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How to Get Your Preschooler to Behave at School

Getting Your Preschooler To Behave At Preschool

Getting Your Preschooler To Behave At Preschool

Do you ever suspect that your child behaves differently at preschool than he does at home? Do you hear from his teachers than he's not listening, acting out of turn, or even hitting other kids? While acting out and testing limits are normal at this age (and are the very reason the socialization of preschool is so beneficial), Circle of Moms members are wondering whether they should be doing anything about it after school. Should parents address and correct bad behavior that happened at school, and if so, how?

Here, experienced moms — several of whom are also experienced preschool teachers — offer answers.

Advice From Moms

Does "After the Fact" Discipline Work?

Rachel C.'s five-year-old daughter was having trouble at preschool with tantrums, jealousy, and misbehaving. Her teachers noticed and informed Rachel, who was baffled: "Her behavior at home hasn't changed at all (still listens [and says] please and thank you)."

Rachel tried discipline at home to attempt to correct the behavior at school, but nothing seemed to work. Unsurprised, a member named Kim S. points out that after-the-fact punishments don't get through to preschoolers because the real opportunity to learn from the mistake occurred earlier in the day, when the misbehavior actually happened. She feels that the teachers at the preschool can best address these problems, because they're present when they happen.

That said, some moms report success with after-the-fact positive reinforcement to reward good behavior that happened earlier, at school. Lisa J. suggests a reward chart, and rewarding a child for a pattern of good behavior with a trip to the pet store or play time with his friend: "Whatever peaks his interest." She also suggests explaining your expectations and the chart beforehand: "The better his behavior, the more fun stuff he'll get to do."

Ashley B. suggests another approach for reinforcing positive behavior at preschool: "[Try] putting up a game or something, and tell him if he's really good after school he can play with it."

Dealing With the School and the Teacher

In addition to working with your child, several moms suggest talking to your preschooler's teacher about behavior issues. Suzanne H. found she was able to solve the problem with her son when she got involved by checking in with his teacher on a daily basis. She urges moms to approach the school, explaining that "If they know you're a concerned parent, they'll help you work on what needs to be done."

Rebecca also feels that when preschoolers have problems at school, moms should concentrate their efforts on collaborating with the teacher. Getting on the same page will help you all get to the root of why your child is acting out.

Several moms add that it's important to trust your instincts and realize that sometimes the school really is the problem. A member who goes by "Mapplelean Calico" says she knew that her four-year-old son needed to be removed from the school he was in after a teacher "man-handled him" and she realized that he had learned how to hit, punch, bite, and kick from other students.

(For advice on choosing a new preschool, see Choosing a Preschool: 10 Important Factors to Consider.)

Advice From Teachers

Communication, Consistency

Professionals in the field of early education certainly have some ideas on this subject as well. The one piece of advice that both moms and teachers seem to mention again and again is the need for open communication, as often as possible, between the teacher and parents. Kathie F., who is both a mom and a Pre-K teacher, has learned that consistency between home and school is essential:

"It's important that the parent and teacher have a close relationship. They need to work together on all behavior problems. If the teacher is strict, and the parent is weak then the circle has been broken."

Kara K., a member who teaches kindergarten, also preaches the need for consistency. She feels that a child should be given a clear picture of what is expected of her at home and at school. For the most part, the expectations should be the same, and the consequences (including punishment) should be the same:

"Set up a routine and have clear rules and consequences for unwanted behavior. In my class, the families who are consistent are seeing much [more] improvement in their child's behavior. Find some creative outlets for his energy can be helpful too!" she adds.

Medical Evaluation

Several preschool teachers in the Circle of Moms communities also recommend a visit to your child's pediatrician or specialist to rule out any medical reason for a sudden change in behavior.

Erin R., an early childhood educator whose own son had a lot of problems in preschool and elementary school, eventually learned that he has ADHD when a formal diagnosis was finally made at six years. If your doctor suspects this or another behavioral disorder, you might be able to try working on solutions even before a formal diagnosis, says Delora I.:

"Research behavior modifications used for children with ADHD. Find something that you can try and stick with it. Get everyone involved in your child's life on board, and if you truly think it is ADHD, then talk with his pediatrician and get rolling on doing the observation forms."

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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