Kindergartner Just Won't Behave

Our five-year-old is in kindergarten this year and has been getting in trouble at school. The teacher called me at home one day to tell me that she just couldn't get my child to do as she was told. I asked my daughter why she kept on getting in trouble and she said "I don't know."

I'm not quite sure what to do or if we should just keep doing what we're doing? She laughs when I tell her how disappointed I am with her behavior. I can't figure out if she is bored, trying to get attention, or what. Let me know if you have suggestions.

Question:

Young children do not have long attention spans, which is why the pacing of the teacher's curriculum is so important with this age group. Generally speaking, kindergarten teachers plan numerous activities for each day and change gears much more frequently than teachers of older children. Even with this quick pace to each day, it may not be quick enough for your daughter. She may be acting out when she no longer is able to stay focused. Children who have had at least a year of preschool generally transition much easier into kindergarten because they have had the experience of staying focused on a task for some time while in a group work situation. If your daughter has not had the benefit of prior experience, she may be just learning now how to stay focused, which will take time and patience from all involved.

A visit with your pediatrician is something else to consider. While she was probably given a physical before entering kindergarten, you should make a phone call to the doctor to share your daughter's difficulties with him. It is important to rule out physical causes in this situation. I have had students who were allergic to certain food additives and once they stopped eating foods with those ingredients they were fine. I have also had students with hearing and vision difficulties that needed to be corrected, but no one even suspected it because the children didn't complain of any problems. In any case, consult with your daughter's doctor to rule out any physical reasons for her behavior.

Meeting with the teacher is crucial at this point. The two of you really need to sit down together to discuss your daughter's behavior. If at all possible, observe your daughter in her classroom. Watch for those times when she is most vulnerable to inappropriate behavior. You could gain a lot of information about the "how's and why's" of her behavior from a complete record of her day at school. Discuss the classroom behavior expectations and find out what consequences your daughter is given for inappropriate behavior, as well as the rewards she may receive for good choices. If she is receiving more attention for her bad behavior and she really is craving attention right now, chances are that her behavior may be her way of getting everyone to notice her. Discuss this possibility with the teacher, too. Your daughter may need to be on an individualized behavior management system that extends from school to home. Consistent positive and negative consequences from both you and the teacher may more firmly instill in her the expectations that you both have for her.

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