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Our son is in Kindergarten, and we have been having problems with him misbehaving in school since the beginning of the year. They're saying that he is excessively talking, moving (dancing, moving, etc.) and distracting other students during work time to the point where other students ask to be moved away from him. Then, when his teacher confronts him about his behavior, he throws a temper-tantrum, which disrupts the entire class.

We had a conference concerning his behavior at the beginning of the school year. We came up with an idea to constantly remind him before he went to school every day to behave his best and teach him the proper times to talk and play. We had a calm talk with him after the conference explaining why he cannot act that way in school and what will happen if he continues to act that way, especially going into 1st grade where it will not be tolerated. She also told me that he is excelling in every subject and is extremely smart for his age.

The plan seemed to have worked with the mark of "improved study/work habits" on his report card, though the teacher would not grant me anymore conferences when I requested them due to the weather for the past 2 report card periods. I received a note 2 weeks ago stating that this had been continuing off and on all year since our last conference with it being worse in the past month even though our son had been coming home every day saying he was good at school.

We have drawn up a disciplinary plan to where we have taken away electronic devices, made an early bed-time for him, and no sweets for lying to us and continuing the behavior. We also have resorted to the teacher sending him home with a daily report on his behavior to which on the good day he had this week we rewarded him with going to the park and to his favorite restaurant for dinner as well as praising him only to find out the next day that he acted even worse in school. He doesn't act like this at home and we don't understand what we are doing wrong and at a loss of what more we can do to help him understand and improve his behavior. He is a great child and so smart! I don't want to see him get in worse trouble. Please help us!

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Is this the first time he's been in a large group setting (ie, did he go to preschool/large scale daycare, or was he at home with mom/dad or a nanny or a small home daycare?) –  Joe Apr 5 at 16:03
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2 Answers 2

So far your well-meaning efforts have been directed towards the symptom: his misbehaving. Addressing the symptom, however, will not resolve the underlying cause. From this rather short narrative (in terms of a psychoanalysis), it is simply not possible to determine the underlying cause. However, consider these points:

  • You said that your child is doing exceptionally well in terms of academic performance. It is known that children placed in a learning situation which is not on par with their particular set of skills very often act out -- the manner varies, but if I were to sit you, the parent, down and teach you how to add and subtract and you had the patience of a child, what would you do?

    If this is the case, then working with the school staff to find the appropriate educational classroom will be a large step in helping your child now and in the future.

  • Social dynamics vary from location to location and person to person. If he feels out of place due to cliques in the classroom, he could be acting in a way that psychologically distinguishes himself from them in an unintentional effort to establish himself as unique and that superior standing makes him beyond their cliques.

    In this case, it would be helpful to spend some time and observe your child in the classroom and on the playground. Seeing how he interacts with others will provide cues to you to help educate him in areas where improvement is appropriate.

  • ADHD is better understood than ever before and a psychiatrist can tell you, after an appropriate evaluation, if your son is affected by this. Not all treatments are purely by medication, but treatment where and how it is appropriate can be very beneficial.

    From what you've written, it seems to me that this is the least-likely scenario as you have not made observations of behavior at home which cause concern.

  • The last thing which comes to mind is the teacher him/her self. Most teachers devote themselves to their job, accepting a lower pay to do what they love. We are all, however, human. Preconceptions or other beliefs about how things are done can color one's method of teaching and class management, the result being that in some circumstances, the difference from what is done at home and what is done at school is so substantial that adjusting becomes a challenge.

    In this case, observing your child in the classroom setting will, again, be very helpful.

I hope the above helps.

One of my favorite books talks about a famous person who made some serious mistakes. That man said, "I don't see how I could have done any differently." The point of the chapter is that if people at that level can come to that conclusion, what about the person next to you? I bring this up only to suggest that your son may not necessarily be aware of what he could be doing any differently, not that he is acting out of his own direct volition.

Deeper investigation with an open mind to all of the potentialities is definitely warranted to get to the root cause.

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This seems very similar to our experience with our son. The behaviour showed up in kindergarten (age 4) and continued in first year of school (prep). In short, the issues diagnosed and dealt with so far are:

  • tiredness due to sleep apnea (surgury)
  • partial deafness due to blocked Eustachian tubes (grommets)
  • Sensory seeking (OT, chewing-gum)
  • Sensory processing issues (OT, exercise regime)
  • Audit processing issues (working with teacher)
  • Possibly visual processing issues (glasses)

Being "bad" was never an issue, he was just dealing with a difficult set of circumstances that he has afflicted with.

For a more details, have a look at my (and other) answers here: Is it normal for a five year-old to be put in detention repeatedly for not being able to sit still and be quiet?, here: Suggestions for a 5 year old who can't sit still in her chair? and here: How do I get my 5 year old to focus in school.

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