Avatar universal

6 year old son misbehaving in school

I have a six year old son who has just started kindergarten this year.  At home, I don't really have any major behavior problems with him.  He is generally a loving, cooperative child although he can be very stubborn at times.  His grandfather picks him up from his after school program each day due to my work schedule, but today I got out early and was able to get him.  Lo and behold, I found out that my son has been having major behavior problems at the after school program.  They apologized for not calling me before, saying that they have told his grandfather about it but it appears he has been hiding it from me (probably because he doesn't want my son to get in trouble with me).  I also found out from the after school program that my son is apparently being isolated at a desk by himself in his kindergarten classroom while the other children sit in clusters of desks.  I knew that he was having problems the first couple of weeks of school, but since then the teacher has not called nor written notes home to me making me aware of this, so I assumed he was just having issues adjusting at first and all was going well now.  As it's the weekend, I haven't yet had a chance to communicate with the teacher, but I feel angry about the fact that she has isolated him in the classroom without making me aware of him being the problem child in class so I could attempt to remedy the situation.  I believe he is having the same issues there that he has been having in the after school program: not following directions, being disruptive, as well as having trouble keeping his hands to himself.  His lying/manipulation also concerns me greatly.  I asked him why he was at a desk by himself and he told me straight faced that it's because they didn't have enough room for him at the other desks.  After I told him I knew he was lying, he admitted it's because he's being bad at school.  I also should mention that his father has been in prison for the last year and a half, and my son has continually used this as an excuse for why he is misbehaving at school (we did have some issues at his preschool as well but only for a couple of months before he straightened out).  At first I was understanding about it, but now I feel like he is just using it to elicit pity so he doesn't have to face consequences for his behavior.  I have told him that he can talk to me when he's upset about his dad and that there are many ways he can express his feelings, but acting out and misbehaving in school is not an option.  I told him today that we are not doing anything fun this weekend and that I'm taking his video game away until I see his behavior in school is improving.  I just get the feeling that his teacher has given up on him already and that he's been labeled as the "bad kid" in class.  I'm not sure where to go from here.
4 Responses
Avatar universal
I am a Kindergarten teacher who has taught in the most difficult urban school situations.  Most of the children I have taught have had a parent in prison.  I am very well aware of the student that is your child.  I have had many students like him.  First, the good part is your child is fully aware that HE is making choices that are causing him to be kept apart from the other kids, and he doesn't really like it.  His lie as you call it is good news because it means he knows its wrong for him.  In teaching Kindergarten a teacher must be emotionally available to all the students.  You can't treat all kids the same because they all have very different needs.  If your son was in my class we would only "isolate" him if he was a threat to the well being of the students or actually wanted it that way.  I suspect what your son may be stuck on is a need to "know"  my teacher cares about me and loves me.  There was this girl who was the class bully in another class.  She was tough and nasty.  Her teacher constantly was complaining about her.  She acted horribly.  One day her teacher brought her to me and said "Take her please, I can't endure anymore".  I sat down with her and we (my class and I) told her OUR rules in school (simple social rules).  We explained how much we were GLAD she was here and that we liked to have company in our class when we learn.  We told her we would be her friend and cared about her but that she had to follow our rules if she wanted to stay here, else she would go to the Principals office.  She acted tough and defiant until I did what I always do.  I lowered myself on my knees to get on her eye level and said "Sarah, I know you are a very good girl and you're smart too.  But do you think your making choices that make school an unhappy place?"  She said yes.  So I said - well how about we have fun instead of unhappiness - but Sarah you control the happiness or sadness not me.  You do!  By the end of the day she was engaged in learning and had no problems.  When she started to make a wrong choice I said "Sarah, is this (choice) going to result in happiness or sadness?  Good choice or WRONG (not bad) choice.  I always reiterated, the choice is not good, but you are not bad.  Kindergartners think THEY are bad, when they make wrong choices.  It makes things worse.  Before dismissal she came up to me and said "Mr T - did you mean what you said when you said you liked having me in your class and wanted me back?" and I said "Sarah you are an awesome kid and you can come to my class anytime you want".  She gave me a huge squeeze hug and walked out.  Sarah simply needed to know I cared about her.  To this day, she comes up to me everyday in the cafeteria for a hug and to be told how awesome she is.  Her teacher has said how much better she has behaved.  I told her Ms L -- she just wants to know you love her - thats it, and you can't fake it  And isn't that what we all want.  Even you and I???  
I told her teacher that being a Kindergaten teacher is not so much about policies but about emotional engagement.  All my kids know how much I love them.  They get hugs and personal attention regularly.  Some get it all day long.  Whatever they need..  I believe your son wants to "feel" that same degree of caring from his teacher.  He's just 6 and with a dad incarcerated that's a major problem.  I would try very hard to avoid punishments (things that deliver sadness/pain when his choice is wrong).  Focus on positive reinforcement.  It has been my opinion based on experience that punishments deepen the gap and widen the problem.  Positive reinforcers close the gap and help resolve the problem.  Positive reinforcers are --special class job, sitting with the teacher at lunch, e-mails to mom/dad, phone calls to parent, wearing a special ribbon/medal.  Special stickers,  Special signs on the walll recognizing success.  Remember a 6 year old really does not know "why" he's acting a certain way.  He likely can't tell you what drives him to do certain things.  I have a student in my class that wants to sit alone, seriously.  Ask him about how he feels sitting alone?  Keep punishment to a minimum.  Focus on positive reinforcers.  Ask him if he likes school (if not why - he may be able to tell you what the problem is)  Ask him what he wants to have happen in school.  What would he like his school experience to be.  Help him see that he controls his own happiness.  Check to see if the teacher is emotionally detached or worse - biased against your child.  Some students need a great deal more emotional engagement in the classroom,  Ultimately they act out to keep the teachers focus on them.  So they don't get ignored.  Ask lots of questions.  Try hard not to blame him, but see his behaviors as a way of him letting you know there are red lights flashing on the dashboard.  - Mr T (Kindergarten teacher, and married father of 2)
535822 tn?1443976780
Wow really great post Mr T  you have some great information and not once do you think that all children with a behavior issue have a disorder which seems to be in vogue...  
Avatar universal
Thanks so much for all your helpful advice!  I have talked to my son in detail about what is going on in school, and he has admitted many of the things that he's been doing there.  I had him actually act out things that he does and then explained to him why those choices were wrong.  I am, however, greatly concerned about the way the teacher has handled this.  My son told me that every day when he gets to school, he is automatically sent to a desk by himself and is not given the opportunity to sit with the other children.  His concept of time isn't developed enough to tell me how long this has been going on for, but it has to have been for at least a week because the after school program told me that he's been at a desk by himself.  I just can't understand why the teacher would go to this extreme without even giving me a call or sending a note.  He's not a violent child and is not a threat to the other children.  If she felt that he was a threat, I'm sure I would have gotten a phone call.  I feel like she is probably overwhelmed (there are 30 kids in her class) and just doesn't want to deal with him.  He said that she put him by himself because he plays around in his seat, kicks his feet around, and doesn't always follow her directions.  He also admitted that he hits the other children sometimes, but says that he is playing and doesn't really mean to hurt them.  But I feel that isolating him this way is damaging and reinforcing his belief that he is "bad" and is only making his behavior worse.  I had to spend a good deal of time today convincing him that he is not a bad child but is just not making the right choices.  He kept saying "No, I'm not good.  I'm a bad boy.  That's why I'm in trouble all the time."  I gave him examples of how sweet and helpful he is at home, how well he treats his little cousins and his hamster, and told him that I know he can do much better.  After this, he seemed to cheer up and came over to me for a hug.  I'm going to call her on Monday and get her side of the story, but I am not feeling good at all about the way this has been handled.  Thanks again so much for your advice!  I'm going to cut down on the punishment and focus instead on rewarding positive behavior.
189897 tn?1441126518
   I am really glad to hear that you are going to cut down on his punishments.  Kudos for all of the above for convincing you to do so.  Let me also add that for a child of this age, to punish them for something that they did hours earlier is a waste of time.  They don't have the capability to connect the two things.  By the age of maybe 9 or 10, yes - at 6 its developmentally extremely difficult.
  A couple more suggestions.  There are several really good sets of books that are meant to be read to the 4 to 7 year old child.  I'm not exactly sure which book would be the most helpful, but "know and follow rules" might be a good start.  It can be found here - http://www.amazon.com/Follow-Rules-Cheri-Meiners-M-Ed/dp/1575421305/ref=pd_sim_b_4
    And if you scroll down, you can find many other books that will be helpful.  One of the things that  these books do (besides a neat bonding time as you read to him) is to give both of you a common way to discuss things.
   The other thought I have (which is from monitoring the ADHD forum for many years) is that it is always possible that he really can't control what he is doing due to ADHD.  If it is something like ADHD, then it really changes how you deal with him, his teacher, and really everything.  So its probably worth your time to check out the possibility.  A good starting site is -
    If any of this seems possible then I highly recommend you get the book,  "The ADD/ ADHD Answer book," by Susan Ashley.   It will help you deal with the school now and in the future.  But mainly, it will be a resource for you for many years to come.
    I hope this helps.  If it does look like ADHD, I monitor the ADHD forum found here - http://www.medhelp.org/forums/ADD---ADHD/show/175
  Its pretty easy to find me and my answers to posts, so feel free to also post there.  I will monitor both sites.  Best wishes.
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