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Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

  • 1.  Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-13-2021 02:08 PM
    Hello!

    I am hoping to find some professional advice as well as any others who have been through a similar situation.

    My son is currently attending a primary classroom of 3-5 year olds in a Montessori school. He has been displaying some challenging behavior at school by randomly walking up to his classmates and hitting or kicking them. His teacher reported that this usually occurs when he isn't focused on his work and is wandering the room. He has been sent the office many times for this behavior. I also see hitting and throwing at home but usually of the frustrational variety, not normally random. I have sat down with both his teacher and the head of the school to talk about his behavior and what we can all do to help stop it and turn it more positive, providing suggestions of what works at home, what he likes and is interested in.

    Today, he had been working on his assigned work when he walked over to another classmate and scratched him with a push pin (the friend was working on push pin art). He was then sent to the office and the head of the school called me to take him home. She has asked that he remain at home until Monday.

    I am feeling very disappointed, ashamed and saddened by the situation. If any of you have any advice, ideas, suggestions of something we can try both here at home and at school, I would be very open to hearing it.

    Thank you for your time.

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:34 AM
    Hi Kate,

    It's really not unusual if he has challenging behaviors.  Many children do.  Try appealing to his empathy by asking him how others may feel if he kicks them etc.  The old adage "put yourself in their shoes" might also help.
    Also, if he has nervous energy, try and channel it elsewhere by finding what his interest is and redirecting him that way.
    Give him manipulatives to play with.  Or you could also have him write or draw out his feelings.
    These are some ideas. I'm not sure they'll work, but you can try them.
    Good luck!
    Kavitha

    ------------------------------
    Kavitha Sarangan
    Grad Student
    Northern Arizona University
    Chandler AZ
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:02 PM
    Kavitha,

    Thank you so much for your suggestions! I agree that using manipulatives and play to help him work through his feelings is a good avenue to take. Do you have any book recommendations that we can use with him as well to help with his SEL?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 06:38 PM
    Hi Kate,
    One book I really like is A Ball For Daisy.  It's about a child, a dog, and a ball.  This might be something you could use to distract your child.  Since it is a topic about dog and child playing with a ball, it has a universal appeal.  I'm not sure if you have a pet or dog.  If you do, playing with the pet or dog based on the actions in this book would be a distraction as well as a way to develop positive emotions and attachment.  Also, everyone pretty much has access to a ball.  Playing with one while relating your actions to what happens in the book will help with expending nervous energy, channeling energy into positive action, learning ball skills, and maintaining emotional regulation.
    I'm not sure if this is a help.
    All the best,
    Kavitha

    ------------------------------
    Kavitha Sarangan
    Grad Student
    Northern Arizona University
    Chandler AZ
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 04:37 AM
    Hi,

    First of all, what are 3 year olds doing with pushpins!?  If there is pushpin art then it should be highly supervised!!

    Second, why is he allowed to go wandering around during work time?  And what are the teachers doing?  Obviously not watching the children.  Is that how a montessori school works?  Kids just get to do whatever they want?

    You need a new school!  I would look for a structured program, with a good ratio of children to teachers.  It sounds as if he is bored or frustrated.  I would inform the new school what his behaviors can be and what works at home.  Also ask them how they would handle these behaviors.  Sending a 3 year old to the principals office is not productive.  There should be redirection when he is unfocused.  Maybe your child has some kind of learning issue that is not being addressed.  You could contact your school district and have him evaluated, or speak to your pedatrician for advise.  Hopefully a new school would have better supervision and appropriate actions to take if he hits or hurts another child.  He doesn't sound malicious.

    Good luck!  Remember you are your child's advocate!  Keep looking until you find a program that works for him!

    ------------------------------
    Miss Theresa
    Preschool Teacher
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:07 PM
    Miss Theresa,

    I have to admit that the same thoughts had gone through my head. I had just had a meeting with the head teacher and head of school the day before about his behavior so receiving this phone call was quite a shock. As far as I understand, they have been trying the "let's watch and see" approach to his wandering to see if he can independently come back to his work if he isn't finished or doesn't want to work on it. However, as you probably understand, this didn't work for my son.

    While I agree that what is currently happening in his school may not be the best fit for him, we will be moving out of the country in two months and I feel that unless something dire happens at his school, changing schools as this point would be a hinderance rather than a help.

    Something I think I should have mentioned in my original post is that my husband is currently serving in the active duty military and has been deployed since October of last year. He did come home for few weeks in the summer but then left again to finish his tour. In my research, I have found that many young children like my son, struggle with one parent being absent from the household. And it could also be that he knows his Dad is coming home soon but doesn't know when that could be a stressor.

    Do you have any picture book recommendations to use with him to begin the conversation of empathy, kindness, friendship, etc.? My son loves to read!

    Thank you for your time and your thoughts! They were very helpful!

    Kate


    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 06:00 AM
    Hi Kathleen,
    OK, from what I can tell you need more information. I'm not sure exactly what early childhood resources you have access to because I don't know where you live. It would be helpful to have your child observed. In the Cambridge MA area we have the early years who come in and work with parents and teachers to come up with strategies to sort children.

    Your son may do better with more large motor outdoor time. Perhaps he has a sensory need for physical contact. Whatever his need is,  it's not being met. I agree that perhaps this program is not a good fit for him. Look around and see what else is available. You will probably recognize it when you find it. Ask for help too!

    Let me know how it goes.

    Sincerely,
    Kerri Klugman

    ------------------------------
    Kerri Klugman
    Teacher
    Campus Child Care
    Belmont MA
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:10 PM
    Kerri,

    I think you are absolutely right that he needs more physical movement then what is being provided. He is a very physical kid, loves hiking, biking, walking, climbing, etc. I do know that in the classroom, he is asked to either sit at a table or on the floor to complete his work. I have been given the contact information of a counselor that the school has used in the past to have him observed. I hope to work with her on observing him and gaining any insights she may have to his behavior.

    Do you have any picture book recommendations that you would use for learning about empathy, friendship, kindness, etc.?

    Thank you so much for your thoughts!

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 07:31 AM
    Hi Kathleen,
    I'm glad you reached out. It sounds like your son's school has a traditional approach to discipline by removing children from the classroom when challenging behavior comes up. In contemporary programs we work hard to avoid excluding a child from the classroom. Exclusion has not proven to improve self-esteem or reduce challenging behaviors. You might appreciate this video from Dr. Rosemarie Allen, called "School Suspensions are an Adult Behavior". It is truly the responsibility of the teachers to reflect on what may be causing the behavior in the classroom with your input, and then teach the skills and provide support for children to access healthy relationships, access curriculum, and have their basic needs met. That being said...
    As you and some of the other people who responded suggested there is something triggering the behavior. In my experience (16 years working with children under 5) two common causes of challenging behaviors are unprocessed emotions and sensory integration development. I'm curious about the age of your child - the behavior might lead me in different ways if he is a young three rather than a five year old. No matter the age I always start with emotion processing. It seems like at home you recognize your child's emotional lead-up to the behavior. It makes me wonder if your son is showing these cues at school but the teachers are missing it. It could be something as simple as your son wanting someone's attention and feeling jealous, disappointed, frustrated. In this case I use Collaborative Emotion Processing (CEP) to:
    1. allow the feeling
    2. help the child to recognize the feeling with symbols (words, pictures, or sign language, I co-created the CEP Deck for this purpose)
    3. Over time build a security with a variety of emotions by offering validation, showing a pictorial representation of "calm"
    4. Teach the use of coping strategies (these are things the child can do when they experience that feeling in order to calm down)
    5. Help the child to get re-started or started with something else (moving on)
    Sometimes this approach is readily received by the chid. Other times it takes a couple of weeks for the child to realize that you're ok with their big emotions, especially if adults have been afraid of the child's big emotions or punishing the behavior that accompanies them. In this case they might explode with you, throw the emotion cards, or run and hide. Often with consistent, calm support the child connects with one of the emotion cards (angry was common) and carries it around like a blankie in as little as two weeks! Adults need to be secure and calm, and understand their own emotions in order for CEP to work.

    In my experience CEP usually works! When it doesn't, there is usually some aspect of development that needs extra attention. It's always a good idea (thank you Aren Stone!) to have hearing and vision tested with the pediatrician to rule those out.
    It could be sensory integration/sensory processing, which means that someone's brain needs help to make sense of sensory input coming from the environment. With many early interventions getting support early on means that children develop so that they don't need them anymore. In this case, development can be facilitated by Occupational Therapists. They conduct screenings and provide services. Some insurance companies cover this and you can also reach out to the public schools.
    It could also be speech-related. Here is a website with the speech and language milestones. Your school or pediatrician might be able to connect you with speech screening/services of you have concerns, but you can also reach out to the public schools.
    You might also explore therapy, and you pediatrician should be able to connect you with screening/services resources.
    If those avenues are not the answer then there are other screenings and evaluations that would be recommended to you by the providers I mentioned above.

    I hope that's helpful! Please feel free to reach out individually if you have other questions.
    Sincerely,
    Lauren

    ------------------------------
    Lauren Stauble
    Consultant/Faculty/ECE Admin
    Boston, MA
    feelthinkconnect.com
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:17 PM
    Hi Lauren,

    Thank you so much for your amazing thoughts and ideas! All of what you have written is extremely helpful and insightful! My son is 3.5 years old.

    I confess that I was disappointed that the school decided to suspend him for his behavior instead of working with him in the classroom to fix what he has done. In my mind, the suspension teaches my son that the love of his teachers is conditional to him behaving "good" and if he is "bad" then they will take him away. This does not build a sense of community to me at all.

    A little bit of background to our current situation is that my husband is currently deployed and has been since October of last year. He will be coming home soon and we will then be leaving to move out of the country. My son is aware of this though he doesn't understand when my husband will be back, only that he is coming. And he doesn't understand that we aren't leaving for a few months, only that we are leaving. I am wondering if this could be part of the cause of his behavior.

    Do you have any picture book recommendations that we can use here at home to talk about empathy, kindness, friendship, love, etc?

    Thank you again for your wonderful thoughts!

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 01:34 PM
    That's all helpful information! Yes, as a 3.5-year-old it makes perfect sense that there would be confusion about when your husband will return because the concept of time is completely abstract for someone that age. I remember when a student of mine who usually didn't struggle with social interactions was having a hard time interacting with other children. We asked his mom about it when she picked him up on the second day in a row and she realized that she hadn't thought to tell us his dad was away. In your son's case it might be helpful to make some tools to make the concept of time more concrete. For example, when it's just one week until your husband returns you can make a calendar and cross off one day at a time. You'd put a picture or drawing of your husband on the day he returns.
    I'm sorry I don't have a favorite book about empathy to share! I think that's because I've always just worked this concept into any story where one of the characters feels something. Even if the story is not about feelings we can pause and have a conversation about what the character is feeling. Also, demonstrating empathy and narrating that process can be helpful for some children. For teaching emotion concepts I love How Are You Peeling: Foods with moods, by Saxton Fremann. I also love, When Sophie Gets Angry, by Molly Bang. The second book gives an example of what someone can do to calm themselves down. Another one that I used to teach about "disappointed" is Should I Share My Ice Cream?, by Mo Willems. Willems has a whole series about the main characters in this book, Piggy and Gerald. They are both pretty expressive characters so the books are perfect for inviting children to use context cues and character's expression to guess how Piggy and Gerald are feeling.
    Happy reading!

    ------------------------------
    Lauren Stauble
    Consultant/Faculty/ECE Admin
    Boston, MA
    feelthinkconnect.com
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 01:43 PM
    Hi again!

    This is so helpful! Thank you for your recommendations. We love Gerald and Piggie! I like the idea of working in their emotions, even if it isn't an emotion book.

    While my husband is away, we have been staying with my parents so he is receiving two more adult's attention on a daily basis and has had some consistency in his life with them.

    Do you have any advice on how to teach empathy explicitly? I know to ask him how others are feeling and how he would feel if he were them but I'm not sure he truly understands. Do you have any recommendations?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 07:44 PM

    Your questions are so engaging! Even on a Friday night :) Thank you for asking. I agree with Jack that the best way to teach empathy to preschoolers is modeling. Children this age are developing cognitive complexity, so they are capable of understanding that other people feel differently than they do. This is an important precursor to empathy. Other pre-empathy skills are being able to recognize emotions within themselves, and beginning to recognize the emotions that other people are expressing. This is good work to be doing with preschoolers that will support empathy development later on. 

    With chronic challenging behavior I recommend not having the child go back to check in with the hurt child every time. The first reason is that it might teach the child who was hurt that they can't feel better until the other child checks in with them. Plus most of us don't feel safe accepting gestures of comfort from someone who just hurt us, and it's not fair to put the child who was hurt in that position. The second reason is because most preschoolers know we don't want them to hurt other people. They don't scratch or hit, etc. because they don't know they're not supposed to or because they don't know that the other person wouldn't like it. Instead it's a matter of yet to be developed executive function and/or processing skills. If we try to teach the child how the other child feels sad or hurt every time then this will lead to shame on the part of the child who is doing the hurting because they get the impression something is wrong with them when they don't know how to stop themselves. We know that this is not the case. It's because they haven't yet developed the skills to stop themselves and they are ready for focused scaffolding from the teachers.  I teach teachers to provide the support to the child who was hurt so that child can learn some strategies for helping themselves feel better with coping strategies. I also teach teachers to investigate what's going on for the child who was doing the hurting so that they can make a strategy that matches that specific child's development. There are lots of fun ways to develop executive function (cognitive flexibility) and one of the best ways is through dramatic play where the incentive to keep playing makes being flexible more intrinsic. Sometimes children need focused scaffolding to stay engaged in the play and the results have always astounded me! 

    One last thing for now is the importance of empathetic adults who are able to provide consistent co-regulation for children when big emotions come up. Over time with steady support co-regulation can become self-regulation. Sometimes people forget (even preschool teachers) that preschoolers still need co-regulation sometimes. It's easy to provide it for babies, but for some reason we think preschoolers ought to be doing it on their own. 



    ------------------------------
    Lauren Stauble
    Consultant/Faculty/ECE Admin
    Boston, MA
    feelthinkconnect.com
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 07:55 AM
    Hi Kathleen, sorry to hear you (and your son) are going through some difficult situations. I've been in Early Ed for about 30 years as a classroom teacher, director, and currently a trainer. My first thought is that the school might not be a good fit for your child (children being sent to the office, and then removed from school, is definitely a red flag). It may not be realistic to expect the school to bend or change their approach if their philosophy is not a match for what your child actually needs. Your child might benefit from a program which incorporates more movement into activities or is more child-centered (more activities built on your child's interests). Of course behavior management is complex because it depends on the child, the environment, the relationship with caregivers, etc. - so it's hard to know exactly what's going on. The suggestions provided by Lauren Stauble are excellent and I would definitely explore those. Best Wishes, Phuong

    ------------------------------
    Phuong Hoang
    Instructor
    TRAIN Educational & Community Services
    North East MD
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:19 PM
    Phuong,

    Thank you very much for your thoughts! I agree suspending a three year old is a huge red flag for me too. What does that teach my son? That the love of his teachers is conditional to his "good" behavior and if he is "bad" he will be kicked out? To me, that does not build strong community or relationships in the classroom among the teachers or his peers.

    Do you have any recommendations for picture books to use when teaching empathy, kindness, friendship, love, etc?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 07:59 AM
    Good morning Kathleen,

    We have Behavior Therapist who has helped us a lot with different types of behaviors.  It could be various things as such: bored, teachers needs to challenge him and be ready when he finishes one task have another ready for him.  Give him job responsibilities within the classroom, especially if he is doing good choices :-).  We usually have our students do tearing of paper, drawing, coloring, building, etc.  Also, observe what are his favoring toys and/or activities.

    I'm a Preschool Directors, teachers do send the students to my office, I talk with them and have them think why they are feeling this way.  It's very surprising to hear what they; at times it's just listening to them.  As some else said get him evaluated  he might be a bright smart boy and he is  bored.  We will be praying for you and your son.



    ------------------------------
    Nelida Rosado
    Orlando FL
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:23 PM
    Nelida,

    It's interesting that you suggested giving him responsibilities in the classroom. That was exactly what I suggested his teacher do the day before this incident happened when I met with her and the head of the school. My son is a huge helper and wants to be a part of all that goes on in the home or classroom. Giving him tasks that directly relate to the care of our home has been really satisfying for him. I also wonder if he is bored with the activities that are provided for him for his age range. He is also a very kinesthetic kid and I wonder if the amount of sitting they ask him to do is too much for him right now.

    Do you have any picture book recommendations to teach empathy, kindness, friendship, love, etc that I can use to begin the conversations of how to care for our friends and family?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 08:53 AM
    A book I have found invaluable as a parent, grandparent and teacher of young children for more than 30 years is THE PARENT CHILD DANCE by Miriam Manela.  I recommend it to all my colleagues, students (I teach college courses), parents and family members.  It has many valuable and practical ideas that can help a child with "challenging" behaviors.  The author is an OT and has had success with many children.  Her approach is appropriate, positive not punitive and realistic.  The one "warning" I have is that some of the activities she suggests might not be ok in certain classrooms, but there are many and you can adjust.  You won't be sorry if you read this book.  I refer to it often!!

    ------------------------------
    Gina James
    Teacher
    NYCDOE
    Williston Pk NY
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:24 PM
    Gina,

    Thank you so much for your book recommendation! I will look it up. Do you have any recommendations for picture books I can read with my son about empathy, kindness, friendship, love, etc to start the conversation with him on taking care of our friends and family?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 03:45 PM
    One of my new favorite authors is Kathryn Otoshi.  Her books One  and   Zero    not only teach kindness, acceptance, etc. but also have math concepts embedded in them.  I used to read One and compare it to Little Blue and Little Yellow.  There are now soooooo many books that address kindness, bullying, etc. that it is difficult to choose but I do like Otoshi's books.  Good for a wide range of ages as well.

    ------------------------------
    Gina James
    Teacher
    NYCDOE
    Williston Pk NY
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 09:19 AM
    There's very good advice and things to think about on this thread already.  My first thought on reading this is that it seems like there is a completely predictable pattern to your son's behavior.  If this is true then it's important that his teachers support him when he stands up from his work table.  I wonder if he needs to move a lot more than he is able to in this classroom and his getting up is an indication of that, and his hurting others when he gets up an indication of his frustration that he can't move freely.  There is a certain sensory deprivation for many children when they aren't allowed freedom of movement, and are expected to be very quiet and contained unless they are outside. A sensory need that goes unfed becomes a behavioral issue.  That isn't his fault--it's the environment and that the adults in it aren't supporting his needs,

    He may thrive in a setting that is more play based.

    ------------------------------
    Aren Stone
    she/her/hers
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:26 PM
    Hi Aren,

    Thank you so much for your thoughts and ideas! Yes, I agree with you completely. My son is a kinesthetic kid and loves to move, run, hike, dance, swim, etc. It does occur to me as well that this could be an environmental issue with how they are handling his need to move. I also wonder what the teachers are doing when they watch him get up and move away from his work. Are they redirecting him right away or allowing him space to possibly make a poor choice like hurting his friend? At that point, what have we taught him but that we react to his actions rather than preempt them?

    Do you have any recommendations for picture books I can read with my son about empathy, kindness, friendship, love, etc to start the conversation with him on taking care of our friends and family?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 09:44 AM
    I am so sorry to hear this for your son!! I am a Montessori director/teacher and a child has freedom in the classroom until he disrespects someone else's freedom, and then his freedom is limited.  I am wondering if he is trying to get the other students' attention and wants to work with them, but does not know how to properly get it.  I would be asking the teacher and director what grace and courtesy lessons they are working on with your son.  Are they giving him words to use with his classmates?  Are they staying close by him during the work cycles so they can easily redirect him if they see him wandering and not engaged in an activity?  Are they having him "repair" his mistake rather than just taking him to the office?  Are they focusing on the positive things he does in the classroom and what he does to help make the classroom community complete?  A Montessori classroom's goal is to build a community based upon respect for one another and the environment.  A three year needs to be taught and shown these things with great patience and not be left alone to fail.

    ------------------------------
    Karen Swan
    Director
    Redwood Christian Montessori
    Indianapolis IN
    ------------------------------



  • 24.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:32 PM
    Hi Karen,

    I am BEYOND excited to see your questions! All these questions are ones I would not know to ask as I am not a Montessori teacher (I am public school). I have no idea what grace and courtesy lessons they are teaching. I do know that they were not acknowledging his positive behavior in the classroom until I told them how well he reacts to it at home and how it has helped him learn how to cope with his frustration. He will take himself into his room now for a minute sometimes when he needs to calm down as we have encouraged him to do that independently.

    I have to admit that suspending my son has left a poor experience for me with this school. If Montessori curriculum is based on creating a sense of community, then removing one of their members because they are displaying challenging behavior makes me wonder if the child then thinks that they will only be loved if they are "good". That the love of their teachers is conditional.

    Do you have any recommendations for picture books I can read with my son about empathy, kindness, friendship, love, etc to start the conversation with him on taking care of our friends and family?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 25.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 10:04 AM
    Children learn best through play. Find an early care and education program that is play-based.  This is a blog that does a good job of discussing the value of true play:  https://blog.edmentum.com/play-based-learning-what-it-and-why-it-should-be-part-every-classroom

    ------------------------------
    Cathy McAuliffe, PhD
    Adjunct Professor
    NorthWest Arkansas Community College
    Bentonville, Arkansas
    ------------------------------



  • 26.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 10:24 AM
    Kate, Wow. I can't remember a time when more people answered you so quickly. There is a great deal of good advice in their responses, but something is missing. I'm a child development consultant here in Mission Valley, Montana. Your son hasn't developed adequate emotional regulation. That's not unusual, but it is accomplished by the age of thee by a little over half of children. The problem can be remedied, but all punishment must be ended. When your child makes a mistake it is likely from impulsive behavior (directed by his amygdala, a fight, flight, or freeze response). It's difficult to tell what his amygdala thought was dangerous, but it is easily just something as simple as fear that he isn't doing well. Young children who haven't developed emotional regulation often hit, bite, push, and such behaviors when they are afraid they won't get their favorite toy or position at a table and such things. Emotional regulation is a core ability for developing social skills. Your child needs to be cared for people who aren't angry with him, are trusted by him to not be angry, have gentle eyes and bodies. Only such people can say things like, What happened here? and, That didn't go so well did it? When relaxed by loving gentleness he can think (use his prefrontal cortex) about the consequence of his behaviors, both positive and negative, and overcome his lack of emotional regulation. Trust me is you can. This information is clear in the scientific literature.

    ------------------------------
    Jack Wright
    Child Development Consultant
    Success With Children
    St Ignatius MT
    ------------------------------



  • 27.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:42 PM
    Hi Jack,

    This is beautiful and wonderful! Thank you so much. This information is invaluable to help me understand what my son is experiencing right now. Removing punishment I think will be key for my son but I wonder what suggestions you would make instead. Of course I cannot allow him to hit when he is angry, what can I do? I cannot allow him to throw his toys because that is unsafe, what do I do instead?

    I think what you have said about his emotional regulation development is probably true. He does seem to have more of a fight or flight mentality when it comes to negative stimuli or emotions. What recommendations would you make for me to change how I interact with his more challenging behaviors to help him come out of that impulse safely and positively? Do you have book recommendations or journals that discuss such topics?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 28.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:52 PM
    Kathleen what you shared about your husband being deployed probably has a whole lot to do with your son's current state of emotional regulation challenges!  Poor guy! And poor mom...it is such a challenging situation to be in but what Jack said here was so true: he needs support not punishment.

    ------------------------------
    Joanie Calem
    Music and Inclusion Specialist
    Sing Along
    Columbus, OH
    ------------------------------



  • 29.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 04:07 PM
    Kate, that information about your husband and that about his behavior before this school tells a great deal about your son's behavior. With dad missing it's quite possible that everything is frightening. Further, he may feel he has done something wrong to lose dad, and punishment would have made that worse. What to do in place of punishment is what I was talking about when I said he needs to be with a safe person and discuss the mistakes he has made without feeling badly about them. Many early childhood educators don't understand this. What the research calls a "synchronous" (namely, moving with) caregiver always cuddles her child and discusses what went wrong. That doesn't mean she hides her opinion. She says something like, "It upsets mommy when you pour your milk all over the table. Lets figure out this problem together." Even if an infant is pre-verbal such a statement both informs them of mother's upsetness in a gentle way and prepares them for language. I write about this stuff in my book, Breakthrough. You can find it on Amazon with "Breakthrough, Wright. I hope I'm helping you and your son.

    ------------------------------
    Jack Wright
    Child Development Consultant
    Success With Children
    St Ignatius MT
    ------------------------------



  • 30.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 01:46 PM
    Hi Jack,

    Beyond helpful! Your example with the milk is great. I am working on putting my feelings into words for him when I am frustrated with his hitting and that's a great example. While my husband is away we have been staying with my parents so he has had more adult interaction. He also attended the same school earlier in the year after my husband left but in a different classroom and with a different teacher.

    Do you have any advice or ideas on how to teach empathy explicitly? I work with him on "How do you think she/he is feeling?" or "Do you think you would like to be hit/kicked/bit/etc.?" but I am not sure he is truly getting the concept. Do you have any recommendations?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 31.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 04:14 PM
    Kate, empathy is somewhat learned with words at your sons age, but it is mostly learned from modeling. Your school has been a poor model. I hope your parents are good ones. Even a "thinking chair" needs to be carefully used or it becomes punishment, the opposite of empathy. I'm glad you read to your son. That's great for language development, but is less help for thinking about empathy at your sons age. He can do that better at five. Meanwhile developing emotional regulation with the synchronicity I mentioned is the best thing to do, and see if your parents can understand this new way of dealing with children. They may be helped by reading my book, too. 

    ------------------------------
    Jack Wright
    Child Development Consultant
    Success With Children
    St Ignatius MT
    ------------------------------



  • 32.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 10:11 AM
    Hi Kathleen,
    I can totally empathize!  It was my son's similar behavior 23 years ago that set me off learning about sensory processing disorder (at that time it was called sensory integration dysfunction) and expanding my teaching role from just teaching kids music to teaching teachers about sensory processing disorder.
    I agree with a lot of the other responses that you received that the school doesn't sound like a great fit for your son - both for their policy of sending him to the director's office and then home, but also the expectation that he will work independently, probably on his own mat, for a certain amount of time that might be proscribed by their classroom/age expectation. (Ironically my son also attended a Montessori school and it didn't work for him because he was/is a very active kinesthetic learner and needed more leeway in terms of learning styles and paces.) I personally love the Montessori approach, but like anything else it doesn't work for everyone and it is also implemented in different ways by different teachers and schools, so there is never a one-size-fits-all reality.
    As someone else said, your son may well be bored, looking for contact with other kids and interactive learning, need to move etc
    I would definitely see if you can also explore the areas of sensory processing that he may need support with.  The scenario that you are describing is one that could fit into a few sensory areas, and can easily be supported and redirected by a teacher who has some understanding of sensory processing differences and strategies to help kids learn how to be part of a community setting while also learning about themselves and their own behavior.
    Generally Occupational Therapists are the people that you would go to for a full blown assessment, and you could speak to your pediatrician about a referral.  But I would do some reading first on your own to see if anything of what I am saying even rings true for you and your son.  A great book to start with, I think the book that broke this area open for teachers, is called The Out of Sync Child.  Real easy read and really helped me back when my guy was 3.  Also feel free to contact me if you would like to just talk it through with someone!

    ------------------------------
    Joanie Calem
    Music and Inclusion Specialist
    Sing Along
    Columbus, OH
    ------------------------------



  • 33.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:36 PM
    Hi Joanie,

    Thank you so much for your thoughts! I am do glad to see that I am not the only parent to go through this. I do wonder too if he is bored or if he isn't getting enough activity and movement through the day. He is in an older classroom of 3-5 year olds so I wonder if they reduced how much the students move in the classroom because they are older. He moved up from a Beginnings classroom where he had none of these issues which of course leads me to think it is the environment.

    I have contacted a counselor that the school uses to have him observed by an impartial party to see if they can find a common trigger or reason for his behavior.

    Thank you so much for the book recommendation! I will look it up. The more information I have the better! Do you have any recommendations for picture books I can read with my son about empathy, kindness, friendship, love, etc to start the conversation with him on taking care of our friends and family?

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 34.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-14-2021 02:49 PM
    Hi Kathleen,
    Here is a list of picture books about inclusion in general with a whole variety of topics, so they are all somehow related to developing empathy, but from a lot of different angles.  And they are for a variety of age groups between 2 - 10.  And some are better at diverse visual representation than others...

    All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome, by Kathy Hoopmann

    All In The Woodland Early, by Jane Yolen

    All Kinds of Strong, by Sharon Reiss Baker

    Always Room for One More, by Sorche Nic Leodhas

    Arnie and His School Tools, by Jennifer Veenendall

    Big and Little are Best Friends, by Michael Garland

    Bubble Gum Brain: Ready, Get Mindset...Grow! by Julia Cook

    But Names Will Never Hurt Me, by Bernard Waber

    Coat of Many Colors, by Dolly Parton

    Come With Me, by Holly M. McGhee

    Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

    Don't Call Me Special, by Pat Thomas

    Don't Laugh At Me, by Steve Seskin

    Do Unto Otters, by Laurie Keller

    Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson

    Feathers and Fools, by Mem Fox

    Grandfather and I, by Helen E. Buckley 

    Grandmother and I, by Helen E. Buckley

    Growing Peace, by Richard Sobol

    Hannah's Way, by Linda Glaser

    Have You Filled A Bucket Today? By Carol McCloud

    Hello World! By Manya Stojic

    Horrible Bear, by Ame Dyckman

    I Can Be Anything!, by Diane Dillon

    If You Plant A Seed, by Kadir Nelson

    I'll Wait Mr. Panda, by Steve Antony

    I'm in Love With A Big Blue Frog, song by PPM

    I See Things Differently, by Pat Thomas

    Inside Asperger's Looking Out, by Kathy Hoopmann

    It's Okay to Make Mistakes, by Todd Parr

    Listen to the Wind, by Greg Mortenson

    Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle

    Last Stop On Market Street, by Matt De La Pena

    My Friend Isabelle, by Eliza Woloson

    My Mouth Is A Volcano, by Julia Cook

    No Two Alike, by Keith Baker

    Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, by Jane Yolen

    Otis and the Scarecrow, by Loren Long

    Quick as a Cricket, by Audrey Wood

    Red and Yellow's Noisy Night, by Josh Zelig

    Rock What Ya Got, by Samantha Berger 

    Safe in a Storm, by Stephen R. Swinburne

    Say Hello!, by Linda Davick

    Say Hello! By Rachel Isadora

    Stand In My Shoes, by Bob Sornson

    The Color of Things, by Vivienne Shalom

    The Colors of us, by Karen Katz

    The Crayon Box That Talked, by Shane DeRolf

    The Empty Pot, by Demi

    The Invisible Boy, by Patrice Barton

    The Kindness Quilt, by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

    The King With Six Friends, by Jay Williams

    The Mitten String, by Jennifer Rosner

    The Name of the Tree, by Celia Barker Lottridge

    The Nice Book, by David Ezra Stein

    The Only One Club, by Jane Naliboff

    The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson

    The Peace Book, by Todd Parr

    The Rooster Prince of Breslov, by Ann Redisch Stampler

    The Shady Tree, by Demi

    The Shema In the Mezuza, Listening to Each Other, by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

    The Way I Feel, by Jana Cain

    The World Turns Round and Round, by Nicki Weiss

    Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts

    We All Sing With the Same Voice, by J. Philip Miller

    We Can Get Along: A Child's Book of Choices, by Lauren Murphy Payne

    Welcome, by Barroux

    We're All Special, by Arlene Maguire

    We're All Wonders, by R. J. Palacio

    What Do You Do With A Problem? By Kobi Yamada

    What's The Difference, by Doyin Richards

    Whose Garden Is It? By Mary Ann Hoberman

    Why Does Izzie Cover Her Ears, by Jennifer Veenendall

    Personal Space Camp, by Julia Cook 

    What Does It Mean to Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio

    Yaffa and Fatima, by Fawzia Gilani-Williams



    ------------------------------
    Joanie Calem
    Music and Inclusion Specialist
    Sing Along
    Columbus, OH
    ------------------------------



  • 35.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 01:50 PM
    Joanie!!!

    This list is beyond my expectations! Thank you so much! I cannot wait to go through all these titles and find ones for my son and I to read!
    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 36.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 10:50 AM
    Hi Kate. My 3 year old went through a hitting phase at school. We also attend a Montessori school. At school they would guide her behavior by saying "gentle hands." So we used that same language at home. We had a lot of luck with the book No Hitting by Karen Katz. It has cute pictures and describes how to redirect. Hope that helps some!

    ------------------------------
    Sadie Ruholl
    Parent Educator
    ROE #3 Learning Express Program
    Teutopolis IL
    ------------------------------



  • 37.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-15-2021 01:39 PM
    Hello Sadie!

    Thank you very much for your post. How did you handle the hitting at home? Did you use a quiet/thinking chair? Take a minute in his/her room? What language did you use that helped to deescalate the hitting?

    Thank you for your book recommendation! I just ordered it!

    Kate

    ------------------------------
    Kathleen Raymond
    Woodbine MD
    ------------------------------



  • 38.  RE: Challenging Behavior in 3 year old

    Posted 10-16-2021 05:52 PM
    Hi from a fellow Maryland-er Kathleen!
    I admit there are so many replies, I did not read ever one, and odds are I am repeating what has already been stated.
    First, it sounds like the unwanted behavior has already become a bit of a habit at school.  Sadly, this means you all are already working against "reputation."  If your son has been given a sort of "label" of making unprovoked & random "attacks" on peers, chances are, he gets the blame even when it's an accident or their was some sort of provocation earlier.  He also may be having fewer and fewer positive interactions with teachers and peers, which is just what he needs to help him develop prosocial patterns of behavior.  There's a lot about the way you described the situation in the classroom that sets of some red lights for me: wondering, seatwork, pushpins, sent to the office, sent home... Just what kind of expectations for independent seat work does this school have for kids age 3-5?  independent seatwork and 3 year olds are really two words that do NOT go together!!  Even 5 year olds will very limited capacity for this sort of seat or table work, and honestly, peer interaction is so much more attractive and beneficial for these age groups, who can blame your son for wanting to mix it up a bit?!
    Also, please don't feel ashamed, to blame or disappointed in your son - childhood is full of mistakes, that's how we learn!  Although all of us teacher would love to think our school behavior only brings out the best in our students and all unwanted behavior must be a consequence of poor guidance at home, this is far from true!  Children even as young as 3 will vary their behaviors depending on their environment.  Yes, there can be "spill-over" of unwanted behaviors learned in one environment to a new or different environment, but for the most part, behaviors are learned and linked with particular environments pretty readily: kids who run on the playground CAN and DO walk down the halls without needing reminders, as long as they are regularly taught, reinforced and modeled walking inside.  And if they are running in the halls, I expect that's not because they run outside, but because their hallway manners are not being appropriately monitored or reinforced...
    I would get a second set of eyes on your child, just to see if there are any clusters of behaviors that might indicate some area of developmental delay or difficulty - afterall, knowledge is power, and if there are any issues, the earlier found, the sooner special supports can be put in place.  Please note, I am not suggesting that your son is somehow "causing" the issues by mentioning this; rather, I just believe in early screening is always a great idea!!
    Next, I would read up on positive discipline techniques, and even take some classes in this area.  Then I would have a conversation with your school about positive discipline techniques - Do they have methods for actively rewarding positive behaviors? Are they providing your son with extra attention at certain points to try and PREVENT the behaviors from happening? Are they catching your child when he is showing good behaviors?
    Last, although I have no information about your son's ethnicity or background, I do feel it is important to mention how unconscious bias often plays an unfair and unwanted role in this sort of discipline/ behavior monitoring in all ages.  Black and brown boys are far more likely to receive stern disciplinary actions, and get "labeled" as "repeat offenders" than other groups.  Behaviors that get shrugged off as the consequence of a bad day, or just over enthusiastic, energetic actions by other children, can be seen as a pattern of problem behaviors arising from deeper personality flaws and a desire to act out or cause harm depending on race, gender, SES and/or other characteristics of a child.
    I am not trying to lay all the blame on the classroom or school, just that often there is more environmental factors to consider.
    Once the patterns get established, a lot more is needed than just reading stories and talking about gentle hands - not that all that is not important! Just that breaking patterns in children of this age demands changes in the OUTSIDE environment first, different patterns need to take the place of the unwanted ones, and these new behaviors need to be taught, modeled and reinforced repeatedly. Little children don't really change behaviors by changing their minds... However, they do learn and development new behaviors through interactions with their environment readily - that is what growing up is all about!

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    Margro Purple
    Rockville MD
    ------------------------------