Support for challenging behavior for Pre-k child

Mirsha - posted on 04/24/2009 ( 10 moms have responded )




Hi everyone!

I'm a first year teacher teaching Pre-K 3-4 yr. olds. My class size is 21 and I have one child that has had challenging behavior since he started. I have tried what feels like everything, but he has more bad days than good and finally yesterday mom got really upset that his behavior is always like that.

His behavior isn't horrible, but it's almost on a daily basis that the following happens. As soon as he gets to school they line up and he just has to push somebody that's already in the line just because he wants to stand in a certain spot or next to a certain friend and that starts a whole problem with the kids that were already in line following directions. Then we walk to the classroom and put their belongings away and sit down on the rug he'll just start poking the kids that sit infront of him, or pull on their hair, or say rude things to them like "poopie head". He knows what he's doing is inappropriate, but he thinks it's funny.

He has a hard time sharing and lacks self control. When he wants something he'll just take or destroy what the other kids have done and hits them. When he doesn't get his way he'll have a meltdown and has even hit me and my staff. He'll say things like, "I don't have to listen to you" or "I'll do what I want because I said so." (keep in mind that he's yelling at the top of his lungs when he does this.

So what I do in my class is that they get 2 warnings and at the 3rd time they immediately go to the cooling off spot. I also have a reward system where they collect stars for good behavior, helping out, and answering questions about the day's lesson. After they collect 10 stars they get a surprise from the 'surprise' box

He had a time maybe a month and a half where he was really good, and then I don't know what happened. Nothing in the family has changed. School environment, and discipline methods have been consistent as well. But he just keeps regressing. I also give him a job of being my 'helper' and praise hime when he does really well.

Yesterday, we had an emergency drill practice and he had a meltdown because he had gotten up to go get a tissue (we were out on the yard no tissue to be found) and I had him sit back down and he just flipped.

I've already talked to the school's mental health consultant and I didn't get the support I wanted, she just said if I thought his behavior was disruptive. I said yes because it's happening almost on a daily basis.

I'm just looking for ways that I can help him gain self control and how to teach him to be nice to his peers and also what kind of resources i can give to the parents.

Sorry, this post has been so long and TIA for your help.



Michelle - posted on 04/25/2009




He sounds a lot like my son. We had so many problems in preschool, my head was spinning. As a teacher, I kept asking what I was doing wrong and felt guilty because my child--the child of a teacher--shouldn't act this way. Well, after being kicked out of two preschools within a matter of weeks we went to see a child psychologist. In my son's case he was highly gifted BUT he was also exhibiting signs and symptoms of what is called ODD--oppositional defiance disorder. This is sometimes tied to autism or ADD/ADHD. Kids that have this disorder only get worse when they are faced with any confrontation, be it from an adult or another child. Many will out grow it, but there are things that can be done until that happens. I know as a teacher telling a parent that they should have their child tested isn't the easiest thing, but after we bit the bullet and found out what was going on, we were able to help him. We sent him to a special preschool that dealt with behavior modification and really exhibited a "tough love" kind of attitude and within 5 months, we saw a huge change. We also enrolled him in social skills classes. The process has not been cheap, but the pay off has been great. The behaviors still occur, don't get me wrong, (and from what I have been told, the ODD with the highly gifted tag, will draw this out even longer--smart kids just don't like being told what to do-lucky me!) but his ability to calm down has increased. We have had an almost incident free Kindergarten year and I just see a totally different kid. I hope that this will help. Here is a link to a site I used when we first found out about the ODD, it might have some suggestions that will help you and the parents.

Kara - posted on 04/25/2009




the other ladies ahve really good advice. Document. Ask for observations. Talk with the parents about an evaluation from a dr.

In the meantime, give him something concrete to hold in his hand. My student (kindergarten) was a lot like that. so I gave him a "listening bracelet." He could play with it, put it in his mouth, tug on it, etc but not throw it. That helped him focus on one thing and I was just happy if he could hear me at all.

I put 1/2 a piece of Velcro (the softer 1/2) inside the top of his desk. He would rub his hands or fingers on it to keep his hands occupied while at his seat.

I got a "wiggle seat" from the occupational therapist. Its a bumpy, air-filled seat pad that helps him focus his body in one place (on his chair).

For a while, I really just focused on his behavior, not his academics or work. His mom helped at home by keeping track on a sticker chart of how many good days he had. After 5 good days, he got a little toy. Affter 10, he got a bigger prize, etc. Letting him go "brag" to the principal that he had a good day really boosted him, too.

I know it sounds counter-productive in a classroom with other kids, but when he has instructions he HAS to follow, somehow figure out how to make it seem like he has a choice: Would you like to line up behind Joey, or wait until Beth has lined up? Make it clear those are his ONLY two choices, he doesn't get to stick another choice in there (NO! I want to be in front of Stephen!).

A lot of times, these pre-k kids will outgrow the defiance. Sometimes they don't no matter what interventions we try. Document, document, document the behaviors, interventions & the results. Do you have a team at your school to help with more ideas? Asking kindergarten teachers, or even 1st grade teachers might help.

Good luck!

Edwin - posted on 02/21/2013




I was a Pre-K teacher for 5 years, with more than 200 students under my belt I learned:

.My approach to students with challenging behavior makes the all difference. During my first year I notice that my worst students misbehaved only with me. I switched from looking at what was the child doing wrong, to what I wasn't doing right.

.Body language, tone of voice, and awareness prevented the kids from playing games with my classroom management. I copied the way successful teachers talk, look, and managed their classes. Yes, it is going to take some of your free time to look at and talk to other teachers.

.Research effective techniques. I passed from frustrated to researcher to implementer to successful in about two years. Only in my third year I had enough experience to fell fully confident. Give your self time. To be a good pilot you need 2,000 flight hours.

.I learned how to prevent the behavior in the first place. You need to be one step ahead of your students at all times. Get your schedule fine tuned to the minute. Develop your routines to the point that the students know what to do, how to do it, as if they don't need for you to guide them. One of my secrets was to teach them to be independents. After few months, using classroom helpers, they were capable to guide their own routines. Master transitions with songs, chants, body movements, etc. that help students anticipate what's next and how to behave.

Your first year is ok to have these kind of issues, work on it and your next year will be 2x better, your 3rd year you will be fine.

Check out this video it shows the basics of addressing challenging behaviors from a Psychology point of view:

Good luck, and thanks for your service :D

Tammy - posted on 09/28/2010




I have been a teacher for 11 years and I take my hat off to you. I never taught students that young. I have always taught 4th and 6th grade much older but still some have some major behavior problems. Has his parents come to the school to observe his behavior? I would suggest getting them involved. You all need to sit down and come up with a behavior modification plan. I know he his too young to understand some of the things that he is doing but some of the negative things can be turned into positive things. For example, if he enjoys being the line leader, allow him to be the line leader sometime, give the other students an opportunity also. You are working with him but it gives the other students a chance also, so that it will be fair. I know you are doing all that you can and I feel your pain. The most importatnt thing is to find out why is he acting the way that he is.. I hope I gave you a little help!

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Sandy - posted on 06/10/2013




Any suggestions on a 3 year old boy that is a very well behaved child until a certain classmate who is a very bad behaved boy does bad things and my 3 yr old follows him and ends up in trouble too? He doesn't seem to understand the concept of not following the other kid?

Nicole - posted on 07/13/2011




well i used to work in a day care as a lead teacher now im in a private school. i have dealt with 2 kids like this. 1 in the day care where u get no support and 1 in a school where they can get kicked out. the day care one was hard because u have to use positive reinforcement and it is harder to get the parents to do what needs to be done. the one child i dealt with i would take away privileges and use time out, be consistent and try to catch good behavior. this did help to a point. but mom was supportive. the second child i sent to the principles office and we told the parents that if he did not change his behavior he would be removed from the school ( he was 5) this helped put a fire under the parents butts, and the boy did change his behavior, he still would have melt downs but once he saw that i did nothing and he would not get his way the melt down would not last very long. i found that he liked jobs and getting his stickers on his chart. i started with 2 stickers one for am and one for pm and them by the end of the school year i was down to one sticker for him just like everyone elese in the class. you see i would make him have to stickers which helped him to see that he had a good morning or a good afternoon, if he had a good morning he would get a sticker if his afternoon was off he would get a sad face. or if his afternoon was good he would get a sticker. i also took things he liked away, i would not let him do a art project if his behavior was bad, i would put him in time out for the art project, or take away free play. this helped him see that he cant get what he wants all the time. if he was in time out 3 time he would not a sticker.

Eleanor - posted on 07/12/2011




I had a son like this- autism syndrome. Seperate everytime he had issues. (this is from my son's therapist) when he was in meltdown, he sat on my lap and I threw a blanket over his head to remove all stimulus- usually a few minutes until he was calm. Rocking helped a lot- a small rocking chair to help calm him down

Jennifer - posted on 10/02/2010




I agree. His behavior is very disruptive. If time outs/rewards aren't working you need to have the behavior specialist come and observe. Keep a journal to document behavior for at least a week. Write down everything and don't downplay it. Obviously giving him his way works, but you just can't do it all of the time. Have you tried giving choices that you can live with? Like saying "Poking others isn't going to work. You can either sit here by me, or over there by _________." My son can be a bit like this child but does very well with choices. He doesn't do as well when he feels he doesn't have control of the situation. (this often leads to a huge meltdown) I try to keep the times when he doesn't have a choice to a minimum. Also lots of warning when a transition is about to happen helps.

Anyway document everything you try: time out, choices, physical movement, giving him positives, etc. and how it works. Remember that with any child with behavior issues you will have good times and regressions, especially when they are sick, overtired, or working on another kind of development. Hang in there.

Kim - posted on 04/25/2009




I am not a teacher yet! But I have worked as a teaching assistant in Pre-K and K for ten years. I am currently pursuing a teaching degree for early childhood. It sounds like you are doing everything that you're supposed to do. In our preschool classroom we help the children who are being pushed or poked to say "Stop! I don't like it when you do that!" A Lot of our preschooler qualified for preschool for social -emotional. So we are trying to help them find ways to resolve conflicts. I know you all are probably doing the same , but I thought I would just mention it! We actually try to get the children to say those things without promoting them , but if they don't say it we tell them what to say! We try to work on getting 3-4 year old to recognize other feelings because at this stage their thoughts are very egocentric. I like you post! sounds like we have a lot in common! I hope this help, but if not at least you know I share your pain!!!

[deleted account]

Hm...sounds like you need to have the mental health consultant come in to observe and evaluate the child. or maybe the director of the school. How long has he been in your class? Since September? This has been going on for months, so it sounds like you need an official observation and evaluation to start documenting his behavior. If you do not start documenting, it may take longer to diagnose if there is a serious issue, like the child is emotionally disturbed.

How is the child at home? Does he have siblings? You say the parents are "upset", but what kind of routine, discipline, and expectations are held at home? You said it was consistent at school, but is it the same at home? Is the child defiant with the parents too, or just at school?

And while this is horrid and I wouldn't provoke or encourage such an incident to happen, has he had a taste of his own medicine? Does he know how unpleasant he is? Or is he learning it from a sibling or some other person from outside the school?

I think the most disturbing part is that he doesn't seem to show any empathy. Kids can show a lot of empathy towards others, and that is how they learn what is "nice". They can understand that others feel bad and what that means. It is definitely hard to teach a child to "be nice" if they don't exhibit empathy towards others! I found telling my son to "be nice" meant nothing until I asked him if he likes it when he gets hit by others. "No." Do you think your friends like it if you hit them?" "No." "Do you think you should hit them if they don't like it?" "No." That sort of thing. But if the child cannot identify with others, that's a huge problem.

last q: aren't most pre-k rooms of that size team taught by 2 teachers? most of the pre-k/preschool programs i watched had 2 teachers and sometimes a helper. does the other teacher have any new ideas, or are you both at wits end?

i'm sorry i'm not of much help. those are just some thoughts to add to any discussion you have with the director/principal and mental health consultant.

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