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Avatar universal

My 3 year old has behavior problems at school

How can I dicipline my 3 year old child for behaviors that occur at pre-school when they don't occur at home and I cannot  be there to see? The teachers have been complaining for about 2 months off an on about my daughter being disruptive during nap time and lesson time. They say she pretty much wants to play all of the time, talks back to the teachers and screams and yells a lot. She often wakes the other kids up during nap time.  Sometimes she takes naps, and other times she doesn't. She pretty much stopped napping about a year ago. We try to get her to nap at home but she won't lay down. Today was one of the worst reports from her teachers yet, appearently she was hitting and spitting on the other kids and even hit a teacher. I am very upset because we do not see these behaviors at home. Yes, I will admit she is sometimes quite busy, loud  and basically hyperactive, but I thought all 3 year olds were to a certain extent. I have also heard some back talk as well. When such behaviors do occur at home  I am able to address them right at the moment, but it is hard to address them when they occur at school. I have tried talking to her, modeling behavior for her and taking away favorite toys and other privledges such as watching her favorite DVD's. Nothing is working, she is getting worse. Whenever I am at the school, I don't see it happening. I know she is doing something but I am just not sure it isn't learned behavior. She didn't act like this before she started school. She previously attended a 2-year old class twice a week before being enrolled in this all day preschool. I am wondering if she wasn't ready for the structure yet or if it is just too much stimulus for her. She is also a very picky eater and refuses to eat new foods.. She hasn't always been this way either. Finally, we are having little success with potty training as well. She has a 6 month old sister and that has  been a set back. I need help.
22 Responses
Avatar universal
Oh yeah, I forgot to say that we have tried positive reinforcements such as rewards for potty use and good behavior. Her behavior is just not that bad at home as it is being described at school.
Avatar universal
I would take her to your pediatrician at this point.  It is time to have her checked by pediatric behavioral specialists since she is having problems.  The preschool teachers and these specialists know the difference between "normal" 3-year-old behavior and what's outside the norm.  Don't feel bad about this or your parenting!  This could be early signs of attention deficit disorder.  They are there to help you and make suggestions.  If it was "learned" behavior all the kids would be doing the same things since they are all in the same classroom, and you don't want to get into the habit of blaming other children for your child's behavior... you've got MANY years to go!  It's time to get some help since you've tried all you know.  
152852 tn?1205717026
It always baffles me when I read about toddlers going to “school”.  She’s three--she’s not supposed to be sitting for “lessons”.  And if she doesn’t nap, of course she wants others to be awake to play.  Playing is what she’s supposed to be doing.

If I were you, I’d find a nice, licensed home daycare run by a grandmotherly woman who will let her be a three-year-old.  She should be fingerpainting, running through sprinklers, eating popsicles, and building snowmen, not sitting for lessons.

And I would not discipline/punish her for behavior at school.  That's her "teacher's" responsibility.  If she wants to impose unreasonable expectations, then she needs to deal with the consequences, not pass the responsibility on to you.  And your daughter doesn't need to be "in trouble" all day only to go home to be in trouble again with her mom.

Seriously...move on.  Find somewhere she can thrive and be allowed to be three years old.
152852 tn?1205717026
Just re-read your post and caught that she has a new baby sister.  Another reason she may be struggling a bit.  Kids tend to regress when a new baby comes along, so I'd keep her in pull-ups and not pressure her about using the potty.

Also...you aren't home with the baby and dropping her off at "school" are you?  If so, I really think she needs to be with you and her sister.
Avatar universal
Thank you so much for all of the advice. It is funny because I had thought about doing all of the things everyone said. I am actually going to our pediatrician Monday for my 6-month old's check-up and I was going to ask her about it anyway - just out of curiosity. Teko said exactly what I was thinking when she said that I should tell the teacher" I thought it was part of her job to implement and carry out structure/discipline/reward system in the classroom!" I have thought of this because I am a special education teacher myself so I do have experience and knowledge of working with difficult children (by the way, This hopefully answers Agiesmom's question about me being home with the baby - no I am not she goes to a neighbor/babysitter every day and my daughter knows tha)t. I teach students with learning and emotional disabilites. The only thing different  is that I work with older kids and teenagers (grades 6 - 8).I did do one summer school session with preschool age kids and it was enough for me to realize that it wasn't for me. Ok, so I may not be the expert on 3-year olds, but I do know some basics of behavior management. I too thought most of her behaviors are normal for a 3-year old. The more I think of it and talk with others who know my daughter (her grandma who kept her for 9 months out of the year for the 1st 3 years of her life) the more I believe ther is something causing her to act this way. She has always been very independent and downright stubborn and when she would throw a tantrum, it was usually hard to calm her down. I have always had to pick my battles with her. You really cannot knit pick a child for every little thing. I am not saying I let her get away with anything. Trust me, I feel I am pretty tough on her. I am the stern one around the house - you know the bad guy. Anyway, I feel that I should be responible for my child'd actions.   I think this is part of why I feel I should do something at home because I too have had to call my student's parents because of disruptive behavior in the classroom. I too have gotten little or no help from the parent and that can be frustrating. My thought as a teacher is "control your kid!" But I have had to suck it up and handle the issues on my own plenty of times. It is an eye-opening experience to be on the other side of the issue. I now understand why the parents pretty much can't do anything about daily school behavior.

This is what I have doing: I have tried over and over to tell my daughter to be quiet while others are sleeping. We always model correct behavior while others are sleeping and other quiet times, she has a baby sister and we are always encouraging her to be quiet while she is asleep. And for the most part, she does it. But the thought of sitting there at a school with other children her age around for 2 hours even sounds impossible for me to handle, much less a 3 year old. It is funny because when she goes over her friends house or goes to a birthday party, dhr is usually quiet and does her own thing. She goes off and plays with their toys for hours. She isn't anti-social, she just loves new (to her) toys.

Anyway, I think I have come to conclusion that - just like agiesmom said,  "It always baffles me when I read about toddlers going to “school”.  She’s three--she’s not supposed to be sitting for “lessons”.  And if she doesn’t nap, of course she wants others to be awake to play.  Playing is what she’s supposed to be doing". I think it is a lot to ask of a 3-year old to sit and do "lessons" and to be quiet at naptime too. I seriously doubt the other 11 kids sleep every day either. But I am not trying to " get into the habit of blaming other children for your child's behavior" as justforfun2007 said. I have just noticed that she repeats stuff and mimics the other children. I saw her do it right in front of me when I went in for a holiday party.  

As I said earlier, I appeciate all of your advice, it was exactly what I was thinking all day today. I have been all torn up about what to do. Oh yeah, her dad and I had already planned to go up there a couple of times this week - unannounced, of course. The teachers want me to and I want to. But I say unannounced because I want to see it for how it truly is. I don't want my daughter's behavior or the teacher's behavior to be affected by my presence. I will let you know how it goes. I just wish my mother was still able to keep her now. I was forced to change her placement because my mother cannot take care of both her and my other daughter while my stepfather is in chemotherapy for throat cancer. I  just wanted her to start her education early and not be sitting around possibly watching TV all day at day care. But I do think I am going to have to chang her placement, I have already looked into it. I sent some e-mail request for info to several places just last night (at 3am in the morning when I couldn't sleep). I just think the current school has made up theri mind that she isn't going to make it. I also belive that this may have something to do with her refusal to potty train, maybe they are tired of changing her clothes. That is one difficult thing about finding an alternate placement, most places require a 3-year old to be potty trained. I always have to ask when I call places. Anyway, thanks again for the replies.
Avatar universal
Anyone who thinks hitting, pinching, and spitting are just normal childhood behaviors are likely the parents of bullies later who the parents say "boys will be boys."  What's the recommended consequence of "normal" slapping of the teacher?  

I just meant that the teacher in the room sees a group of 3 year olds, and if ONE of them is taking up all of the woman's time, she would be the one to know that.  And if a child is hitting the teacher, and the other kids start modeling HER behavior, I think the teacher has a perfect right to let the parent know this behavior is going on and work with it, rather than just boot her out of the room to be passed on to the next unsuspecting babysitter.  I don't think they are teaching the 3-year-olds rocket science for goodness sake, so I wouldn't be so hung up on the words "lessons."  Sheesh.  
Avatar universal
Wow, I started to write a great big defensive response to this last comment but then I realized, I am only hear for advice and there is no need to write great big huge )like I did before) response to explain myself or my child. I just want to say this: yes, I agree that teacher has a perfect right to let the parent know. Of course I do, I am a teacher myself! I have had to contact a parent many times for behavior of a student that takes up my time. It is very annoying.  I certainly plan on speaking with all of the involved parties first thing in the morning. Believe me, it has been a hard pill to swallow knowing my child did those things. I am very upset about this. I have never seen her act like that at all, so it is quite a shock. She has never shown that type of behavior towards other kids or her previous preschool teacher either. It also occurs to me that if your saying that this type of behavior will likely lead to bullying later, then that is the same as saying a boy who plays with dolls will likely be gay when he grows up. I'm sorry but I don't believe behaviors like this at 3 can totally predict future personality. She is only 3 and it could just be a phase. Then again, maybe not. That is what I am trying to get to the bottom of. I have to see for myself and hear what exactly happened before I judge my kid and the teachers. I am afraid I will probably never really get an acurate account of what exactly happened. If I had my way, I would put a video camera in her classroom so I could see exactly what she is doing.  I know that I have been known to forget incidences over a weekend and my recollection has faded. I have learned from experience as a teacher, as well as graduate courses on behavior, that there is always an antecedent to behavior. Something is triggering it, and I want to know what it is. My child has not just had a meltdown and started hitting people and spitting for nothing. Ther has always been something to start it. Anyway, I am not trying to spark a debate with anyone. I appreciate everyone's advice, even if it isn't something I don't agree with. Did I say that I wasn't going to write a long response? ha-ha..
1 Comments
Although this post is years later, this situation is still valid. My son is currently 3 and is displaying behaviors at school that he does not display at home. He was doing well until a new little boy entered the class and began fighting with other kids in the class (to include my son) and monopolizing the teachers' time with his behaviors. If the child hits my son and my son is separated before he can strike back, my son will not forget it and will strike back later making it look totally unrelated. This same little boy has "attacked" my husband after being advised he cannot have the umbrella that my husband had in his hand. For my son, this little boy is his antecedent for his behavior. My son is academically advanced for his age but I'm not sure if I should ask for a class change to preschoolers yet as he has just turned 3.  
152852 tn?1205717026
I thought about replying to that last post, too, but I didn't feel the need to in the end.  I just wanted to concur with what you said--something is triggering the behavior in ONE environment.  She doesn't act out at home, with your mother, in previous child care situations, etc.  It's obviously situational.

Do you have a Montessori preschool in your area?  It's much more free-flowing and child-led and it might work well for your daughter.

Good luck to you!
Avatar universal
Its seems to be the fashion to run off to the therapist now a days because just dont WANT or simply CANT do their job. First of all the child is only THREE!!! All children are different therefore must be approached in different ways. I have been through it all with these teachers because my gifted and active 5 yr old doesnt fit into their ROBOT mold. I have been to 3 Psychologist and they ALL said the same thing ITS THE SCHOOLS RESPONSIBILITY to install the appropriate behavioral skills. There was nothing wrong with my child just as I am sure there is nothing wrong with her child. Yes hitting, sp[itting, bitting, acting out,etc is normal behavior for children. If a child have a neuro problem or other disorder then they have it in ALL places not just school. People need to relax.
Avatar universal
I  have the same problem with my 3 1/2 yr old daughter. She goes to Child Care half day and had been getting bad reports every day. She's fine at home because I am there to address any problem. I think my daughter has figured out the fact that the day care teacher can not do anything to disipline her when she acts up so she does whatever she wants. Not to mention she hates being anywhere if I am not there..except my aunts house. Anyways, she is on the verge of getting put on a behavioral contract and I can't afford for her to get kicked out, trust me! I am a single mom trying to do the best that I can and it kills me that she even has to go to day care in the first place. The teacher suggested I keep her in day care longer so she can learn the rules better. I take her out at noon or 2pm, now I will try 3:30 to see if that makes a difference. I work part time on purpose so that I can have at least half day with her being that I believe in being a stay at home mother. We will see how this works out and if anything I will be able to work longer while she's in there "learning rules." By the way, i'm not sure this is a good solution or not to the problem and am open to all the advise I can get. Do I leave her in there longer? Is that fair for her? Anyways, I feel you girl, I'm going through the same thing.
Avatar universal
In response to your "it's the schools responsibilty..." I run a daycare and have 4 children all under the age of 4 who's behavior is good. You have to expect the odd outburst, not sharing, etc. I also have a little girl who is 3 and her behavior is out of control. She is constantly hitting other kids...in fact just the other day she kicked the 9 month old baby in the head. I have tried for 1 1/2 months to work with her. I've talked to the parents numerous times to no avail. They keep telling me "oh no, not again...we've been having problems with her for about a year now." When exactly does it become the parents responsibilty? The children are here for most of the day, does that exclude the parents from raising the children, from teaching them manners and to listen to others.
Just to be clear, I have 2 children of my own and at one point had them in daycare where they did extremely well, I think because good behavior was reinforced at home.
Parents should be the ones to start the molding of a child's behavior, so atleast when the child is in daycare, teachers have something to work with.
1882227 tn?1320712975
I have to say I agree with the last poster. It is a parent's job to raise children, not the school or teachers. I have 4 children and 1 step son. Of my 4 children, 2 are grown with families of their own. My other 2 are younger, one is 5 and the other will be 4. I, like the original poster, am baffled at my almost 4 year old's reported behaviour and am very concerned. I could say that her hitting the teacher, disruptive behaviours, hitting other children, and spitting are behaviours displayed at home but they are not. Prior to beginning Junior Kindergarten, my child was a normal child. After a few weeks at school, the behaviours began. The teachers are not being accusatory, but I certainly feel rotten that this is happening and feel it is my responsibility, as a parent, to work with the school in order to curb whatever is going on, as well as to get to the bottom of the cause. These teachers/caregivers should be trained not only to know when something is going on, certainly not to the clinicians level, but certainly in early childhood education however that does not in any way mean that they should discipline alone, and I stress discipline. Discipline is different than punishment and I believe there is a confusion on the parts of people on here. I do not believe that a child should be punished as there is no learning going on. Discipline can range from talking with the child (not at which is punishment) to sending them to their room to cool off. A child's behaviour, at no time, should be left entirely to just the teacher/caregiver and not discussed with the parents. We had this difficulty with my stepson, whose mother adopted the aforementioned "boys will be boys" attitude and had the school convinced that my husband was a child abuser. The school was therefore terrified to speak to my husband about his son's physical abuse of not only teachers, but several children who he sent to the hospital for stitches. He was 5 years old and in a Montesorri based private school. The warning signs went off in our heads when we accidentally were provided a behavioural sheet that had been going between the school and Mom for several months outlining these behaviours and included that he was urinating against a wall just outside of the bathroom. Needless to say copies were made and inquiries as to what was occurring and we were told by Mom in court that it was the school's responsibility to "handle him". We walked out with Sole Custody of the child who's behaviours got substantially better in our care, including while he was at school because we were working with the teachers. At age 12 he was permitted to return to his mother as it was his choice and we could do nothing about it. He is 14 now, rarely attends school, and does drugs. A friend of ours reported that he was smoking pot with his mother (a professional engineer). Now I ask you, is it better to parent and thus guide your child into a respectable, productive member of society, or to leave it to everyone else to parent and be the child's best friend. As to my almost 4 years old, that is out with the jury but we continue to work with the school on the behaviours. It has proven to work in the past and I know it will work now. As parents, you have a responsibility and an obligation to follow up and work with the people you entrust your children to, not to leave them to deal with what is a part of parenting. I honestly believe that when a child is raised in an extremely authoritative household with corporal punishment and 'yes sir' and 'yes maam' as the only acceptable responses, many grow up to let the child rule the roost. It is cooperation and the middle ground that guides a child to make the right choices.  
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