young children—in part because most toddlers and kindergartners still lack adequate verbal skills to deal with their emotions. For a young child, reasoning through a situation when they are upset can be very challenging, if not altogether impossible. And for many kids, hitting, pushing and yelling are the best problem solving skills they have at their fingertips. This is not to say you should excuse aggressive behavior, or that you can’t coach your child to behave appropriately on their own eventually. While it’s important to recognize that what your child is doing is normal, you also need to use rules and consequences to clearly teach them how to stop behaving too aggressively.

What Parents Can Do: It’s up to you to let your child know that their actions will no longer be tolerated. When things are calm, get down on their level, look them in the eye and say, “Hitting, biting, kicking and pushing are wrong and they hurt people.” Be sure to tell them what their consequence will be: “If I see you hurting anyone, or if the teacher tells me you hit someone again at pre-school today, your consequence will be no television when you get home.” Keep the consequences short term and give them to your child as soon as possible after they have behaved inappropriately. Try to have your child spend time with someone close to his age. Watch them closely so that you can see when your child is starting to become upset and coach him in that moment to use his words.  Consequences alone will not change his behavior--but using consequences to require your child to practice the skills he needs to develop will change behaviors.

Related: Give your teen consequences that really work.

I also believe it’s important to coach your little one to find his voice instead of lashing out at others. Keep in mind that this will require practice and lots of repetition. You can start by teaching your toddler, pre-schooler or kindergartner a saying to use at school or home when they are angry and frustrated. In place of pushing, for example, tell your child to say something like, “I don’t like that!” or “I’m not going to play with you if you take my toys!” Another good thing to do is show your child how to walk away when he is angry or upset. Be sure to role play this with him, and switch roles so he can see how each side might react.

I also recommend that parents work with their child’s teachers as much as possible: let them know you are doing your best to curb aggressive behavior at home. Oftentimes, the teacher will have helpful suggestions for you to try, as well. The important thing is that you get on the same page and try to work together with the school as much as possible.

“My Child Won’t Share or Take Turns.” 
Ahhh, sharing. This is one of the toughest things you’ll deal with when it comes to young kids, both at home and at school. It’s important for you to remember that your child is at a developmental level that makes sharing extremely difficult.  Since sharing with others and taking turns is not a behavior that comes naturally to young children, it’s your job to teach your kids why it is so important.  After all, learning how to share is central to a child’s ability to make and keep friends. Keep in mind that you can’t force your kids to share any more than you can force them to eat their broccoli—but through practice, they can learn to do it.

What Parents Can Do:  Bear in mind that there are some things your child will not want to (and shouldn’t have to) share:  A special treat given to them by their Grandma; a new toy from their birthday party; their favorite stuffed animal or security blanket. It’s okay to say, “I know that’s special to you and you don’t want to share it.”  And after all, you probably wouldn’t want to “share” the ring your parents gave you when you graduated from high school, or that brand new pair of dress shoes you just bought.

Of course, there are times when your child needs to share: if they’re hoarding a package of crayons while their best friend is sitting empty-handed, for example, it’s time to intervene. Teach a little empathy by saying, “Jamie, how would you feel if Sarah had all the crayons and wouldn’t give you any?  Can you think of how to share your crayons?”  Some kids may realize this seems selfish, while others may hold on to those crayons all the more tightly! Feel free to give your child a choice here:  “Jamie, you can give Sarah five crayons.” If your child refuses to let go of the crayons, tell her that you will give her ten seconds to release the crayons or you will put her in time-out. The same thinking applies when it’s time to take turns. “Jamie, it's Sarah’s turn to pick a video next. You chose last time.” If a tantrum ensues, your child should face a consequence such as a time-out—or you can leave the play date altogether.

If you hear that your child is having a tough time sharing or taking turns at school, again, let your child’s teacher know that you are working on this specific issue at home, and ask for advice. By the way, I would not give your child a consequence for this when they come home—let the teacher handle it in the classroom. What I would suggest is that you talk to your child in a calm moment about sharing and taking turns. You can say something like, “You know, part of being a good friend is learning how to share. Sometimes it’s a hard thing to do, but taking turns is a big part of playing with someone else and making new friends.” You might also tell them about a time when you had a difficult time taking turns as a child, and how you learned to deal with it. Kids love to hear stories about their parents when they were kids; I’ve found that telling them about your experiences can be very effective in helping them understand the situation and improve their behavior.

I also cannot stress this enough: when you see your child sharing or taking turns nicely, be sure to compliment them and reinforce why it’s important: “I noticed how nicely you were sharing with Connor the other day. It shows that you’re really trying hard to be a good friend. I’m really proud of you.” That positive reinforcement makes all the difference in the world—especially with young kids.

“My Child has a Hard Time Making—and Keeping—Friends.”
Many parents tell me that their kids have difficulties making and keeping friends.  Sadly, a child who is demanding or argumentative with other kids often finds himself feeling isolated as a result. And that’s really the natural consequence for this type of behavior—soon, other children just won’t want to play with him anymore.

Kids are aggressive or bossy for many reasons: some get anxious when in groups, while others have not learned proper boundaries or social skills at home. In either case, it’s a good idea to step in and help your child change their behavior as soon as possible.

What Parents Can Do:  Start by being honest about what social skills your child lacks, and then make a commitment to help them work through those issues.  Many parents tell me that their child observes few boundaries with other kids at school: their child will jump into the middle of games and try to take over, knock down the other students’ Lego buildings, or grab toys from classmates. While again, this type of behavior is normal for this age group, it’s not something you want to go unchecked.

I believe this problem can be resolved in large part by creating better boundaries at home. What that means is, try not to give in if your child whines or pleads, and set firm rules for them. When your child takes over a family dinner conversation or their sibling’s game, remind them that someone else was talking, or that now it’s their brother’s turn to do the puzzle. And follow through on the consequences you have laid out for them. You can say, “You know the consequence for ruining your sister’s game when she has a friend over. You need to go to your room for a time-out and stay there for five minutes.”

Related: Learn how to set limits with your child.

I know that parents can become exhausted when dealing with young kids who act out; let’s face it, it’s hard work! But I want to be clear here: it may seem like a small thing in the moment when you fail to be consistent, but consider this:  each time you give in when your child acts out, you are setting the stage for future acting out throughout their development. And when you don’t expect them to behave properly within their own relationships at home, the truth is that you are also hindering their ability to act appropriately with their friends at school.

Coaching Your Young Child toward Better Behavior
If you have a young child who acts out at school, realize that he may need some extra coaching as he tries to change his behavior. I recommend that you start by explaining to him what type of behavior you expect him to have.  In a calm moment, you can say, “I expect that when you are here at home or with friends at school you will practice sharing, you will not hit, and you will not be bossy.” Rewarding your child for good behavior is also key. I always suggest that parents use a chart at home when they are trying to help improve their child’s behavior, because it is an excellent motivator. The chart might have sections at the top that say, “Plays Nicely with Little Sister”; “Shares and Takes Turns” or “Uses an Inside Voice.” Sit down with your child and show the chart to him—you can even create it together. Be sure to tell him, “If you can do these things, you will get a sticker for your chart each day.  When you reach 10 stickers, you’ll get a special surprise.”  When your child is able to accomplish these goals, make sure you tell him what a great job he did.  Point out specifics like, “I really liked watching you and Gracie take turns with the paints. It seems like you are working hard!”  Kids love it when you are aware that they are attempting to change their behavior, and they will try all the harder if they know you’re watching.

If your young child continues to act out with kids at school, let him experience the consequences the teacher doles out, but continue to coach him at home in ways to be less aggressive or bossy. You can also ask his teacher to maintain a “good school behavior chart” –you can even give your child extra points on his chart at home for good behavior there.

Finally, many parents tell me that they often feel their child has been labeled “difficult” by the school which can make the whole family feel like outcasts. If this is your experience, know that it’s never too late to try to improve the situation. Call a meeting with your child’s teacher and state what you are doing for him at home. Let the school know about any outside help your child may be receiving, such as counseling or tutoring. While you can’t control what a teacher thinks of your child, you can at least feel good knowing you are doing everything in your power to help the situation; in my experience that makes all the difference. As a parent, it’s not always easy to help our young children change their behavior, but I believe it’s one of the most important and worthwhile things we will ever do.




When Challenging Behavior Becomes a Problem: Some Guidelines on When to Seek Help

While it is normal for aggressive behavior, bossiness, or refusing to share or take turns to creep into your young child’s life at some point, it is also important to know when to seek outside help. The main criteria for contacting your pediatrician or child mental health expert are:

  •  When your child’s behavior chronically interferes with the order of the classroom or family to the point of daily disruptions. Is your child’s teacher continually calling you to talk about behavior issues, or asking you to come to school and talk? This would include serious infractions at school, such as punching, kicking, or pushing other kids repeatedly and destroying school property. If the teacher is unable to do his or her job because they are dealing with your child’s behavior issues, it is time to seek outside help.

  • When the behavior interferes with your child’s ability to maintain friends. I am not suggesting an inability to be popular or have loads of buddies, but rather, when your child is actively disliked by their peer group  or has no connections with other children to the point of isolation. This is a cause for concern which you need to address immediately.

  • When the behavior interferes with your child’s ability to understand or grasp schoolwork. Again, I’m not suggesting that struggling with learning to read or being bored with a project in kindergarten means there’s a problem. If, however, your child finds it so hard to concentrate that he or she can’t understand the basic concepts appropriate for their developmental level, talk to his or her pediatrician.

  • If you feel you have set all the appropriate limits on your child and they still do not respond. When you set limits, use consequences, coach and teach your child on how to behave and nothing seems to be working, it’s time to seek outside help.

Sometimes anxiety, learning disabilities or other issues are the reason that your child has trouble with other kids at school.  While it’s true that children with those issues might lack appropriate boundaries, in my opinion that’s all the more reason for you to work on this with them. It’s vital that they learn to develop these skills, or make no mistake, they will grow up without really understanding how to interact socially.  If your child has been diagnosed with a disorder such ADHD or ODD for example, use it as an incentive for you as a parent to work harder at helping them develop proper boundaries.


Enter your email address to receive our FREE
weekly parenting newsletter.

Dr. Joan Simeo Munson earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver. She has worked with incarcerated individuals, families, adolescents, and college students in a variety of settings, including county and city jails, community mental health centers, university counseling centers, and hospitals. She also has a background in individual, group, and couples counseling. Dr. Munson lives in Colorado with her husband and three energetic children. She currently has a private practice in Boulder where she sees adults, couples and adolescents.


Dr. Joan: Thank you for this article. My 4 year old son is in dangr of getting kicked out of his preschool for hitting and pushing the other kids. I think I need to start giving him consequences at home for it besides telling him that hitting is wrong. (I think that was the piece of the puzzle that was missing.) I'm also going to take him to the pediatrician and see if anythig else is going on. Thanks so much!!

Comment By : JacksMom

My child went through this phase. After being tested, he was diagnosed wlth Sensory Deficit Disorder. Then we wanted to get him OT in shcool for this and went through the IED testing. The testing resulted in not an IED but an increase in grade level. Now he doesn't have the agression problems, but he's been labeled already and worse, now HE get's beaten up by other kids. He won't fight back, even defends other children against the bullies, but frequently he is still punished for the actions, as though he were the instigator. I have seen it occur myself, and even spoke the the teachers and principal about it. Still it is a reoccuring issue.

Comment By : RCMorf

This article was extremely helpful with both of my kids. It is so true about doing your "home work" and your children will learn to behave elsewhere.

Comment By : jules

I have a five year old daughter that is very advanced for her age has all A's and B's. When she doesnt get an answer right or when the teacher does not call upon her she gets really upset. This results in throwing crayons or anything she gets her hands on. Almost every other day I get a call to pick her up or a meeting with the principal which results in her being out of the class. I have alot of patience with my daughter she is an only child she is very loving, caring and knows right from wrong. This has been going on for 5 months now. I have taken a leave of absence from my job, because of the repeated calls from her school about her behavior. Does anyone have any suggestions please help!!!!

Comment By : singlemom

* Dear 'singlemom': I want to commend you for reaching out and looking for resources to help your daughter. The behavior you describe is one of those situations where Dr. Joan Simeo Munson suggests in this article that it’s important to get some input from a professional. It appears that your daughter’s behavior ‘chronically interferes with the order of the classroom or family to the point of daily disruptions’. Getting some outside assistance will help to identify specifically what skills your child needs to improve her behavior and will allow you to concentrate your energy on helping her develop those skills. You might start by contacting your pediatrician or a mental health professional in your area. Thanks for your question. Please keep in touch and let us know how it’s going.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have a seven year old girl who is very aggressive at school and extremely rude. I am in constant contact with the school and am on a first name basis with the principal and teacher. I have made suggestions to the teacher and the school about what works at home and what to try at school and basically get shut down and told that my child is intentionally doing these actions and is well aware of what is going to happen to her. It seems as though the staff is intimidated by my daughter and I have told them stand your ground, once I come in the school she straightens up but I can not continue to leave work and defuse the situation. I feel as if my daughter is getting the message from them I dont have to until Mommy comes because of how often they call me and I have to show up because they make it sound as though she is destroying the school. Any advice on how to continue to work with the school but get them to, for lack of better words, get a back bone?

Comment By : mommyx4

* Dear Mommyx4: I think there are a few things you can do to help improve this situation. First and foremost, tell the principal that unless your daughter is sick or bleeding, you are no longer coming to the school to help "calm" her. This is the school's responsibility. Ask her what your school handbook states regarding how to handle a child that is acting out. You also state that the school has told you that your daughter is "well aware of what will happen to her," so you need to know what exactly the consequence is that they are talking about. Does she need an in-school suspension? Does she need to be placed in the waiting area of the principal's office until she calms down? Does she need some type of immediate consequence from the teacher/school when this happens? My point here is that you need to develop a game plan with the school for when this happens again. Stand your ground and tell them that your job depends on you and you need to be there. Second, I need to ask you: is she in fact harming others or really destroying property at school? I know you say that the school acts like she is, but you need to know exactly what she is doing. The school should be able to give you concrete examples. You say she is acting aggressively and rudely, and that the school feels she is doing this intentionally. Quite frankly, it sounds like your daughter is doing this intentionally and is having quite a good time getting an awful lot of attention not only from the principal and her teacher, but from you. It's time to stop giving her all the attention for her acting out behavior. Have a meeting with your daughter. You can say, "I am no longer coming to school when you are acting out. I have worked it out with your teacher that if you are mean to other kids you will have (fill in the blank here) as your consequence at school. In addition, your teacher will be filling out this card each day to tell me what kind of day you are having." Create a card that the teacher can fill out each day to tell you how her behavior is. Each day should be split into two halves: one for the morning, one for the afternoon. The teacher should rate her behavior for each part of the day (with a rating scale or a smiley or frown face) so that you can look at it to determine how her day was. If your daughter winds up with a greater number of positive reports from her teacher than negative reports, reward her! Make a list of things she can choose from at the end of week. Examples include: 15 minutes of extra time before bedtime, a trip to the ice cream shop, playing a game with you in the evening, buying a book from the bookstore, etc. If there are more instances of bad as opposed to good behavior, there should be a consequence at home such as no television, earlier bedtime, etc. The key here is to get the focus off the negative behavior she is engaging by letting her know you are no longer playing a game with her. If her aggressive behavior does not stop, you need to contact you pediatrician sooner rather than later to determine if she should be assessed for either learning disabilities or a psychological condition that has been overlooked. I hope this is helpful. Please keep in touch and let us know how it's going with your daughter.

Comment By : Dr. Joan Simeo Munson

I am a mother of five children.I am only 24 and my younges is disabled and requires constant attition.My oldest child James is in constant trouble at scool and i have tried alot of diffrent options.I have taken toys and everything away.He just acts like he doesn't care.I don't know what to do.All my friends say i should just spank him.But idon't believe in that.I was wondering if you have any sugestions?

Comment By : Loria

* Hi Loria - You certainly have your hands full! Depending on how old your son is, you may be able to have a discussion about the kinds of situations that "trigger" him at school - whether it is a certain time of day, or a certain activity, that sets off the inappropriate behavior. For example, if he gets bored during story-time and starts throwing things, then you will need to help him come up with more appropriate things to do when he is bored so that he doesn't get into trouble. Just telling him what he CAN'T do isn't enough - come up with one or two specific things he CAN do when he feels like breaking the rules. If his teachers are supportive and willing to help, let them know the things you and your son have decided on. That way, they can also act as your son's coach during the school day by reminding him, "hey, remember, you said you are going to practice tying and untying your shoelaces when you get bored. Try that now please." As you've noticed, taking away his toys is not helping your son to behave. As James says, you can't punish anyone into better behavior. Spanking and other punishments do not help your child learn more appropriate skills. You will have more success if you choose a privilege your son would like to earn every day. For example, you might let him know that when you get a good report from his teacher, he earns half an hour on his computer games that night. If you get a not-so-good report, he does not earn that half hour, and he may need to talk with you about what he can do next time. He gets to try again the next school day. When he can go three days in a row with a good report, he can earn a bonus half an hour. Remember to keep your consequences short term and within the same day, especially for younger children. You might check out "why don't consequences work for my teen?" - though the article addresses older children, the basic structure is the same for younger kids. Step by step, he will learn the skills he needs to follow the rules even when he doesn't want to. Good luck, and let us know how it's going.

Comment By : Megan Devine, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have a 4-year old granddaughter who is acting out in pre-kindergarten by talking out of turn and a lot of playing and not being focused. Her mommy who is 24 is not stable right not and she has a 6 month old new little sister. She is a very intelligent little girl and I do not want to spank her for her behavior. I feel there is another way. What are the basics to do to help her. Her unstableness is part of the problem. She lives with her other Nana and the new baby's dad. Please tell me what we can do for her until her mom stabilizes her living situation?

Comment By : Concerned Nana

please can somebody help me, im at my wits end. i have a 5yr old son who i think is being picked on by his teachers. he is loving caring and helpfull at home and around the rest of the family. i am getting numerous comments from his teachers such as he has bitten somebody,stood on somebodies book etc. silly things really. i have now been told i need to address these issues at home, i dont know what they want me to do as i dont have these probs at home. i feel that if he stood on somebodies book then if the child whose book it was had been made to pick it up off the floor then he wouldnt have stood on it,on another occassion i was told that he was under a table when he had bitten somebody,if they werent allowed to be under the table would it have happened. he has come home from school covered in blood where an older child has pushed him over in the playground causing scratches to his face and a bloody nose. there are numerous other things i could mention that hasnt been his fault. i have done everything the school has asked of me, hearing tests,eye tests, educational phsycologists etc. what else can i do please please help.

Comment By : herbiezee

* Dear herbiezee: Reading your letter made me think of my own kids and how they act at home versus school. Just this past week, my 12-year-old’s art teacher contacted me to say that if my son didn’t stop talking, joking around, and interrupting in her class, she was going to give him detention. My husband and I were floored! This from a child who doesn’t really talk much at home and almost completely ignores his two siblings? I could have sworn she was talking about our middle child who is flagrantly disruptive at home, talks out of turn, and can be downright rude to the rest of us. But at school, this child is an angel. My point here is that our kids don’t always act the same way at home as they do at school. What you are witnessing in your child’s behavior at home may dramatically change when he is in the school setting. There are numerous ways to handle this: First, realize that your son’s teachers are on your side. If you choose to look at these behavioral issues as them picking on him, you are not helping your son in any way. Your teacher’s job is to help your son develop into a healthy, happy child who will go through his elementary years and beyond with good behavior and healthy social skills. If you are being told that your child is acting out, your job is to be a detective to get to the bottom of this. You have to stop blaming the teachers and taking their comments as a personal affront to your parenting skills. Trust me when I say that they do not want to see your child develop into a kid who is so behaviorally troubled that they will be isolated at school. Set up a meeting with your son’s teacher and develop a plan. Something that may help is to create a behavioral chart with the teacher. She can write comments about how your son behaved each day. For one of my kids, the teacher would evaluate his behavior in the morning and afternoon and write any comments for each day about any behaviors, both good and not so good. This way you have a day-to-day log that tells you how his behavior is. During your meeting you also have to get a better understanding about whether or not your child is being bullied. If he truly is coming home covered in blood, then you need to take immediate action to get to the bottom of how and who is responsible for this bullying. Lastly, it is time for your son to start understanding that we are all responsible for our own behavior. While it is easy to say that other children should not be doing things to provoke your son’s behavior, ultimately it will be up to your son to control himself so he stops doing things like stepping on people’s books and biting. Sit down with him and say, “I want you to behave in school. This means no biting, no hitting, no shoving, no yelling. I know you can do these things because you behave so well at home. Your teacher and I have a book that will tell me each day how you are behaving. If you can go one week with a good report, you will have a special treat.” This can include extra movie time at home, a trip to the ice cream shop, 15 minutes extra at bedtime, or whatever you think is reasonable. Learning to take responsibility for one’s actions is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids, one that will help him throughout his schooling and his life. Good luck, and please let us know how it goes!

Comment By : Dr. Joan

Thank you Dr. for your insight. The thing I struggle with the most is my daughter is very intelligent, above her grade level and the school wants to push her forward but her acting out is going to hinder that. Her lack of social skills and behavioral control does not affect her grades at all. However, I fear her slowing down if she keeps getting into trouble and gets discouraged. She lives with her mother and step-father so it is difficult to keep the same behavioral discipline in order. What would you recommend I do in order to save her social and academic stands and help her to improve? Thank you again. Adam

Comment By : Emileesdaddy

I have the same problem with my childs school. She was being bullied ont he bus and at the school and at home during the summer by the same kids. Time and time again. My daughter is a great kid at home, she is 8 yrs old but at school she just doesn't like being around kids her own age. It seems they are always poking her, bugging her and she hates that. Now the teacher and principal tried to tell me that it was my fault and are there any problems at home? I said no. A child went to her mom and told her mom that my daughter said some bad things to her and the principal right away called CAS on us. CAS came to our home and talked with my daughter at length and concluded that there was nothing wrong. Not even 2 months later they are threatened to call CAS yet again but CAS told me that they would not come here to my home again and even gave the principal a hard time because she keeps calling them on everyone. Not just me but other families too. I agreed to have a teacher come into the classroom to observe my daughter to see what the triggers are and to offer advice and help but it seems the school never lets up. It is in a very small town and everyone knows everyone else and I don't know what more I can do as a parent to protect my daughter. They let her roam the halls of the school, they sit her out on a beanbag chair when she gets mad at kids bugging her. I know she is very dramatic but I am so done with this school. I am ready to transfer her and drive her to school everyday..does anyone have any advice they can give me?

Comment By : Pugs0311

* Dear ‘Pugs0311’: There are two things you can do. If your child is being bullied on the bus and at school and you are not satisfied that the principal and teachers are doing enough to protect her, you should contact the school’s superintendent. Your school system is responsible to provide a safe environment for kids and the superintendent should look into this for you. The other way you can help is by working directly with your daughter. Instead of moving her out of the school, help her improve her social skills. You mentioned that she is very dramatic and doesn’t like being around kids her own age. Ask her teacher if there is a student in her classroom that might be a good friend for her. Having one friend that you can go to at school can help a great deal. Meet that mother and invite that child to your house on the weekends. Supervise your daughter’s play with this child and if she is getting overly dramatic or mad, call her aside and help her to calm herself and to problem solve—perhaps learning how to ask for what she wants and to take turns, or managing her frustrations by taking some good deep breaths. James Lehman recognizes that kids need to learn the skills required to interact with each other socially. Here’s a great article that you might enjoy reading: Good Behavior is not “Magic”—It’s a Skill The Three Skills Every Child Needs for Good Behavior It can be frustrating when working with school systems at times but stay involved and continue to advocate for your child and to teach her the skills that will help her socially. Call us here on the Support Line. We’d be glad to give you our support and ideas.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

Dear "Emilee's Daddy": First, I think it’s great that you are taking such an active role in helping your daughter navigate her way through this period of her development. Having you on her side will make all the difference in the world as she continues to grow. If I understand you correctly, it sounds as if you and your ex-wife have different types of discipline for your daughter. This can be a struggle for the child who is caught in between confusing messages. I don’t know what your relationship with your ex is like, but I am hoping the two of you are able to rationally discuss what your goals are for your daughter. Certainly there should be a few things you can agree on, such as the same bed time, responsibilities around the house (making her own bed, clearing dishes, unloading the dishwasher, etc.), and setting boundaries with her. If you present this to your ex-wife in a way that suggests you want the two of you to work as a team for the sake of helping your daughter (as opposed to suggesting your ex is doing things wrong, which will make her defensive) perhaps she will be receptive. By coming up with a mantra you can use with her, such as, “I know we both want the best for Emilee” you can help her see that you are putting your daughter first. I cannot guarantee this will work, but it is worth a try! If your ex continues to do things her way, you can say to your daughter, “I know Mommy has different rules at her house, but at my house, this is how we are going to do things. I know this can be hard for you sometimes, but I love you very much and want you to do your best at my house.” Next, you and your ex (and if your daughter’s stepfather is interested, include him) must meet with Emilee's teacher so she can explain what her goals are for your daughter. Are they considering moving her up an entire grade or just moving her into more advanced classes? If they want to move her to more advanced classes, how many are they thinking and what would her workload be like? Are there other kids who have done this at her school? What do their parents say? You are going to have to do some detective work here to determine what the school has in mind for her. From personal experience, I know how hard it can be to have a child who is intellectually advanced, but is less mature than their peers. For our oldest son, the best alternative was to allow him to go to higher classes for Math and Science, but stay in his current grade. Oftentimes, kids who are very bright lag behind in social skills because their brains are moving so quickly with their fascination of the world. I am a strong advocate of pushing children forward academically, but retaining them in their grade. You need to find out if your school is willing to do this. Remember that most kids who are 7 years old are immature. The only time to be concerned about this is if your daughter cannot make friends, is so aggressive or so shy that she has a hard time communicating, exhibits problem behavior in her classroom, or is consistently alone. Encourage play dates for your daughter, sign her up for classes/groups with her peers, and do things that will help her socially. This may seem like a challenge for you, but it sounds like you are up for the task. Good luck!

Comment By : Dr. Joan Simeo Munson

I have a seven year old daughter that goes to a private christian school. She has always been a very outgoing girl and loves to socialize. But this year she has had a hard time with talking too much. So much that she has been sent to the principals office and the teacher has had to call me to let me know of this disruptive behavior. I have had positive rewards and concequences too but they do not seam to be working any more. I am a single mom and feel I am at my wits end

Comment By : blessings

* Dear ‘blessings’: We appreciate your question, and you are not alone -- many parents write and call us about school behaviors. Whenever you hear that your child’s behavior is getting in the way of her accomplishing her goals at school, it’s best to do a thorough evaluation so that you can understand what specific skills she needs to improve and what specific interventions will help her. Begin with your daughter’s pediatrician. Let him know the behavior concerns you notice at home and what has been reported to you by her school. Help your daughter practice the skills at home that are needed at school. Ask her to use a simple relaxation technique when she’s a little too wound-up --because you can’t be relaxed and stressed at the same time. Deep breathing is excellent for relaxation. James Lehman talks about ‘cueing’ in the Total Transformation program. Develop a signal to ‘cue’ her when she needs to calm down -- such as raising your hand. Call us here on the Support Line for more ideas on how to use the techniques in the Total Transformation program. We’re here to help.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have a 4 year old girl she is in prekinder since she started school she dont seem to fallow directions the teachers tells me i dont know what to do i talkto her and punish her in th ethings she likes but she still can fallow dirrections.

Comment By : patty

* To Grandmat: You are obviously a caring and involved Grandma and I applaud you for this. Moving from house to house is never an ideal situation, but it is your grandkids’ reality so your job is going to be the stabilizer. As the stabilizer your responsibilities will include the following: being in touch with your daughter and/or the children's father on a regular basis to see how they are faring in school; visiting them as often as you can; setting limits when they are with you so they know they can't mess with Grandma; leading by example, for instance keeping your cool, speaking calmly, being consistent, and letting them know how much you love them; feeling free to dole out consistent, reasonable consequences; being a source of support for your daughter in whatever way you know how (for example, babysitting, taking the kids for an overnight visit, bringing dinner over, having them to your house, etc.). Lastly, I don't know what your own work situation is like, but if you have the time perhaps volunteering a few times a month at your grandkids’ school would help. At my kids’ elementary school there is a whole host of retired grandparents working in the cafeteria, helping with reading, doing recess duty, etc. They are a blessing to us parents! Even though these are not your kids, you can and will serve an important role as a grandparent in their lives.

Comment By : Dr. Joan

My son is in grade 3 and I have been getting complaints for disturbing the class by making different kinds of noices. I had a discussion with my son and he said he makes noices whenever he gets bored. He does lot of imaginative plays and he keeps to talk all the time. Can you please suggest any solutions for this problem. Thanks

Comment By : none

I have a 3year old son who is in Preschool. We have had several conversations with his teachers about his behavior. He hits, pushes goes to bite. He has these meltdowns and they said once he is gone there is no getting him back from them. They suggested I get him tested to get a shadow to follow him in class but I think that is an extreme. I don't know what to do. I mean he is only 3, at what point is it not normal.

Comment By : JennA

I have a 12 year old son that use to be bullyied now he finally won a fight and is always harrassing other kids in school and speaks very rude to school staff he has been suspended and back in to school now he has been of for 3 weeks and i get an expulsion hearing notice whats triggering his behavior and what does a parent do now

Comment By : neracoe

Dr. Joan, I have a 6 year od son, that was diagnosed with ADHD, December of last year, since than he has been medicated. He is now in 1st grade. His teacher is constantly calling me on his behavior not be focus, disrupting the classroom with out brust, drawing on his face for attention, and not doing school work independly. His teacher, constantly giving him warnings on his behavior thoughout the day. And, it seems he doesn't care of the consequences for his actions. His father and I, are starting to notice that his behavior is starting to effect his education. At home, I'm experiencing yelling, not focusing on homework, rough housing with family cat and very disrespectful to myself and his father. Now, we came up with a list of rules that we put on the wall, that he can see and read daily. And, with his help, he came up with his own punishments for each rule. And, that helped for about a week or so. Now, my son and I moved to Cleveland from Chicago in December 2010, and when I started notice has behavior changing, I thought that it was just his way of adjustmenting to a new city, new school, and new friends. And, now I'm starting to question, myself "what did I do wrong"? I feel like my hands are tied behide my back and I'm not sure what would be my next step from here, if I should contact his doctor and/or have him seen by a counselor. Any advise will help.

Comment By : mommynson08

* Dear mommyson08, Your issue does seem to call for some intervention from a professional. I am not saying this because I think your son has problems that are unsolveable, but rather because at this point it is necessary for you to get a complete evaluation from a professional regarding his development and his medication, and to discuss his current behavior in school and at home. Specifically, since you’ve moved, you need to be in contact with a pediatrician about the medication he is taking. Any child who is taking a medication for any medical problem has to be monitored by a pediatrician to make sure that he is handling the medication well and not experiencing negative side effects. I encourage you to make an appointment with your pediatrician as soon as possible and bring any and all information from your current and past schools as well as any notes on how your child is acting at home. Your pediatrician should be able to direct you to a mental health professional that can advise you on the best ways to help your son.

Comment By : Dr. Joan Simeo Munson

my 5 yr old son has been acting up at school the last few weeks it started by just not listening to the teachers, then has escalated to pushing the teacher and threats, and likes going to the principals, ive started a reward chart but he has yet to get any stickers on it. im just not sure wot else do. ive tried talking with him, and he has been without tv for over a week now.

Comment By : singlemommy5

* To ‘singlemommy5’: It sounds like you are feeling like you’re at a loss here. It’s great that you have tried talking to your son and we recommend that you continue to do this. James Lehman felt that kids act out when they have problems they don’t know how to solve and talking, asking your son what was going on right before he pushed the teacher or what he was thinking, is going to help you get to the root of the problem. Once you have a better understanding of the problem, you can talk to your son about what he can do differently and help him practice by role-playing with him. You will need to talk and role-play several times because kids need repetition to learn. Also, we would recommend giving him back some basic TV privileges every day and focusing on using incentives alone in this case, because we find incentives to be much more effective for this age group. Take a good, critical look at your behavior chart and what you are asking him to do in order to earn a reward. Remember the point is to “start where you child is and coach him forward” so to ask your son to be perfect in order to get a reward is not realistic. A reward he can early daily is going to be most motivating. Here is an article on behavior charts for more information. Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively. After you read this article you also might want to view the Multiple Behavior Chart and its instructions. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Dr. Joan, My ex husband and I have shared custody of our five year-old son 50/50 for the last two years. We live close to each other so our son switches between us every two days, with alternating 3 day weekends. Our discipline processes are not alike, and the two environments are different in so far as the education/intelligence level of the adults in one household vs. the other. We sent him to kindergarten this year although I was very reluctant due to his maturity level. Academically he is average to above average but claims he hates homework and it is difficult to hold his attention. His teacher has complained about him all year. She says he can't sit still, disrupts the class, etc. I was in the classroom twice and it was chaotic, with 25 kids and only 1 teacher. The dynamics with my ex are that his family generally does not show much respect toward the women in the household (ex lives with his 76y/o parents. Our pediatrician thinks our son could benefit from a smaller class size or a male teacher. I have a follow up appt. since we filled out our ADHD evaluations and I am worried that the teacher's evaluation was harsh. My son also lies a lot about things, including things he has been blamed for at school. I know my ex does not play with him the way a normal dad would, and my son asks for us to tell him stories at bedtime about his dad playing with him...isn't that a cry for attention from "DAD?" He is not difficult to deal with at home, but I must say he is active and does not listen well without being told things repeatedly. He seems to not be able to focus except on things that he wants at the moment. Spending only half my time with him makes it very difficult to be consistent. The ex will not communicate with me, so there is no cohesive approach to behavior modification. Do you think that being in one household throughout the school week would give him the consistency he needs to succeed with his behavior modification? Thank you for any advice you can give me.

Comment By : Concerned mom

* Dear Concerned Mom, Every behavior you are describing is a perfectly normal behavior for a kindergarten boy. I have two boys and a daughter who have completed kindergarten and I can tell you I have yet to see a boy that age who can sit still, not complain about homework, works responsibly or on time at home, or who can focus. I strongly urge you to not assume that your child has ADHD just because he is exhibiting these behaviors. Throw a chaotic household into the mix and his behavior sounds just about right. The key here is to try to create as much order and routine in your son’s day-to-day life. I am a firm believer that spending two days on, two days off at different houses is too much for a child. During the summer, this routine may work fine, but when school starts, kids need and thrive upon daily routines. It makes them feel more secure and orderly, which translates into better sleep, eating habits, study skills, and happiness for everyone. Since I don’t know what the custody agreement is between you and your ex, I urge you both to talk to a professional counselor to determine what the best arrangement is for your son. Obviously you both love him and want to be with him, so keep remembering this as you navigate the issue of time spent between houses. You cannot control what happens with your son when he is at his dad/grandparent’s house, so don’t even try. When he is with you, establish a set of ground rules and chores and post them at eye level so he can see them daily. These can include: Get dressed in morning, Brush teeth, Clear dishes, Do math work, Get reading done, Go to soccer, or whatever his activities are during the day. In a separate column, write out your expectations: No Complaining, No hitting, Be Patient, or whatever you think is appropriate. Next to these charts, have a calendar and when he does his chores/listens to the rules, give him a sticker for each time he does what you ask. After so many stickers, GIVE HIM A REWARD! These can include anything you think he’d like: a new book, more video time, a trip to the park, the ice cream shop, the zoo, etc. Lastly, be preemptive by meeting with his next year’s teacher this summer. I don’t like that his kindergarten teacher complained about him all year. Anyone teaching students this young should be aware of the developmental level of young boys. Explain to the new teacher that you are looking for your son to have the best year ever and that you are willing to do everything and anything to make that happen. Ask for her advice and her experiences with other little boys. If your ex is willing, take him along for this meeting because it can only help your son. Your son is your main priority here. At night, continue to read to him, snuggle, color, and do all the things it sounds like you're already doing to nurture him.

Comment By : Dr. Joan

I need help! I have a 7 year old daughter. She is very smart but is having a behavior problem at school. Since school has started she has gotten in trouble for her talking in class, she won't stay on task or in her seat to do her work. I hate to keep punishing her but I am at my end wits with this situation. She lies to my face saying that she got smiley face but when I look at her folder she has gotten in trouble. She hides papers when she get in trouble and sign it and take it back please tell me what else can I do?

Comment By : helpless

* Hi 'helpless': It is very difficult to have a child who is frequently in trouble at school. First, we recommend talking with her teacher about her behavior in class, and what the teacher is doing to hold her accountable for her behavior. If your daughter is receiving consequences for talking in class, or not staying in her seat, we do not recommend giving additional consequences at home. We do advise doing some problem solving with your daughter about what is going on for her in class, and what she can do differently to keep out of trouble. Instead of punishing her, you might offer an incentive for behaving well in school; for example, if she can go through the whole day without talking in class, she might earn some extra TV time that evening. I am attaching an article on behavior charts that you might find helpful: Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively. Good luck to you and your daughter as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I'm at my wits end with my 10 year old daughter. She's usually very well behaved at home but constantly has problems in school. Her teacher says she complains endlessly about the noise in the classroom, doesn't pay attention to lessons, doesn't turn her homework, and doesn't socialize with the other kids. At a IEP meeting last school year, I was told by the teacher and counselors that she has a mental problem (though they wouldn't say what it was) and that she needs to see a therapist or she wouldn't make it through middle school (she's in 4th grade now). I've talked to my pediatrician who said she was fine mentally, wouldn't refer me to any therapists, and told me just to put her to bed earlier. When I told her IEP team this at a meeting this school year, they were livid. I'm trying to find a therapist for her on my own, but the ones I've talked to won't take her on as a client because they don't believe she has any sort of mental or emotional problem and they wouldn't be able to help her with her problems at school. I have another IEP meeting in a few weeks and I'm panicking because I can't find a therapist for her. It seems like they expect me to find a magical cure for her behavior problems and I'm trying everything I can but it doesn't seem good enough for them. Is there anything else I can do about this situation?

Comment By : DLS

* To ‘DLS’: It sounds like you’re having a pretty tough time working with your daughter’s school. It seems that you have obtained several different opinions about what your daughter needs, and you’re being pulled in different directions. The best thing you can do is document and focus on your responsibility as your daughter’s advocate, her voice in these meetings. Create a written record of the people you have taken your daughter to see and their feedback to you, and be prepared to provide copies at the meeting. If you have specific tools or techniques that work well with your daughter at home, you might also want to find a way to share these tools with the staff at school so that they might try them with her at school. Here is an article that I think will give you some more helpful ideas and suggestions: How to Navigate the School System When Your Child Has a Disability. We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Hi, My son is 3.5 and in preschool, over the past few weeks he has been acting out at school, being very disagreeable, kicking, hitting, scratching at teachers, once he gets in these rages its hard for them to bring him out. He does the opposite of what the teacher ask, and does not want to share at all, he went from being very silly in school, to very agressive to now he seems to be getting sad, I've been working with him on the hitting and kicking etc, to get that under control, but him being very defiant is becoming a problem. I talk to him everyday, visit the school everyday to see how he's doing and to give him a pep talk on how to act and what I expect of him. He does not act like this at home so I am very confused and need a little guidance on how to get thru this. My son is very smart and sweet and loving, this behavior all of a suddent is very confusing and I'm afraid his teachers will get tired of him and kick him out of school. Any suggestions or guidance is very much appreciated, I am trying just about everything. Please Help!

Comment By : Drained Mommy

* To 'Drained Mommy': It’s understandable that you feel confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed with your son’s behavior right now. We recommend talking with the teachers, and find out if there have been any changes in the classroom, such as sitting next to someone else, or a change in teaching staff. It is normal for younger kids to react to changes like these in aggressive ways. That is not to say, however, that it is OK. We also recommend talking with your son about what he can do instead of being aggressive in the classroom. For example, you might say, “When your teacher told you that it was time to stop coloring, you scratched her. That’s not OK. Next time your teacher tells you to do something that you don’t want to do, try taking some really deep breaths so you can calm down. Let’s practice that.” If you have a good rapport with the teachers, it might be helpful to do a daily reward with him if he tries something else other than hitting, kicking or scratching. I am including a link to an article that I think you might find helpful: Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I have a 7 yr old son (1st grade). When he began, he made great friends with a boy & I noticed that he loved to play with him & wanted to be around him. I wanted him to make friends with other boys and asked for help from his teacher and counselor. They came up with a reward chart that rewarded him for speaking to other kids. I wasn't thrilled about this because I didn't think there was a need to discourage him from being with his best friend. Now he sits alone at lunch time and is not playing with the boys he likes during recess except at few times. I spoke to the counselor and she said "maybe he likes to sit alone." Then she politely said that she once spoke with another mom with similar concerns and that that mother's son told her "why is my mom always worried, I am fine." I felt dismissed and labeled as an overprotective mom. I just received his mid-year report card and saw the comments of his gym/art/music teachers. Each made comments that my son has a difficult time with social setting and often becomes frustrated and removes himself as a way to deal with the situation. I am very concerned and I don't know how to deal with this with the school. At home, we are setting up one on one play dates and have registered him for extra activities/sports as a way to build his social skills. I don't know how to deal with the school and I am extremely frustrated. I want to help my son while he is young because I fear that if I don't he will have a difficult time as he gets older.

Comment By : Building Confidence

My son has been diagnosed with adhd. Today his friends told him he is the second roughest kid in the class. This rough play happens during sport and he will often initiate a game of wrestling or rough housing with his friends. He was upset about being told he was too rough and I'm worried about his reputation. How can I help him change his behaviour. I feel so powerless. I get frustrated with him for being so rough and tell him he has to take control of the adhd, not let the adhd control him. I tell him when he feels like being rough, he needs to take some time out, walk away and calm down. The problem is that he seems to have little control over his impulses and when he is anxious or excited, he just gets rough and can't seem to stop. I have to yell at him sometimes to "Stop and calm down" when he is talking about something that he is excited or angry about. He becomes very loud and does not make much sense in what he is saying and I get very overwhelmed by his behaviour. We have been to OT for Senory and Auditory Processing Problems and still there seems to be little change. Please can you tell me how I can best help him get some control over his impulses to be rough?

Comment By : Worried mum

* To ‘Worried mum’: It’s so hard to see your child having trouble getting along with peers. It’s natural for you to feel anxious about how his behavior will affect him going forward. While you can’t control how your son interacts with peers, you can teach him some skills to recognize when he is getting too excited. It would be helpful to set up some one-on-one play dates at your home to help him practice. Before his friend arrives you can talk with your son and agree on a secret hand sign or cue that you will use if he is getting too hyper. Talk about what you expect to see him do after that sign is given. For example, he might go to the bathroom and splash some water on his face or go to the kitchen and take some slow, deep breaths. Your cues will help him to become more aware of his behavior. As the play date progresses, offer verbal praise or rewards for good play behavior, especially when he responds as expected to your signal. It will be very important for you to work with your son’s local treatment team (doctors and therapists) to discuss how you might need to adapt your communication approach with your son to best fit his needs. They might also have some additional feedback on how he can control his impulses better as well. Here is an article with more ideas and information about helping kids with ADHD: 5 Simple Concentration Building Techniques for Kids with ADHD. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I am at my wits end with BOTH of my daughters... My 8 year old in constant trouble with school and I believe is in serious risk of being kicked out... She is disruptive, rude, destructive, and just yesterday she cut her hair in class for the 6th time... No amount of time out or taking away privileges does anything to her, she just doesn't care. This behavior continues at home to where she actually threatens me " If you don't do this for me now I am going to throw this or break that, or I just won't listen to you anymore" She has ADHA and ODD and is medicated for it. She screams in my face that she hates me and wants to go live with her grandparents. She lies about EVERYTHING...even something as stupid as "Did you wash your hair" she lies about it... My 5 year old is just as bad if not worse... I have to keep my eyes on her at all times, even have to go as far as taking her to the bathroom with me because she will get into thing... she has dug holes in her bedroom wall with pens, bolts, anything she can get her hands on... she has climbed counters to get a hold of anything she can in the amount of time that it takes me to go to her bedroom and grab her a pair of socks... she has climbs on to the counters and cabinets to get a hold of nail polish and paint all over the walls, she steals and hides food... this morning a found a roll of crescent rolls broke open and shoved beside my washer... She runs off at the mouth anytime her mouth is open and NOTHING she is saying makes any sense... She is just as rude and nasty as her sister, if not worse... I don't know what to do... my grandmother and aunt has told me I should take them to see a physiologist and I have once but they turn around and told me that my kids behavior was my fault cause I am a single parent, verbatim he said " If you had stayed with their father this wouldn't be happening" Well I am SOOOO sorry that I didn't stay with a abusive drunk and get the crap beat out of me every day... Please someone help me

Comment By : VishousRaven1982

* To 'VishousRaven1982': It certainly sounds as if you are in a stressful situation with your daughters. James Lehman talks about kids training their parents through their aggressive or intimidating behavior. By threatening to break things, or otherwise not comply with you, she is training you to not ask anything of her. We recommend asking your daughter calmly, “Are you trying to threaten me?” Then, you can hold her accountable for whatever choice she makes. If she chooses not to comply with what you are asking, or if she chooses to break something, then you can give her a consequence for that. With both of your daughters, we advise doing some problem solving with them. For example, with your younger daughter, you might say, “What were you thinking right before you decided to dig a hole in the wall? What can you do differently next time?” Then you can hold her accountable for that by having her do some chores around the house to make amends for the damage she has done. We would also encourage you to continue to seek out some local supports for you and your daughters. If you and your family are not currently working with anyone to get support in your local community, a good place to start is 211 is an informational service that can help to connect you with resources in your area. You can also reach them by calling 1 (800) 273-6222. I am including links to some articles I think you might find helpful: The Secret to Understanding Acting-Out Behavior: 5 Common Thinking Errors Kids Make & The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems." Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

Thanks for this information. My 4 year old nephew has to come to live with my husband and me. He is fine at home but is very aggressive at school, at times completely ignoring his teachers. Lately he has begun spitting on students. He throws tantrums and whines when he doesn't get his way and really turns into a totally different kid. He has had some traumatic experiences growing up and he has been with us for the past 8 months as a result of his family issues. We want to support and nurture him, but his behavior seems to be getting worse. What do we do?

Comment By : drwlbn

* To drwlbn: It can be frustrating when a child acts one way at home, and another at school. It can also be a good sign, however, that he does know appropriate ways to behave overall. We recommend talking with his teachers about how they handle his aggressive behavior at school, and letting them know how you handle his behavior at home so you can have some consistency in how this behavior is being responded to. We also advise talking with your nephew about what is going on at school, and what he can do if he is feeling frustrated instead of spitting or having a tantrum. For example, you might say, “I know it’s hard when other kids are playing with a toy you want, but spitting is not OK. How about next time you feel like spitting, you go over and draw for a little bit instead? Let’s practice this!” You might also try talking with his teacher and his doctor to get some local resources and tips to try as well. We find that doing a behavior chart can be very effective with children this age, where if he practices his new behavior without spitting or having a tantrum, he receives a small reward. I’m including a link to an article about behavior charts that you might find useful: Child Behavior Charts: How to Use Behavior Charts Effectively. Good luck to you and your nephew as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My son just turned 5 years old and has been having a hard time in junior kindergarten for the past 4 months. He does very well with structured activities but acts inappropriately during free play and transition periods. He gets in kids faces, acts overly silly to get attention, and last week he got two notes - pretending to cut his lunch sack and then his ear at snack time, and another note about wrecking a group's sand castle and throwing a student's mitten over the fence. He has also been chewing small pieces of the classroom erasers and will chew on his shirt sleeves. He seems to want peer attention and is unsure how to join a group and will act inappropriately. We have talked about this so much, I have done sticker charts, bought children's books to read to him about behaviour and friendship. I went to our family doctor and he believes that my son is simply immature, along with many other students in his class, and he is looking for attention, will try something, try something else, and he assured me that he will get through this challenging period. It is very upsetting for my husband and I though....I dread checking his backpack at the end of the day, not knowing if there will be yet another note. He is also very smart, possibly gifted, and we believe he may be at different levels intellectually and emotionally. We provide a very loving, stable home, with rules and consequences, and despite our efforts he continues to misbehave at school. We are very frustrated at this point!

Comment By : MicroMama

Hi! I'm not sure if you answer everyone or not, but I'll give it a shot. I have a 3.5 year old daughter and a 1 year old son. Recently, I put my daughter in a one hour dance class where she refuses to listen to the teacher, picks her nose to get my attention, takes off her dance outfit in the middle of class and is generally disruptive. I pulled her about 40 minutes into class and had her watch the rest of class on my lap. She is fine (so far) in regular preschool where I leaver her twice a week for two hours. There have been no comments or complaints from the teacher. I'm worried that her dance class behavior is going to roll over into her preschool behavior. I'd like to try and stick dance class out for a couple more weeks. I don't want her to think she will get what she wants (ultimately not to go to dance class) by acting that way. Any suggestions? Should I just take her out of the class?

Comment By : shellebelle920

* To “shellebelle920”: You ask a great question. It can be difficult to know the best way to handle acting out behavior when it happens in a public place, such as a dance class. Removing your daughter from the situation was an appropriate response and exactly what we would suggest if a parent were to call in with this question on the Parental Support Line. As for whether or not you should take her out of the class, there isn’t a right or wrong answer. Dance class is most likely structured differently from pre-school, so, her behavior may be due to transitioning into a new setting. It also doesn’t mean her behavior from one setting is going to change her behavior in the other setting. You might consider taking her for a couple more dance classes and see if her behavior changes after she becomes a little more familiar with the setting. If her behavior doesn’t change, then you could decide at that point whether or not your daughter is developmentally ready for this type of class. Not all children develop at the same rate, so, while one 3 year old may be able to adjust easily, another 3 year old may need to a little more time to develop the skills needed to stay on task during dance class. Keep in mind, most of the tools and techniques discussed on Empowering Parents are designed for children who are 5 years and older. There are some suggestions, such as walking away that may not be appropriate for a child this age. We hope this information has been helpful and encourage you to continue reading Empowering Parents. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

Hi, I have a 5 year old son who is in Kindergarten this year. He was doing ok then all of a sudden this last two weeks he has started hitting his teacher when she makes him change his color when he doesn't do what she has told him to do. He knows that hitting is an absolute no no. He doesn't have any problems at his daycare and I do not have these problems at home. I have tried to take away his favorite play things and cartoons and that works for one day but then he is back to the bad behavior, any suggestions?? Thanks

Comment By : lovemylilman

* To “lovemylilman”: Thank you for writing in. I can hear how much you want to help your son with this behavior. It can be challenging to know what to do when a behavior is occurring at school. It sounds like your son is having a difficult time dealing with the consequence of changing his color. Children this age often have low frustration tolerance and limited problem-solving skills, so, it’s not unusual to see them act out in this way. We would suggest focusing on problem solving to help your son develop the skills to deal with frustration, disappointment and anger effectively. Sara Bean discusses how to do this in her article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems". You might also consider implementing a reward system to reward him when he doesn’t respond in this inappropriate way. For example, maybe he could earn extra privilege time, going to the park or playing a game with you as a reward when he doesn’t act out in class. This will help shift some of the focus onto the appropriate behavior instead of giving the negative behavior any undue attention. You may want to read some of the articles that specifically address this type of acting out behavior. You can find those articles here: Problems at School? How to Handle the Top 4 Issues, Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children & Managing the Meltdown. We hope this information is helpful and wish you and your family the best. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

my son just turned 5 early August and just started kinder. Alot of kids in his class are almost six. My son seems to catch on class assignments pretty fast but likes to talk and sometimes that gets in the way of listening. He gets sent home with a bad notes aleast one or twicw a month. He knows that if he gets a bad note there is no TV for that evening and he knows that what he did was wrong. Should I be worried that this behavior will get worse?

Comment By : mymunchkin

I have a son who is 5-1/2 in grade one. I am a single parent and he has been in full-time child care since 16months. I have NEVER had discipline problems and neither has the childcare or Kindergarten. Now he is in grade one and the principle has called twice saying he is out of control and they can't have him there. I am soooo frustrated with the school becasue they don't handle it well and blame him automatically without checking to see what caused the outburst. Yesterday I went to the school and found my child sobbing uncontrollably...I was livid they are humiliating him in public and then cannot see why he cries so hard. The first episode was the result of bullying which they did not see and now I don't know where to turn.

Comment By : Sgmbelle

* To 'mymunchkin': Your son appears to be exhibiting perfectly normal behaviors for a boy his age! I know it can be frustrating as a parent to watch your child come home with notes from the teacher, but keep in mind that this is the way most kindergarten teachers handle excitable students who have trouble listening -- and most kids have a note sent home at some point in their school career! There are two things I would do though, starting with creating a "good behavior chart" for your son. (Empowering Parents has free downloadable charts here: Kids your child's age need positive reinforcement, too. Each day that he behaves well at school allow him to put a sticker up on his chart. If he goes an entire week with no notes sent home then he gets a reward (15 minutes more television, a trip to the ice cream store, new crayons, etc.) This way he has an incentive to behave better in school. Second, meet with his teacher to let her know what you are doing at home to help your son behave better. Teachers love to know that parents are on board with creating better behavior and she might even remind your son at school that his good behavior chart is waiting for him when he gets home.

Comment By : Dr. Joan

* Dear Sgmbelle: It is really frustrating when you feel your school isn't doing all they can to help your child. It sounds like there is a very large communication gap between you and your child's school. Does his school have a counselor? If so I suggest making an appointment with the counselor, your son's teacher and the principal to discuss your son's behavior, the school's expectations for your son, how the school is planning to help him, and what your role as his parent will be in all of this. Even if there is no school counselor, a meeting is necessary with the teacher and principal in order to determine how to proceed. You are right in saying that it is not good for your son to be sobbing in school, but the solution will lie in you advocating with the school to help your son. It is important that the school know that you are willing to work with them and you will be showing them this by having ongoing discussions with his teacher about what step to take next. This will not be a one time meeting, but rather a series of meetings to watch your son's progress.

Comment By : Dr. Joan

Rate this article by clicking the stars below.

Rating: 2.8/5 (180 votes cast)

Related keywords:

Young, Children, Kids, Teens, Acting out in School, School behavior problems

Responses to questions posted on are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

We value your opinions and encourage you to add your comments to this discussion. We ask that you refrain from discussing topics of a political or religious nature. Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to respond to every question posted on our website.
If you like "Young Kids Acting Out in School: The Top 3 Issues Parents Worry about Most", you might like these related articles: