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3 yr old behavioural issues at pre-school
But fine at home


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#1 snookiemum

Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:15 AM

Just after some advise. My 3 year old (4 next month) started pre-school about 8 weeks ago. He has never been in any sort of care before with the exception of going to his grandparents home while I work (two days per week). I have him at pre-school 3 days a week and he appears to really love it. I've never had issues with him going, and he talks positively about the activities and the teachers.

About 2 weeks in the Centre Director took me aside and mentioned that they were having issues with him being aggressive to other kids and hitting and some spitting. We brought this up with DS and mentioned that this sort of thing wasn't acceptable. Fast forward to last week and the director took me aside again and said she would like to seek early intervention for his behaviour and have someone come in to assess him. I'm all for that, however I was a little disappointed that no-one had mentioned that the problem was still occurring until that point.

The thing is that he has always been the most gentle and empathetic child and I am really shocked that he is exhibiting this sort of behaviour at preschool. We certainly don't see it at home at all. He hasn't spent a whole heap of time around children of his own age, but does play well with his cousins (1 year older than him) and brother (younger). They say that he seems anxious and unable to make friends. They said that his communication skills and thought processes are way ahead of any of the other kids in the centre and that they think he might be getting frustrated with them as they just don't understand him and can't find any common ground. He has a highly developed sense of humour and a very active and vivid imagination. He loves to play games that involve a high level of imagination and I guess that it could be a big problem for him when other kids aren't seeing the game the same way he is. He talks about other kids there and says he wants friends but that he doesn't like it when other kids hit him or take his toys. I suspect he has been rejected a few times and now thinks the best thing to do is to reject other kids first, or just not join in for fear of being hurt.

I'm at a real loss as to what to do. I've agreed to the early intervention and hope that they can provide some insight, but I really want to be able to help my sweet little boy fit in. He's very intuitive and empathetic and I worry that the longer this isolation continues the more damage it is doing to him long term. I've tried to talk to him about how not all kids want to play the same games and if a child doesn't want to play a game with him thats ok, and it doesn't mean they don't like him.

Any ideas on how I could help him out?

#2 niggles

Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:22 AM

Do they have parent helpers at the preschool at all? It might help you to address the behaviour if you can see what's going on. Otherwise you might have to put your trust in the teachers and try to follow through with their suggestions and see if it helps.

I posted in another thread recently about the PATHS turtle technique. It helps kids to express their feelings verbally and figure out their options before they react. Might be worth looking into, but I'd say it's also important to be consistent with the teachers' system, especially since you are not seeing these issues at home.

#3 snookiemum

Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:30 AM

Thanks for the info on the PATHS turtle technique. I'll definitely do some research on that! Being a parent helper would be a great idea too. I'll ask the centre if I can come in.

#4 SarDonik

Posted 30 March 2012 - 10:46 AM

He needs to be interacting with kids his own age more often and preferably with you there to correct any unacceptable behaviour. What about the park?

#5 Kay1

Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:08 AM

I don't know if this will have any bearing on your situation as my son was a bit different in the sense that he hates imaginative play and would lash out if someone was pretending to be a crocodile etc.... he just couldn't understand the difference between pretend and real - he still struggles with this....

BUT at 3.5-4 he was having trouble with hitting and pushing at preschool. At home or in any other social situation however he socialised beautifully with no trouble whatsoever. Now I felt that it was partly because he knew we would not allow any misbehaviour whereas the preschool did not have any real discipline in place. But more importantly was cueing into the fact that he had some sensory processing issues. In particular noise was a trigger for him as was having his personal space invaded. So by the end of a long, noisy day at preschool if someone bumped into him in a rowdy game he would lash out. Also he hated being interrupted before he was finished something. So he would react badly if another child tried to join in his game or if it was time to pack up.

After reading about sensory processing issues I took him to an occupational therapist. He had weekly sessions for a year the year before he started school and they helped a lot. I also did social stories with him about the problem areas - like moving to mat time etc. I'd draw a picture of him at preschool and him being first at the door when it was time to go inside etc. Pictures of him sitting on the mat nice and still. He would get upset with other kids not sitting quietly etc so he would shout at them and push them etc. I showed him how to lead by example and show them how to sit nicely. The teacher was amazed at how well this worked as his behaviour changed almost overnight. My son is very academically bright but sometimes needs the basics explained to him very explicitly as he does not tend to take his cues from other people. We did also see a psychologist etc to rule out any major issues.

I think its great your preschool is offering early intervention - its a great opportunity to get things sorted before school.

FWIW my son had a pretty smooth transition to school. He had some similar issues in first term but since then has been doing beautifully and is now happy in year 1.  

One of his friends at school is possibly the most outgoing child I have ever met - is super popular and I was amazed to hear his mum telling me that he had a support person through most of preschool due to severe social issues . So don't worry too much, but do act. original.gif

#6 No-pants Agnodice

Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:23 AM

Could you find a playgroup you could take him on your days off? Friends with kids?

I'm sorry but it sounds like you're trying to come up with reasons to justify his behaviour - 'empathic', 'sensitive', 'imaginative', 'rejected' etc. You're giving a very young child very adult characteristics, when to me, it just sounds like a little boy who hasn't yet been taught social skills. Humans aren't born knowing how to get along with others, no more than they know how to walk, run, throw a ball, or do anything else. And if he's never spent much time in an environment where he' interacting with kids his own age, then he just hasn't learnt how to cope with that environment, and is reacting to that familiarity in a typically child-like fashion - by showing frustration and anger. The other kids know the 'rules' and he doesn't; consequently thu don't want to play with him, and he gets even more frustrated.

I am sure the teacher is only trying to teach him these skills through an 'early intervention program' - why is everything a catch phrase these days? What I think you could do to help is augment that by putting him in environments with other kids and guiding him through the process. Cousins are not the same as strangers or outside friends, and that's what he needs to get used to. And if you're there that makes it a more safe environment, and you can tell him what he needs to do 'ok, you need to share that toy now' or 'jake wants to play firemen, let's do that go a while and then we can do some more drawing'. He may get frustrated and it's ok to validate those frustrations 'yes I know you really wanted to do drawing but jake is your friend and we cooperate with our friends. Its ok to be frustrated, but you need to be a good friend and do what he wants sometimes, and he'll do what you want sometimes'. We have regular playdates with a few kids of our adult friends, and also spend a lot of time at the local parks where we've made 'friends' with local kids and parents. DS is 2.5 and I think we spend about 50% of any playdate (in combination with the other parents) instructing our kids in the 'rules' of human interaction, which in total amount to probably 10 hours a week of cajoling, lecturing, entreating and disciplining. And if the other kids have had this for a few years but your son has predominantly interacted with adults and family, then you can see where the problem might arise.

At almost 4 he'll pick it up a lot quicker than a 2 year old though, and I think the important thing is to be really encouraging and give him lots of love, cuddles and positive feedback when he does the right thing, and be gentle but firm when chastising him for doing the 'wrong' thing.

If he genuinely is a sweet and gentle boy, it's actually in his nature to be cooperative, he just needs some guidance as to how to do that! I'd recommend parks and playgroups, and put all the housework on hold for a few months on your days off, and take him places where he can interact with kids his age with your support.

#7 snookiemum

Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:33 PM

Thanks for your replies. Yes, we do socialise with friends that have kids his age. One in particular he has spent a lot of time with however I have tried to cut back on their time together in the last 3-4 months as there were a few incidents of physical aggression which were starting to bother DS. The other little boy was going through a rough patch I think (new sibling and all that) and had been hitting DS randomly (and repeatedly) with quite large objects (chairs, bikes, metal buckets) and it was getting to the stage where DS was physically shaking when he saw the other little boy. They still play together, however only say once a week and only under supervision. I did wonder that since this little boy was his most regular playmate that he might be copying his interaction (i.e. Open aggression rather than talking). We go to playgroups once every few weeks, but again all these interactions are always with me around and therefore he doesn't show this behaviour. I know at some point I just have to let go and let him sort it out for himself, but his interactions with kids in my presence has always been normal so I guess I just assumed he had learned enough social skills to get by in a pre-school environment. Clearly thats not the case!

MsN, I understand where you are coming from and I can see that it may have sounded like I was trying to justify his behaviour. I don't condone aggression towards other kids at all, which is why I'm so concerned about this. I was merely pointing out his character traits (empathetic, imaginative, sensitive etc) as I feel that its an important factor in understanding why this behaviour is out of character and therefore troubling to me.

#8 Kay1

Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:39 PM

Its so confusing when they are completely different at school than at home/elsewhere. I know exactly what you mean. Good luck getting to the bottom of it.

Edited by Kay1, 30 March 2012 - 12:40 PM.


#9 justcait2

Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:51 PM

Does the centre have an older age room ie 4-5 year olds that they could trial him in first to see if he is able to cope better with kids that are more at his developmental level.  He may be having trouble with the kids his age but better with the older kids who are at the level that he is at if he is further ahead that the kids he is with.  I know that this is how my DS is and once he was moved he was much happier and started making friends.  Good Luck.

#10 bubblegummum

Posted 30 March 2012 - 01:04 PM

I think it sounds like he's adjusting to a new situation.  Of course he needs guidance and what he's doing isn't ok but if he's doing this in one place it still sounds like a reaction to a new environment and something you'd expect he'll soon stop when he feels settled.

I totally understand where you're coming from with your description of your son.  I have very quiet, introverted children but when they were little they were quite aggressive for a while (in the one particular group situation).  It seems an assumption that the kids that hit, push etc are the loud physical types but that's not always the case.  When they're little the kids that need quiet and a lot of personal space can be aggressive too, they're overwhelmed by noise and the forwardness of more extroverted kids and can lash out.

#11 seayork2002

Posted 30 March 2012 - 01:45 PM

I can't put too much now (at work) but my son sounds exactly like mine, we are trying a few things so PM me if you like as I may forget to check back later.

#12 DreamFeralisations

Posted 30 March 2012 - 02:20 PM

I can't speak from experience, but it wasn't until my brother was "acting up" in pre-school that his deafness (subsequently addressed through adenoid removal) surfaced through his behaviour.

Or it could be as a previous poster said about sensitivities to noise (or such an environment) which he wouldn't have come across previously - friend's children have had similar diagnoses and, with the right "help" the child has generally found ways to accomodate to the new needs of schools and classrooms.




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