My 5 yr old son just started Kindergarten last month. His class uses the Red, Yellow, Green color methods to record his behavior for the day and he has had 90% Red - which is bad. He is being very disrespectful to his teacher, not making eye contact when she speaks to him (when he is in trouble), hiding his face or turning his face away from her.

He also has lied to her a few times when in trouble. He denies doing things like kicking a little girl and taking a toy from a boy -- the teacher saw him do these things but he lies.

Then today he pushed a little boy down on the playground and got sent to the principals office and written up. They told me if he does this again he will get suspended.

I have already started a incentive/reward system for good behavior at home and when he acts bad at school he loses privileges such as time on his tablet, TV time, Computer time, ect.

Both at school and at home I don't think the incentives/rewards are working. I also don't think he cares about the consequences. I don't know what to do next. I've taken every singel toy away from him before and it didn't phase him. I have yelled, I have talked calmly, I have spanked I have timed him out. He is a very smart boy and a very sweet boy. He just occasionally gets very stubborn and defiant and there is no changing his mind. I hope I get a response quickly as I don't know how I should even act picking him up today - I've never dealt with this and don't know how to make sure he understands that pushing someone today and the possibility of getting suspended is BAD!! I just don't know how to scare him or make him understand this is a big deal. HELP!!

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    I don't have an answer for you, but is it common to 'grade' the behavior of 5 year olds? It seems like a lot of pressure/negative feedback/feeling of inadequacy to hand out color coded cards to little kids every day.
    – Ida
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 20:06
  • It appears to be the standard where we live. He attends a public Charter school which does seem to have higher standards for behavior but the other public schools have the same or similiar color coding for kindergarten and other grades. :( I don't like it at all!!!
    – Jaime
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 20:10
  • Please add additional information: Was he like this before he started kindergarten? What is he like at home? are there other siblings? How does he do with friends if he has them? Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 5:23
  • Yes he was like this before in pre-k and the years before (he has been in a school environment since he was 15mnths old). His preschool warned me that it would be a tough transition for him. At home we have had our ups and downs but to be honest things seem better at home. HE is an only child. I am divorced and remarried. His father has a girlfriend with 2 kids that he is around a lot and has his ups and downs. Typical not sharing issues but nothing major. He is usually great with friends. Had lots of them in preschool. He plays soccer and does well.
    – Jaime
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 14:01
  • Kindergarten can be pretty hostile places for active little boys. There are rarely any men or male influences/role models to be seen. Plus there is the whole divorce thing. Maybe less punishment and more love and understanding is required. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


Please look into buying a book called 123 Magic. I can't praise this book highly enough. One of the things it allows for is to provide consequences without engaging in any arguments with the child - basically allowing you to disengage in useless debate/discussions about bad behavior. Please see this answer for more details on the method and it's advantages.

Most children go through defiant stages. This, though, is a bit more than a stage.

Your son is exhibiting some of the more concerning signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Some of the behaviors seen in ODD are:

temper tantrums, argumentative with adults, refusal to comply with adult requests or rules, annoying other people deliberately, blaming others for mistakes, difficulty maintaining friendships, and academic problems among others.

These problems are persistent, must have lasted at least six months, and are clearly disruptive to the family and home or school environment. The problems can manifested as early as three years of age, but almost always before the age of 8.

Most cases of ODD go undiagnosed. It is estimated that up to 15% (high, in my opinion) of boys have ODD. It is more common in boys than in girls. Regardless of what you read, it's not caused by parental neglect (Psychiatry and Psychology have a long tradition of blaming the parents - usually the mother - for problems in children. However, with genetics coming under ever more scrutiny, a large number of mental disorders are being found to have a genetic component if not basis. Many psychodynamic theories, for example, posited that the individual's early upbringing was a major force in the development of schizophrenia, going so far as to blame "schizophrenogenic" mothers as the primary disorganizing force leading to a psychotic break. The genetics of schizophrenia are now widely understood.)

You can read about ODD in the links below. If it seems to ring a bell with you, please find a qualified therapist (I would recommend a good child Psychiatrist, or a child Psychologist specializing in ODD); the sooner it's diagnoses and treated, the better the outcome.

If it doesn't ring a bell, that's a relief. 123 Magic works in either case.

Oh, and because of the inherent conflict with authority figures, homeschool is not recommended for children with ODD.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry on ODD Mayo clinic on ODD PsychCentral Oppositional Defiant Disorder Symptoms Child Mind Institute on ODD

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    I've read a lot about ODD and agree he clearly has some of the signs for it. I am taking your advice and seeking therapy.. I don't want a psychiatrist as I do not want Meds involved. That is not an option for me at this time. However I welcome someone more qualified to help us through this.
    – Jaime
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 14:08

My son was in a very similar situation two years ago. In addition to my follow up answer, I would like to add that the main thing we discovered is there was almost nothing we could do at home about his behavior at school. We offered everything from spectacular rewards down to harsh punishments for a year, to little avail. He stopped taking his frustration out on other children, but became more miserable himself. Ultimately, something has to change about his learning environment. In our case, we started homeschooling, but you may be able to figure out how to change his environment at the school.

The weakness of the stoplight behavior system is they report "what," but not "why." Try to find out the reasons behind his behavior, via a visit to observe his classroom if you must. Sometimes reasons are obvious to parents when they're not obvious to the teacher. Some things we discovered about how my son learns, and how we adapted for him:

  • He has trouble with spoken directions, and often needs them repeated several times in order to understand them. Now that he can read, we provide written directions or interactive, like computer or video.
  • He has a greater need for intrinsic motivation than other kids. He absolutely hated reading until we started letting him read books of his own choosing.
  • He needs to wiggle. A lot. Sometimes we have to look away in order to not get annoyed, but it helps him think.
  • He needs instant feedback on difficult topics. Getting homework graded and handed back a week later is too slow for him. He has done a lot better on math since we started him doing it on the computer, where he gets a right or wrong mark immediately after an answer.

Your son will have his own unique set of educational needs. I wish you the best of luck in finding them.

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