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Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

  • 1.  Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-06-2019 08:35 PM
    Hi, I’m a preschool teacher and I have a child that constantly bothering other children. It’s either hit, punch, yells at them for no reasons or when he gets mad at them. He’s physically aggressive when he gets upset. He also used lots of potty words. I don’t know how to stop his behavior. He’s been getting some helped from a behavioral specialist but it seems like still the same. Couples of parents have talked to me that there child have been hurt by this child. I got to the point that I’m tired of explaining to the parents about the behavior of this child. My questions are; is it okay to ask the child to speak to the parents and apologize to them for hurting their child? Can I tell them that, this child is been getting some help from specialists. I would appreciate your professional advice. Thank you very much.

  • 2.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-08-2019 12:03 AM
    I'm sorry you're having to this difficulty with a student. I've been in a similar situation and there's no easy solution. However, please don't have the child apologize to parents for hurting their child or share with parents that this child is receiving special services. To do so will be violating privacy laws and can lead to serious consequences for you. You won't be able to control parent reactions to the child apologizing and serious emotional harm can be done. Hopefully you have services in place that can give you support in finding strategies to deal with your situation.

    Tina Benson
    Huntsville City Schools-
    Huntsville AL

  • 3.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-09-2019 11:29 AM

    This is a very frustrating situation, which I experienced several times. Managing it will require extra effort, patience and compassion. It may require more staff support. I'll share an approach I received training in that worked for me. The goal is to keep ALL children safe; this is not a therapeutic intervention, which you mentioned that the child is already receiving.

    There are two parts to the process. First create a simple chart that divides the day into 20 minute increments. A teacher needs to tally incidents in each block of time. Do not describe, simply tally. We were advised never to share this chart with the child's parents, though it is tempting to say: look, it really is this bad! This is guidance for the teachers only. You are looking for patterns to see if there are times of day or activities that are the most difficult. This is where you will focus your energy. These high-incidence periods are often during transitions or particularly stimulating play.

    Second, a teacher needs to be tagged to the child at all times during these high-incidence periods, and needs to stay very close to the child. The teacher will jump between the aggressive child and any child who is about to be hurt. You need the inner resources to be a friendly but firm presence, while consistently blocking the aggressive action. This is exhausting, so teachers will need to rotate this position and support each other. 

    In my experience, this protocol has worked. It isn't immediate, but over time, the aggressive behaviors become less frequent. At that point, you will be in a better position to start charting more complex ideas around the remaining incidences, such as noting an antecedent to the behavior and looking for patterns of triggers or ways your classroom set up could better meet the needs of the child. 

    Although this is a really difficult situation to manage, I think you will feel proud and competent when you have integrated these skills into your teaching repertoire. I know that I did.

    Karen Lefkovitz
    Independent Consultant
    Philadelphia PA

  • 4.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-08-2019 12:34 AM
    Unfortunately, I think you've done all you can.  Maybe encourage family to give you strategies they use, if any.  If children are abusive, we send them home.  We conference with parents.  If it keeps happening, and we've exhausted our resources, withdrawal is necessary.  Helping a child in need, and a family, is, of course, a priority.  However, your first priority is safety of ALL of the children.  His behavior puts all the other children in danger.  Be a resource for the family, but it may be time to remove the child from your roster.

    Catrina Conley-Brookover
    Yolanda's Playhouse & LC
    Vandalia OH

  • 5.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-08-2019 08:20 AM

    Sounds like it's time for a parent/ teacher conference. Children may act out for various reasons, it's important not to jump to conclusions in matters like this. I believe getting the parents involved in helping with creating a positive solution to the child is best. It's important to work as a team (parents, teacher and child) Along with offering resources for family counseling, long term, or until there's resolution to the matter. Give advice for the family to start engaging in outside events, organizations, or church and start an ongoing family fun day routine. , and to talk to their children regularly. This will send a message to the child that he/she are loved and wanted. 

    Laronda Dawson
    The Hidden Treasure Daycare,LLC
    Ellenwood GA

  • 6.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-08-2019 10:03 AM
    Hello Joycelyn,

    I completely understand your frustration with this issue.  During my career, I had many many students that were similar to the child you are describing.  You must be very careful with this situation.  I do not believe that it would be beneficial or appropriate to have the child apologize to the parents of a child that was harmed.  I do think having the child think about his behavior, discuss alternatives and perhaps apologize to the child, either verbally or with a drawing, is ok.  I know how frustrating and enraging it can be for the parents of the harmed child, but your director/administrator, yourself and of course the parent(s) of the child must continue to work on the issue.  As difficult as it is, the child who is bothering everyone, must be protected and helped.  I think the best way to deal with this situation is to let parents know that you are doing all you can and if that does not satisfy them, I would refer them to your administrator.

    Good Luck,
    Gina James

    Gina James
    Williston Pk NY

  • 7.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-09-2019 10:46 AM
    Hello:  I have found the website Center for Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning through Vanderbilt to have helpful information for both teachers and parents.  I have adopted the use of Social Story formats to personalize the scripted booklet by inserting the photo of the specific child and changing storylines to target the desired positive behavior.  Every Social Story I have created is different just as every child is unique. The key is to read the story to the child early in the day and keep a copy on the bookshelf for review.  I ask parents to read the Social Story to the child at home at least once a week too.  Kids seem to love it and it works!  A copy is provided to the parent in partnership and both school and home work together.

    Monica Pyle
    Tillamook OR

  • 8.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-08-2019 01:33 PM
    It might be interesting to explore the concepts on Positive Discipline  it is taken from Adlerian psychology that deals with challenging behavior.   See if any f this makes sense: Seven Tips for Practicing Positive Discipline | Parenting Tips & Advice | PBS KIDS for Parents

    for redirecting- I would suggest lots of physical exercises preferably outdoors

  • 9.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-09-2019 01:28 AM
    Hello Joycelyn,

    As I read your description of the challenge you are experiencing with a preschool child and your two questions, I began to think about a response that includes my understanding of the NAEYC Code of Ethics and Developmentally Appropriate Practices. Then I added my understanding of the concepts of Guidance and Discipline appropriate in interactions with young children. Finally, I recalled experiences, similar to what you described, and effective strategies to deal with this situation.

    I believe asking a preschool child to apologize for behavior they probably do not fully understand is not appropriate. I believe as Early Childhood Educators, we have the responsibility to create a plan to support young children and their families in dealing with challenging behaviors. I believe the behavior you describe is a child communicating challenges he/she is facing while learning how to appropriately function with a group of peers.

    My experience is our work has a strong connection to being competent in creating and sustaining meaningful relationships with the children, their families and those who work with them at the Early Childhood Education Program.

    Suggestions I offer to you are:

    - Meet with the family of the child who is acting inappropriately to discuss their child's inappropriate behavior and assure the family of your desire to work with them to support their child in getting the services their child needs to learn appropriate behaviors that lead to him/her able to function in a group setting with peers.

    - I would work with the family to establish a relationship based on trust and respect to be able to get to the point where the family is in agreement to have you complete the process to refer the child to the Early Intervention Program in your community.

    - I would convene a meeting with the family and the Behavioral Specialist who is working with the child to get the perspective and recommendation of this person for how to support the child, family and teachers to address the behavior of the child in the classroom.

    - I would lead the creation of an Action Plan designed to support this child in learning how to function appropriately in the classroom and include a schedule of meetings with the key stakeholders to monitor the implementation of the plan.

    I would have as my ultimate goal to ensure no harm is done to any of the children, the family feels as though they are a valued and trusted partner in resolving this challenging situation and appropriate services are in place to support the child in learning strategies that lead to his/her ability to succeed in being able to learn how to interact appropriately in the classroom.

    Resolving the situation you describe is complex. I assume there is more information you might have and will have as you lead work to ultimately do what is best for the child exhibiting the challenging behavior. I hope something I offered is helpful to you and want to acknowledge your willingness to seek assistance in this matter.

    Robert Gundling, Ed.D.
    Better Futures LLC
    Senior Consultant
    Washington, DC

  • 10.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-11-2019 02:15 PM

  • 11.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-09-2019 06:48 AM
    Check out Dr. Becky Bailey's Conscious Discipline work. There are some great strategies for helping kids develop skills to handle big emotions. You develop a safe space where they can go when they are feeling overwhelmed and you teach them how to calm takes time and lots of teaching on emotions as well as deep belly breathing...3 belly breaths can calm the central nervous system. It is great work for all kids! I would not have them apologize to parents. If they truly feel sorry then apologizing to kids is appropriate, forcing it doesn't help. These kids need to stay in school and learn and practice how to behave in this social setting. Keeping parents involved and communicating in a non-judge mental way that you are on the same side and want what is best for the child.

    Pamela Farmer
    E Fairfield VT

  • 12.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-09-2019 08:55 AM
    There are thoughtful responses to your query posted here, so I won't reiterate the same great points made. I would add that - when engaging parents/caretakers about this type of behavior - there's an inherent risk that the child will suffer punishment in the home as a result of the discussion. It's helpful for the parents to be given resources and helped to clarify the shared goals for the child (academically successful, mentally and emotionally thriving, physically and medically safe...). To that end, the discussion can include ways to either unintentionally exacerbate or compassionately alleviate the troubling behaviors. Children who hurt others are usually children who are being hurt.

    Shari Doherty
    Program Director
    Child Find of America, Inc.
    New Paltz NY

  • 13.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-09-2019 01:12 PM
    Your situation is very challenging; foremost you must retain confidentiality at all cost. Even when the victim's family approaches you. The first thing is to document the incidences, then talk with your director and finally have a conference with the family to share your observations.

  • 14.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 11-26-2020 05:03 PM
    I hope you are good? I can't call for now,  I need a quick favor from you, do you have amazon account?

    Thank you  

  • 15.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 11-26-2020 07:08 PM

    I would be careful when you start involving parents of the hurt child, especially when the apology is coming from a pre school child.  Sometimes it helps to have the "hitter" to think of a way to help the "victim" feel better (i.e., say sorry, give a hug, get a tissue, etc.).  Also, a good resource you may want to look into: Miriam Manela- The Parent Child Dance (book) and/or online (  Also,  consistently rewarding positive behavior really helps but takes time.  It might also be good to have children notice positive behavior of this child and others as well.  Point out when you see someone doing something positive.  Sometimes children like the one you are talking about need very clear visuals of what it looks like to ask for a toy, etc.  Of course parents of child need to be consulted as well.  If you get support at home it is usually more successful

    Gina James (retired teacher)

  • 16.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 11-28-2020 09:41 AM
    Hi Joycelyn,
    This is a common situation in preschool. Anticipate that you will have a student with challenges like these every year. If you truly want the child to succeed this will be a lot of work and I find it is so worth it when all children in the room can experience the joy of development! I have laid out my recommendations below:

    Parents who complain about another child:
    1. Make sure to have a description of the way you and your team handle challenging behaviors and support children's social emotional development. I always let the other parents know, "I am not allowed to talk with you about another child's development, but let me tell you about how we handle challenging behaviors in our classroom and support children's social emotional development, in general..." I always ended with, "when we don't feel we have the expertise to support a child's development whether it's for challenging behaviors or other developmental needs we reach out to community professionals." I also was sure to include that when challenging behaviors arise we always stay in communication with that child's parents. It seems there is always a parent who is ready to vilify a child who is not theirs (and that child's parents(s)). It is our job to protect our students and their families from this. *It is never the child's responsibility to make the adults comfortable.* When challenging behaviors are presented it means that our student needs more from us or something different than we are offering.

    2. Then I remind them that we will continue to be in communication with them about their own child's development, thanking them for reaching out with concerns.

    Parent of the child who exhibits challenging behaviors: 
    1. I want teachers to remember that while parents are the experts on their own child, you are the expert on classroom dynamics. So be careful not to "dump" the problem on the parents. Build partnership by telling them objectively what happened that was challenging, and remember to include anecdotes about the other times of the day when the child was successful. You'll need to be aware of the child's strengths in order to develop you strategies for coaching them towards pro-social behaviors.

    2. First communicate with your director or teacher support person to develop strategies to support the child with challenging behaviors. With your team identify how the behavior interferes with the child's ability to access basic needs, relationships, and/or curriculum (all parents and teachers want these three things for students). Then meet with parents to:
    • share what's going well for the child
    • share your observations of the behaviors
    • share your thoughts on access to basic needs, relationships, and/or curriculum
    • ideas about find out how things are going at home (do they see similar behaviors? What is going well?)
    • let them know the strategies you are trying with your team
    • see what strategies they are trying and/or work at home
    • make a plan to circle back in a couple of weeks. 
    3. If behaviors don't reduce then you may need extra support. Let the parents know that you want to be the best teacher you can for their child but you're not sure how to do that. You'll need the expertise of a specialist in order to understand more about how their child learns and what their developmental needs are. Then share resources that you and your director have identified. This can be heavy for parents. Give them some time to think about it and make a plan to follow up.

    Addressing Challenging Behavior with the child:
    1. Someone mentioned shadowing (when you move through the classroom with the child so that you can intervene right away if something is about to happen). While you are shadowing make it very productive by noting:
    • Build a positive relationship with the child - play with them when things are going grea! Find out what topics they love, what classroom materials they enjoy, how they connect with others. Take them on special trips to the copier, to ask the director a question or to help set up snack, etc.
    • What happened right before the child was triggered? What was the volume? How many children were in the space right around the child? How might the child have been feeling emotionally? Did the child make an attempt to communicate verbally before acting physically? Is there a pattern?
    • Reduce expectations - help this child more than you normally do if they will accept it to reduce the occurrences of challenging behavior (This will let the brain take a break from strengthening the neural pathways that lead to challenging behaviors)
    • Take every opportunity to slow social situations down: narrate what you see happening for all involved, validate emotions of all involved, model calmness, curiosity, and problem solving. ALL children will benefit from this, not just the child you're shadowing.
    2. Ask your director to observe you interacting with the child. Then meet with your team and your director to brainstorm what skills you think the child has not developed, what the barriers might be to developing these skills, and what community resources might help you understand the child's development and needs better.
    Addressing Challenging Behavior with other children:
    • We need to support a child when they've been hurt or harmed, or their safety has been threatened. We can support them through their emotions without requiring them to check in with the child who hurt or scared them. We can be the person that helps them access coping strategies that will help them feel better - not the other child. When we force apologies it sends the message that the person who hurt you still holds the power over your emotions - it's as if you can't feel better until the other child apologizes. Instead we want the hurt child to develop a sense of agency about their emotional state and to be able to take action in emotion processing and self-care regardless of what the other child is doing.
    • Also, I stress with all children that we are all learning and working on something. I give an example of something I am working on, and something they are each working on. We can appreciate that we are all working on different things. I also make a point to make a big deal (in a positive way) whenever the child with challenging behaviors does something helpful so the children may see that the child is more than "bad behavior". 

    For yourself:

    This can be emotionally taxing work! Make sure you have proactive self-care routines in place, like actually taking your break rather than working through it, switch out with your teammate when you're starting to feel tired of shadowing, make sure your spiritual cup is full.

    Please feel free to contact me for more information!

    Lauren Stauble
    Adjunct Faculty
    Bunker Hill Community College
    Weston MA

  • 17.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 11-28-2020 10:30 AM
    Hi Joycelyn,

    Sorry to hear about this challenging situation. This can be really stressful. At the same time, keep up hope because if you are able to help this child improve then you can make a world of difference. There are many helpful resources and tips in this chain. What I can add is that there are many general strategies that can be applied. And, the most effective approach is one that is tailored to the individual child, based on that child's needs, in the context of your program, and ideally in coordination with all involved including the parents. In special needs programs that I work in we typically coordinate our efforts in team meetings in which we set goals, strategies and review progress. In each meeting progress is assessed with the team and plans/intervention strategies are tweaked based on the results. If it's possible for you to have a "team" meeting (or ongoing meetings) with the significant people involved in this child's care, such as the administrator, behavioral specialist, parents, and other teachers and/or teacher assistants, then that is likely to lead to the best outcomes. The purpose of the meetings would be to assess the issues, and develop a plan, or revise a plan you might already have, to successfully address the issues with strategies.

    Based on what you reported I suspect that there may be contributing factors from the home. If this is true then if there is any way for your program, or another resource or program, to assist the family, then this can potentially impact the child positively as well. Many resources are available through early childhood resource centers whose primary role is to refer parents, teachers or other professionals to programs that are set up to help families in all kinds of ways. Becky Bailey's Conscious Displine is really good.   Feel free to connect offline if you wish to touch base on this, Yours, Scott

    Scott Mesh, PhD, CEO
    Los Niños Services (NYC)
    Los Niños Training,

  • 18.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 11-29-2020 09:10 AM
    Joycelyn, I hope you can see from all of the responses you've received that you are dealing with a situation that has bothered many people working with young children in classrooms. I don't think I saw any solutions that would make your day working with this child go well enough that you looked forward to your next day in the classroom. You have received good advice about privacy and protection, but that doesn't make your day go well. Many approaches have a disguised punishment element that can make the problem worse. I've been studying neurobiology (the workings of genes in the brain) and think there is some improved understanding of issues like you are facing. I think some it may help us all handle negative behaviors.

    Negative behaviors are impulsive responses from a part of the brain that responds to fear. The fear could be complex and unspecific so it isn't necessary to know what it is. Calming the child and teaching them to calm themselves is the basic approach to this fear-based behavior. Your voice and eyes--and heart beat if you hold the child--are a first response and helps make you a safe place for the child to turn to when afraid. This does mean that you need to be there when these events happen, or before they happen if you find there are clues, which is likely when you observe this child. If you're late you can calm and otherwise care for a hurt child before calming the one who did the hurting. Children will wait for your calming once they've experienced it. I've seen these behaviors resolve quickly when comforting rapport has been established. This information is so new I would be surprised if behavioral specialists know about it yet. Calming a child gets past the fight/flight impulsive behaviors to the part of the brain that thinks things through and that can provide better responses to situations that become seen as challenging but not frightening.

    I hope this helps. We need every early childhood educator willing to work in the classroom. You are very important.

    Jack Wright
    Child Development Consultant
    Success With Children
    St Ignatius MT

  • 19.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-04-2020 09:51 PM
    What we use is a system called Positive Behavior Support. The concept is simple but it's a game- changer. The basis is that you:
    1-find the cause (there could be multiple: attention- seeking, bored, over- simulated, having trouble self-regulating, etc)
    2- define the skill that the child lacks that are at the root of this behavior (entering play, regulation, etc)
    3- make a plan: how can we help teach the child these skills? (Practice during good moments, coach through tough times, constant reminders of what IS appropriate) it often helps to use visuals and social stories
    4- implement consistently. If you have the right cause and skill to teach, and you're implementing it effectively, research says that most of the time it only takes 2 weeks to see real changes in behavior.
    5-You need to reevaluate often, even if the behavior disappears overnight (which it won't) you know it's the child's tendency so you need to continue to follow up and change the plan based on where the child is consistently.

    I hope this helps you. It has really helped me in very similar situations. All behavior is communication and you just need to find out what they are communicating.

    The children who need the MOST live will ask for it in the most UNloving ways.

    Kelsey Saterfield
    Lead Preschool Teacher
    Dolores Dore Eccles Center for Early Care and Education
    Utah State University
    Logan UT

  • 20.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-05-2020 10:00 AM
    Kelsey, that looks like an excellent program. My studies of neurobiology leads to me wanting the role of calming to be emphasized at each step of your program. Thanks for your post.

    Jack Wright
    Child Development Consultant
    Success With Children
    St Ignatius MT

  • 21.  RE: Support on what to do with a child that is constantly bothering other children

    Posted 12-05-2020 11:25 AM
    Thanks for your input!