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We have a 5-year-old son. He has bitten on two occasions in class. At school they have set up a positive behaviour chart and he has had to give an apology drawing to the children he hurt. The teacher has asked to see us to discuss this as it is out of character. Any suggestions on how to deal with this at home. We have explained and talked to him about why he should not bite and have devised a feelings chart he puts stickers on emoji faces to express if he is feeling happy, sad, angry etc. but as I'm not there at the time it happens I'm not sure if we should carry on to discipline him about it at home, he hasn't done it out of school.

My question is aimed at do we punish him at home after the event has happened hours earlier and been dealt with in the school day. Any suggestions on how to deal with this at home?

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    How do they deal with this at school (i.e. what are the immediate consequences?) – anongoodnurse Sep 29 '16 at 13:08
  • Hi, they have set up a positive behaviour chart and he has had to give an apology drawing to the children he hurt, my question is aimed at do we punish him at home after the event has happened hours earlier and been dealt with in the school day. We have explained and talked to him about why he should not bite and have devised a feelings chart he puts stickers on emoji faces to express if he is feeling happy, sad, angry etc.. but as im not there at the time it happens im not sure if we should carry on to discipline him about it at home, he hasnt done it out of school. – user24585 Sep 29 '16 at 15:16
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  1. The best thing I can suggest to make a difference now, is to role play it! Act out the situations over and over and have him rehearse how he is expected to react. I explain to my daughter that feelings are like clouds (we look at the clouds as we're having this conversation, and we've had it hundreds of times). They come and go, they are always moving, and always acceptable. They are real and important, but they don't change the land around them. We are like the land around - always surrounded by weather, but not changed by it. He is the mountain - always the same regardless of the feelings. It's good to notice them, but we are all responsible for how we behave regardless of how we feel.

  2. That said, if the behavior only occurs in that setting it's the sign of a classroom/student mismatch. I think time out is the appropriate response to this behavior (done as Setting Limits for your Strong-Willed Child describes), but none of that is effective by the time a 5 year old child gets home. He's too young for the day to carry over very well. By the time he's 7 you can effectively carry lessons at home to school and vice versa. In the mean time it is positive to discuss the proper expression of feelings, but it's like reading to your child - it's not going to translate into an immediate skill - it's building the skill for the coming years. It's critical - but as for actually effecting the behavior at school, the results will be minimal and take a lot of time. Discuss it when he comes home. Tell him big feelings are always okay, but actions (such as biting) are not. Tell him again in the morning.

  3. This is definitely time for a parent teacher conference and the book Setting Limits for your Strong-Willed Child is written by an author who also wrote a book for limits in a classroom. If the teacher is willing to work with you on establishing authoritative discipline (neither punitive, nor permissive - clear, firm, and respectful) then you've got a teacher you can work with. If not, immediately ask the principle if there is a teacher who is more authoritative by nature. I have transferred my daughter out of classrooms with timid or overbearing teachers - she is way too head strong to do well in those settings and she develops bad habits quickly with either of those styles. But as long as she has an authoritative teacher she's never had an issue at school.

  • Thankyou for your answer, I like the idea of him having a visual tool to use and for us to role play with him to act out how to deal with a scenario in his class if things arnt going his way. As parents we are the ones to teach him how to deal with life challenges and how to learn him to communicate his emotions in a positive manner. – user24585 Oct 3 '16 at 8:49
  • The 1. advice has from this answer worked for us (we had this problem when our kid was 3, it was recurring for a while, but once it stopped it never came back again). You should ask what exactly provoked him and then be persistent in roleplaying the situation several times a day for a number of days. We started with low-key taunting and then increased the intensity as our kid became better in dealing with it. Finally, he was able to resist the urge to bite even if you called him "a baby" several times in a row (which used to be his trigger). – DadOfTwo Oct 3 '16 at 9:45
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It can be rather difficult for a parent to address a problem that arises in school, and even more so when the child is quite young and may not be able to describe what is occurring at school, and how s/he is experiencing school. If you have time to do a little fly-on-the-wall observing of your child's functioning in school, that might be helpful.

In general it would probably be a good idea to thank the teacher for letting you know what's going on, show an attitude of support, and more specifically, say whether or not you have ever observed the particular behavior yourself, or have heard reports of this behavior when your child has been in other settings. Be honest, and avoid getting on the defensive. Do show that you are taking the information seriously and will give it careful thought. The calm tone you used in your question is just right.

Two incidents might or might not point to an actual problem. If you feel there is enough of a pattern, or if you sense that the teacher is at the frustration point, but is feeling kind of stuck about where to go from here, you could try the following:

  1. Ask for a functional behavioral analysis. This could be done by, for example, the school social worker. The idea is to see what contexts this behavior is mostly likely to arise in, and if there is any pattern to the antecedents. Understanding what may be triggering the behavior can be helpful.

  2. Ask that the school occupational therapist (OT) do a consult. The OT can provide insight about the child's sensory processing patterns that may be affecting behavior in school. Also, the OT can provide sensory equipment, such as a bouncy chair, fidget items, etc., that can provide sensory stimulation the child may be seeking, but without causing any harm to anyone.

  3. Keep your child's primary care provider in the loop.

It is sometimes helpful to offer things like raw carrots, chewable fidgets, frozen sensory items, etc. In the short term (as in this coming Monday), while you're waiting for the other things to fall into place, you could try sending a couple of things to school with your child, and emailing the teacher to let him or her know what you are sending in, and why. For example: there are special erasers that can be put on the end of a pencil that are designed for children to chew on. You can pick up a couple of freezable teething rings in different colors at the drug store, that don't look like teething rings, in the shape of a hand or foot. If you send in two, each in its own baggie, one can be kept in the nurse's freezer, and they can be swapped out as needed.

Make sure you offer these items to your child in a neutral tone, after trying them out at home, e.g. "I'm putting two frozen feet in your school bag, in case you feel like chewing on them during school."

Try to get a feel, from the other parents, whether having a conversation with the principal might be helpful.

My answer is based on my experience working with my child's school to support positive behaviors.

Here is an article that might be helpful: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/discipline-behavior/bothersome-behaviors/biting-and-hitting-16-ways-stop-it

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Firstly, Children bite/pinch/push since they cannot communicate their emotions. Make sure your child can express verbally. e.g. if he is angry ask him to say it loud that he is upset.

Secondly, Explain him it's okay to get angry but not okay to hurt.

Thirdly, Children (and adults) have difficulty in controlling impulse. This is a skill that can be gain over time. It's part of learning process.

Fourthly, Children don't understand the impact of their action. The moment they see how it really to bite they think before doing. My son used to pinch. I saw him youtube video of crab pinching. Then asked him, are you a crab or a boy? It seems to be working but not 100%. Please don't spank him. If you really want to punish give hime a time-out and let him do puzzle or drawing alone.

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