By Stephanie, DC Metro Moms Blog
This evening I fielded one of those phone calls every parent dreads. It was my almost-four year old’s pre-school teacher calling to talk about his behavior in school.
Holden is a sweet kid. When he wants to be. When he doesn’t, he’s, frankly, a brat. He’s stubborn, wants to do his own thing and doesn’t care if he’s punished. One of his saving graces is that he generally fesses up when he’s hit, kicked or bitten a fellow classmate and he takes his punishment. But then he gets up from time out and does it again.
He won’t sit in circle time. If a task doesn’t interest him or strikes him as “wrong” in some way, he refuses to participate. Just refuses.
For example, today, his teacher gave the class worksheets with a Christmas tree to color and decorate. She asked the children to fill in the circles with red. (This was an exercise to see how well they can identify their colors and follow directions.) Holden piped up with, “But Christmas tree are GREEN!” Even after his teacher explained that they were coloring the decorations first and then they would color the tree, he refused to do it. He just sat there at the table while everyone else colored.
Holden hits and kicks the other children when he doesn’t get his way and he honestly doesn’t care if everyone else in the class is sitting quietly listening to a story — he’s going to do what he wants. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that much of this behavior is normal for toddlers. But the extent of the behavior is the problem.
In my mother’s family, we have this legend about the male H—— Family gene. My mother’s five brothers and pretty much every male in my generation have all followed the same personality pattern, including my younger brother. They’re all opinionated, amazingly stubborn, don’t do well in formal classroom or work settings, and like to do their own thing. All of them are incredibly smart, but none of them did well in school.
I see all of this now in Holden. But I can’t help thinking that we can somehow break this pattern and help Holden learn how to fit his odd-shaped personality “peg” into the round “hole” that is school. I know that the earlier we can help Holden with this, the better off he’ll be.
Luckily, Holden’s teacher is one of the most patient women I’ve ever met and she had Holden’s older brother in her pre-school class 2 years ago, so she’s known Holden for awhile. She told us that Holden is extremely smart and that he can be amazingly sweet at times. But she also told us that it’s now very common for the other children to say “Holden’s not listening again.”
Yes, my child is now “that child.”
Holden’s teacher has many suggestions to help make punishment and rewards consistent at home, at school and at the sitter’s. So we’ll try them. But she also mentioned that if we don’t see some improvement in his behavior over the next few months, we should seek professional help.
We don’t know what else to do.
We consistently use time out. We always follow through. We praise him when he does listen and handles conflict appropriately. We don’t tolerate bad behavior at home, but it keeps happening. Holden will sit in time out, tell us what he did wrong, apologize to his victim or to us and then turn around and do exactly the same thing. Again.
So, for now we’ll be trying a sticker chart and reward system. If that doesn’t work, I guess we’ll be taking our 4 year old to a child psychologist to work on behavior modification. Our 4 year old. But we don’t know what else to do.