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6 year old boy school behavior problems
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6 year old boy school behavior problems

My son will be 6 in a few days and we are at wits end with his behavior at school.  He attends full-day Kindergarten and will repeat next year on the advice of his teacher.

Early in the school year, we began to get notes that he was misbehaving in class.  He was never violent or destructive, but it was small things like not staying in line, roughhousing in the bathroom, not following rules, yelling in the halls, etc.  He had a hard time following directions and finishing his work.  If the class was told to color the horse brown, he might chose blue, or he might decide to draw a robot instead.  Occasionally, he would hit/shove a classmate, but this was rare.

The teacher started using a sticker chart to encourage good behavior.  During the day, he could earn up to 3 stickers for following directions/rules at school.  At the end of the week, he would get a prize if he accumulated at least 10 stickers that week.  The teacher did this consistently for 2 - 3 months and his behavior actually got worse.

We started punishing him at home if he did not earn at least 1 sticker each day.  If he came home with no stickers, he was sent to his room (no tv, video games) for the rest of the afternoon/evening.  6 hours in his room was horrible for him (and the rest of the family.)  We did this about 10 times, and he cried, begged, pleaded the WHOLE six hours, every time.  Each time, he was remorseful and promised to behave in school, but after a few days, he always ended up having another bad day and coming home with no stickers.

He has also been kicked off the bus several times for not staying in his seat, despite repeated warnings.  We have punished him for bad behavior on the bus (cancelled play dates, taken away TV, video games) but the punishments don't seem to be a deterrent.

He almost always misses recess, field trips, play time at school because of a rule he breaks.  Teacher says that he's sad and remorseful, but the next day, he'll repeat the same offense, almost like he doesn't connect the previous day's consequence to his actions.

With me, his behavior is fine, but then I usually give him a warning (I'm taking your video game if you don't stop that) and that usually is effective.

Despite all this, his teacher says he's a sweet, delightful, charming little boy, well-liked by all his classmates.  She is starting to think that maybe he CAN'T do it.  He just doesn't have the self-control to do what is expected of him (finish his work, stay in line, follow the classroom rules, etc.)

Is this possible?  If so, is there some type of disorder we should have him evaluated for?  Are we handling him the wrong way?

I should mention that our 8 year old son was diagnosed with ADHD last year but his main issue is hyperactivity.  He always finishes his work and is really good about following rules once he understands them. He's not medicated and is doing really well with behavior modification.

Thanks,

Sharon
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It sounds like your son's main liability is his degree of impulsivity. So, to some extent, he's not 100% in charge of his behavior. I would not excuse it on that basis, however. It is important that he learn to accomodate his behavior to the demands of whatever setting he is in. The sticker chart and overall reward/consequence system is generally correct, but your implementation needs a little work. Here's what I'd do. Divide his school day into segments - e.g., one-hour segments. For each segment, he can earn his sticker by complying with the rules. Each day when he arrives home, (a) issue some reward - e.g., treat, time viewing television, time playing games) for each sticker he earns (e.g., he might receive 15 min of TV time for each sticker); (b) give him a ten-minute time out for any segment during which he does not earn a sticker. If he earns some, but not all, of his stickers on any particular day, be sure he does the time out piece before you issue the reward piece. No, it's not clear if his impulsivity is a manifestation of ADHD - it may be. For now, I wouldn't focus on that. If the impulsivity is persisting at the outset of next school year, it would be prudent to investigate ADHD.
2 Comments
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I was so relieved to read your question, Sharon, because I too am suffering with the same problem with my 6 year old son. The school he goes to doesn't do this sticker reward deal but uses a yard stick with different colors and a clothes pin where everyone starts on green in the morning and the pin or "clip" gets moved throughout the day if they "misbehave". Now, after trying everything else I'm finally telling the teacher to forget about the yard stick and tell him that if he misbehaves it'll be no recess for him or playing with his "friends". I've tried taking away everything on all different amounts or scales, time-outs, "nose-on-the-wall" time-outs but nothing keeps him on green. But just last week I realized that his most precious thing is getting to play with his "friends" and so I figure if I take that away from him if he doesn't behave what choice will he have but to behave. I guess I'll have to wait and see if this works. People have told me it's a maturity level thing. Now I wonder if it's that or too much sugar in his diet as my husband suggested tonight.

Diana
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