With the start of the new school year and parent teacher conferences going on, things are bound to get a little sticky when you have a preschooler. My conference is next week and I am anxious to hear what they have to say. I've heard they can sometimes be hard to take, especially if they tell you to think about holding your child back to start Kinder, or, sigh, that your child has 'behavior problems.'
I'm not kidding that this past week, 4 mothers have talked to me about their child reportedly having 'behavior problems' at preschool/daycare. I just kind of blankly stare for a second into space because I think to myself, they are talking about 3 year to 4 year olds, right? And I know these kids come from well adjusted homes without verbal and physical abuse or trauma going on. What child this age isn't throwing tantrums and 'not listening'? I figure these teachers making these accusations aren't new to working with kids. Haven't they heard of the word 'temper tantrum' before? Ahem. Definition: a small child crying, flailing, sometimes hitting and biting, and/or screaming when they don't get what they want = all toddlers and preschoolers.
I feel so bad for these mothers, because it's hard dealing with hearing anything negative about your child.
So I could go onto huge tangents here (like I haven't already), like how to handle any behavior problem, early ADHD symptoms, the Spectrum symptoms, what to do when your child acts out at school, how to talk to teachers, should we get them evaluated, blah blah...
But for now, I am going the easy route with just a few suggestions. If you have some concerns, here are a few things to get started:
1) Talk to your child's doctor. There are so many things that could cause children to have some behavior problems. Food allergies are a big one. I've read recently that gluten allergies (a sensitivity to gluten, NOT just celiac disease) can mimic hyperactivity symptoms as well as some autism symptoms. So it's worth it to get your child tested for all food allergies as well as iron levels, etc. Also, your doctor can determine if your child is getting enough sleep, as lack of sleep can cause severe hyperactivity.
2) Meet with your child's teacher AND director. Get specific information about what is actually going on with your child and have them write down what it is the child is doing. Is the problem occurring the same time every day? Maybe the child is hungry if it occurs before lunch, or tired if before nap time. Is there another child that instigates it more? How does the teacher react? Try to get to the root of what the cause is to help figure out a solution.
One of my huge pet peeves are teachers that teach preschoolers because, "well, I am a mother to 4 grown children, so I have experience with kids." ah, no you don't. Just because you had a litter of children, does not make you someone who is able to actually work with kids and teach them. How teachers respond to children, aka discipline techniques, are HUGE! I can't tell you how often I hear things said at schools by teachers that make me cringe!! One example was a 1st grade teacher at an area elementary public school who hit a child on the head with a pencil and told the poor child, "come on, use your brain!!" I about died when I witnessed that, because I thought to myself, who knows what she does when I'm NOT observing her classroom!
3) Brush up on Child Development. I used to see a lot of parents as clients who expected far too much out of their 3 year old. There are a lot of books and articles out there on what to expect socially, mentally, physically and cognitively out of children at different ages. Once you get a grasp of it, then you can have a good educated discussion with the staff at your child's school about realistic expectations.
4) Lastly, and this is the hard one, look at what is going on at home. Not to point any fingers of blame, as parenting is already a guilty profession, but look at your child's home life. Are they involved in too many activities that could be stressing them out? Are there marriage problems at home, stress of having small kids and your spouse arguing in front of the kids too much? Discipline techniques? Getting enough sleep? Eating well balanced meals and not too much sugar? Are mom and dad spending enough time with them at home? Big changes at home such as a pregnant mom, a new sibling? A move to a new home? Job changes? etc..... Remember that children do not adjust as well as adults to change, and love routines, so if there are changes at home, they could be acting out and will need more time to adjust.
Relax. Breathe. It's only preschool at this point. They are not delinquent youths yet, so don't worry about the ankle bracelets. You are already doing what's right and listening to the feedback from the schools and taking an active role in helping your child. Early intervention is key. If you feel that your child needs to go beyond these beginning steps and does need help, find a child psychologist for testing (for learning disabilities, cognitive testing, etc.) and talk to a play therapist to help. For a local play therapist directory go to www.a4pt.org.