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My five year-old son just started kindergarten a week ago, and has already committed two infractions serious enough for the teacher to bring to our attention: once throwing a serious tantrum, and once biting and spitting on another child. Tantrums we are still working on at home. Biting hasn't been a problem at home for a couple years now, and I've never seen him spit on someone.

Is this normal behavior for adjusting to a completely new social situation? Is there anything we can do to help him adjust?

If it helps to know his reasons, the tantrum was because he thought he was being punished for talking too much. Although I have no doubt he has been told off by his teacher for talking, he wasn't being punished. The thing he thought he was being denied simply wasn't on the schedule that day. The biting and spitting was because the other child wouldn't stop talking.

We knew that keeping quiet in a classroom setting would be difficult and stressful for him, if you recall from my question last year. He has gotten marginally better since then, but still needs quite a bit of time for "release," which I've been trying to give him at home. What else should we try?

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Although I'd be interested in seeing statistics on this subject, I think you should change the title (somebody who is a kindergarten teacher could answer the question in the title) –  bobobobo Aug 29 '12 at 0:18
    
Can you talk to a child psychologist? We can only guess at potential issues (ADD, perhaps?). –  DA01 Aug 29 '12 at 3:45
    
As a matter of interest, have you looked at his diet? We had to sugar restrict our daughter at a similar age due to its effects on her behaviour. –  dave Aug 29 '12 at 6:51
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Let's try to remember that this behavior, playing, fighting and talking, is normal for a five year old and that quietly sitting at a desk while the teacher is talking is unusual behavior. –  Paul Cline Sep 3 '12 at 23:28
    
Ask to sit in the classroom to observe your child, but really observe the teacher and classroom dynamics. Look at things from your son's perspective. And do things at home to help him to use words to solve conflicts (don't just tell him to 'use his words' if you haven't actually taught him the words). Comment if you want more. –  Christine Gordon Nov 2 '12 at 2:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Is this normal behavior for adjusting to a completely new social situation? Is there anything we can do to help him adjust?

You should ask the kindergarten teachers this, they have lots of experience to compare with.

I've experienced another child repeatedly biting my toddler. The cause was the adjustment from being at home to being in a crowd, and learning to share and get along. Some of the bites looked truly scary but luckily they weren't actually serious; for instance the skin always remained intact.

Since you're still working tantrums, I wouldn't worry about them being a cause for infractions. I guess you agree with the teachers that tantrums are wrong -- you could also discuss with them how tantrums are to be dealt with, in order to give him consistent anti-tantrum training.

I don't like to slap on generic diagnoses like ADD based on any of this (including your other question). It's just a matter of learning to be sociable, which includes having to keep quiet at times.

I'd say this: Continue your anti-tantrum training, just focus on that for now. If the biting and spitting happens again then speak with the teachers on how to address that too.

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Biting other children is unusual behavior in a kindergarten, tantrums are not. I would work on the biting problem first. Help him to find other ways to deal with being unable to control the other child's behavior.

  1. Nicely ask the other child to stop talking.
  2. Ask the teachers help if the other child is bothering him.
  3. Move away from the other child or ask for a seat change.
  4. Draw an angry picture to show how he is feeling.

Ask him to explain what about the other child's talking is so upsetting to him. Some children are noise sensitive and can't take too much verbal stimulus or loud noise at one time. Anger management counseling might also be helpful.

From kindergarten teacher 30+years

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Rain, I wonder if teachers are encouraged to document discipline issues to protect themselves from the accusations of parents or if it is primarily for to benefit the child's development? –  Paul Cline Sep 3 '12 at 23:31

This is still getting views, so I thought I would post my own follow-up answer. In retrospect, it was quite obvious that his behavior issues were much more frequent than most children. Rather than adjusting to the rules and eventually settling in like his classmates, our son's behavior issues at school increased in severity and frequency. A year later, he was still attempting only about 15% of his assigned in-class work, and was crying or disrupting others for most of the rest of the day, pretty much every day.

We and his teachers tried several different approaches across the spectrum. Nothing helped. Every single morning he would go to school enthusiastic and optimistic that, "I'm going to be good today!" Every single afternoon he would leave school crying and feeling like his own behavior was completely outside his control.

We eventually determined that trying to change him to fit the school's model of behavior wasn't going to work. Like Paul Cline's comment said, sitting still and paying attention all day is the unusual behavior for his age, and that seems to go quadruple for our son. We decided to pull him out last year to homeschool.

This has been hugely beneficial for our son in the following ways:

  • He gets breaks when he needs them instead of on the schedule of the "average" child.
  • He gets a lot more physical activity, both during breaks and during instructional activities.
  • We don't move on until he has individually mastered a topic, so he never feels like he doesn't even need to try. He knows he's not going to get left behind in order to keep the pace of the "average" student, a pace that keeps getting faster with higher standards to meet.
  • We can tailor activities to his interests, which helps him stay focused longer. For example, he was highly motivated to increase his reading level in order to be able to understand comic books.

It's not like he has suddenly become a perfect child, as my other recent questions like Destructive when unattended can attest. The difference now is his behavior isn't interfering with his education. He is actually a grade level ahead in reading now.

For future readers who find themselves in a similar situation, I wouldn't necessarily recommend homeschooling specifically, but to find some way to change your child's environment to match his disposition and learning style, rather than the other way around.

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Thank you for the follow up, Karl. I wanted to add for others that look at answers that options may be Montessori based classrooms, Waldorf based classrooms (don't know much about that, though) or any other alternative to traditional classrooms. –  Ida Aug 28 at 18:32

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