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Old 06-14-2012, 02:47 PM   #1
TwinDad
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Default 5 year old hitting teacher

I'm the father of twin boys who are almost 5 years old. For about the past year, we have had issues with one of my boys throwing tantrums at school when he does not get his way. When he has a meltdown at school, he often gets violent and hits his teacher and throws toys, etc. He has his moments at home and has thrown some doozy of tantrums, but my wife and I or his brother have never been hit by him, nor does he throw anything. We usually try re-direction, hugs, calm voices, and as a last resort, timeout in either his room or the laundry room (it's a fairly big room with a door/window, but no furniture where he could injure himself). But at school, the teachers do not have the last option and have difficulty diffusing the situation.

We just started a summer program at the facility where my boys will be going to after school care when they start Kindergarten in the fall. They did great the first couple of days, but yesterday my little guy had an epic meltdown and hit one of his new teachers. He is only 45 pounds but he packs a wallop. My wife and I are struggling on how to handle this situation. We try to talk to him and give him options for dealing with whatever is bothering him, but since we do not see this behavior at home, we have a hard time making an impact.

I've had two thoughts beyond making sure he is eating right and getting plenty of rest. One idea is to get a pre-paid mobile phone with only my number programmed in and give it to the teachers. When they see him heading down the road to tantrumville, maybe they could give it to him to call me. Thoughts? The second idea is to look into martial arts classes. I've heard great things from other local parents how the discipline and structure has been very beneficial for their kids. I thought the classes may help him with his anger and temper, but I worry he might be too young to start something like this. Any pros/cons to this idea?

Thanks in advance for your input.
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Old 06-15-2012, 08:30 AM   #2
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Default Re: 5 year old hitting teacher

This sounds like a tough situation. I was a real problem child from a very young age. I started MANY fights starting around that age and was abusive to my dog because she wouldn't listen to me. One major issue was that I didn't learn how to communicate until much later in life.

I think there are a lot of things to look at that you don't mention, mostly about you and your wife. What were you like as a child? How do you and your wife communicate? Is there someone else that he may see as a role model who is more violent? Is it possible that he thinks you see the twin as superior and he may feel that hes in a no win situation in life? The actual problem may not be that moment at school. You ever get bad news at the beginning of the day then have a bad day? I think kids do that too but just don't know it or can't express it.

Does he see violence elsewhere that may be leading him to believe that his actions really are OK even though you say they're not? Do you discuss the issue with your wife to assure you two don't provide him with conflicting feedback about his behavior?

I think the phone idea may be a good one but for dealing with a specific issue but I don't think it will work toward making him a better person and it doesn't really deal with the underlying issue. You have at least 12 more years to go and you can't give everyone a phone and your number.

Also, be selective about martial arts classes. My kids (and sometimes I) are in classes. Some are more like big play areas and baby sitting. Some promote self confidence through rapid belt promotion and some, I think, have too much emphasis on fighting and not enough on respect and self-control. Most are probably good but some aren't. As you're seeing, kids can learn to be respectful as they are in your presence, but that doesn't make them be respectful when they're not watched.

5yo isn't too young to start martial arts though. If you go that route, I would ask to speak with some of the kids that have been in the school for a while. Ask what they think and watch how they act when they think nobody is watching.

I think the most important thing is to consider anything medical and psychological. I don't like the thought of living on pills. As a kid I did a lot of drugs and when I grew up, I did a 180 and didn't want to take aspirin. Now my health is very poor and I take pills for everything. One is for ADD which I only recently started. When ADD and ADHD was all over the news, I thought it was ridiculous and just another pill that they would make you buy. Now, I wouldn't consider not taking it.

Sticking with the medical/psychological theme, research about the brain seems to be the latest big thing in medicine. A lot is being learned and there's a lot of books being written. I would consider searching for books that fit your issue. Not only medically but parenting books as well. Your problem may be beyond parental advice and you may need to go a bit deeper.

I hope that helps. Good luck!
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Old 06-21-2012, 12:12 PM   #3
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Default Re: 5 year old hitting teacher

I suggest you use the techniques in the books "Kazdin Method" or "Power of Positive Parenting". If that does not work, you might need a little professional help, but I would need your location to give you specifics.
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Old 06-22-2012, 05:43 AM   #4
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Default Re: 5 year old hitting teacher

Would be best to get immediate feedback on the hitting behavior so that you can apply immediate consequences as soon as the kid gets home. Withdraw access to favorite toys for that evening, for instance. Immediate short-duration punishments work best, they don't need to be severe - they can be relatively minor relative to the offense.
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Old 06-26-2012, 01:01 PM   #5
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Default Re: 5 year old hitting teacher

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Originally Posted by TwinDad View Post
He has his moments at home and has thrown some doozy of tantrums, but my wife and I or his brother have never been hit by him, nor does he throw anything. We usually try re-direction, hugs, calm voices, and as a last resort, timeout in either his room or the laundry room (it's a fairly big room with a door/window, but no furniture where he could injure himself).
Does he do anything that makes you think he might injure himself during those tantrums at home?

The fact he throws tantrums at home gives you something to work on at home. Any time he shows any self-control or when he is getting control after a tantrum, praise him for specifically for showing self-control like a big boy. Tell him he is growing up to be a good big boy. Don't caboose any criticism on the end of this praise, be enthusiatic and give him a high-five or a touch on the shoulder along with the praise. The level of enthusiam can be cheerleader-like, but it depends on the kid, some would be put off if you did cart-wheels, other's will respond well.

Give him lots of attention and praise when he is not tantruming.

Redirection, hugs, and calm voices during a tantrum can be counter-productive because it can amount to a reward in the form of attention. (Being calm is always good, but trying to talk to a kid during a tantrum can be counter-productive.)

Ignoring can be effective, but it must be done in conjuction with lots of attention and positive feedback when the kid is not tantruming. Time outs need to be balanced with adequate time-in when the kid it behaving well.

Also ignoring can bring on something called the "extinction burst". If you have been rewarding tantrums with attention, then when you begin to ignore them, the tantruming can become worse at first.

Another problem with ignoring is that the extinction burst can take the form of more extreme behavior that you cannot ignore. For instance the kid might start head banging or hitting people or doing something else injurious.

In fact, it could be that the teacher is trying to use ignoring at school and this is causing the kid to switch to the hitting strategy.

Behavior that cannot be ignored or treated with time-out calls for more advanced techniques. You have to use role-playing. You can get a kid to throw a pretend tantrum with no hitting and then praise him for improving he's tantruming technique. Alan Kazdin uses this at the Yale Parenting Center to deal with these difficult situations.

Also, most parents don't know how to use time-out. Time-out was invented and popularized in the 1950s by Author Staats and Montrose Wolf. But the term is better known than the proper procedure, and a badly executed time-out can be counter-productive. Time-out stands for "time out from reinforcement". The idea is to remove the parental attention or other whatever is reinforcing the unwanted behavior. So if you provide lots of explanation or face-time while putting a kid in time-out you are defeating the purpose. Either say nothing or say something brief like "no tantrums" and put the kid in time-out without looking at him.
Also, time-out is easy for a kid to defie. Some kids just won't co-operate with time-out. You might need a back-up punishment like taking away a favorite toy. Time-out can get pretty complicated. The location for time-out should be boring, like setting looking at a wall. Most kid's rooms are not a good location.

Edit: Instead of "ignoring" I should say "pretending to ignore". Turn away, walk away, leave the room. But listen or watch out of the corner of your eye. Return and give attention, praise, face-time when the kid gets it under control, or even sometimes if you get a small improvement. Your are shaping behavior with praise and other rewards, sort of like molding clay. Praise minor improvements in the right direction, you don't have to hold out for perfection.

Last edited by tadamsmar; 06-26-2012 at 01:09 PM..
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