Strong-willed kid - preschool issues

Discussion in 'The Toddler Years(1-3)' started by christy.fisher, Mar 21, 2014.

  1. christy.fisher

    christy.fisher Well-Known Member

    Hey girls, I haven't been around for a good while but I just wanted some advice or opinions on my situation with my daughter.
    My twins just turned four in January, and my daughter is very independent and head-strong, and can be difficult. She is not mean or bossy; she can just be stubborn and if she likes a certain ball or other object and another child gets it first, she can have a hard time, that sort of thing.

    I don't get much feedback at their current preschool but the few little things I hear just make me a little uneasy sometimes. The asistant teacher is very chatty and she'll tell me things sometimes. Yesterday, the assistant teacher told me that my daughter had a good day up until story time when she got upset because she wanted to sit in a certain spot for story time and another kid was there so she got grumpy and cried. So the head teacher told her in a very stern voice that she could either side down or she could go sit at the table and cry by herself.  I didn't hear the teacher say those words to my daughter, but I did hear her say that same thing to a little girl who only attended the first week and was gone. So I believe the assistant teacher that the other teacher said that because I heard her say that before.

    Is that a normal way to handle that? When I got my daughter to talk about it she said that she just wanted to sit beside the teacher for story time and someone else sat there first.
    My daughter has been having issues like this for a while now, and it just seems to be getting worse as the school year goes on. Im not sure that the teacher is helping her learn to cope with her emotions or with handling situations when she doesn't get what she likes. Instead, she is talking down to her and telling her to either comply or go off and cry by herself.

    I don't in any way think that my kids are perfect, or that my daughter's stubbornness should always be accommodated, but it bothers me that the teacher speaks to her that way.

    My daughter has always been stubborn and independent, but her temperament and behavior have just plummeted in the past six months since she started preschool, at school and at home.  She gets grumpy a lot and cries over everything. Anytime she gets in trouble, even over the most minor thing when she is not actually in trouble (she maybe did the wrong thing and I told her to stop), she cries. I'm starting to have a lot of anxiety when I pick them up at school because I worry about how her day went and what bad behavior the assistant teacher is going to tell me about today.

    It's hard to access what is happening. I'm not trying to blame the teacher completely and not except the faults of my daughter, but while I know my daughter can be a tough kid, I fully expect the teacher to know what she's doing, even better than I do. I know how to parent, but I don't know how to teach and manage a room full of little kids.
    Im not sure if I am making too much of the situation and if the problem is my kid, or if the school is exascerbating my daughter's behavior issues by mishandling them. Is my daughter just getting a bad attitude on her own or the school situation causing her bad behavior?
    I am going to visit another preschool next week. I've emailed a bit with that teacher and she said that she wouldn't speak to a child that way and that if that stern and mean language is used a lot, it's not a good environment for kids.
    1 person likes this.
  2. sharongl

    sharongl Well-Known Member

    So, you think they should just give in and let your daughter have her way?  What about the other kids in the classroom?  I think the teacher handled it appropriately, she was given a choice, settle down and join the group or go to the side and continue with the behavior.  It sounds like your daughter has figured out that if she cries, she can get her way.  If she had been sent to a time out corner with no choice, I would be more likely to question.  Some kids who are strong willed, many times would rather make themselves miserable than comply.  It sounds like she thinks everyone should do what she wants--she wants to sit next to the teacher, she thinks she should be able to even though someone else got there first.  Does she boss your son around too?  Also, has she been in school before?  If this is her first time in school, it is a normal reaction to not being in charge for the first time.  Some kids take longer to adjust than others, and fight harder before they learn that they are part of a group and the world doesn't revolve around them.  While it is tough to watch her work through it, it is a better lesson learned at 4 than at 6 or 7 or even later!
    2 people like this.
  3. kingeomer

    kingeomer Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    I have to agree with Sharon.  If it's her first time in school, I can certainly see any child having trouble adjusting to not being in charge.  But the teacher, depending on how many other students she has, cannot always let your daughter do what she wishes to do because it's not fair to the other kids.  Believe me, I have seen in my kids kindergarten and preschool classes where the teachers have had to speak to other kids sternly for a variety of issues.  
    You mentioned mean language?  Have either of your children specified what is exactly said?  I don't think it's your daughter getting a bad attitude on her own at all, nor do I think that school is necessarily causing it.  It just might be the way she feels she needs to control her environment right now.  Does the school know that your daughter has been more emotional than usual at home since school started?  That would be something I would discuss with them too and see if they have any suggestions and observations during her school day.  
    Keep us posted with how things go.  I hope you find a solution that works best for your daughter.
  4. miss_bossy18

    miss_bossy18 Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    It sounds like normal adjustment behavior to me. I find the best thing to do is acknowledge and validate her feelings and just be available to her when she needs to meltdown. You don't have to solve the problem - your daughter is capable of figuring it out herself. She does need you to be her anchor while she weathers the adjustment.

    My girls had done a year of preschool prior to starting kinder but it was still a brutal adjustment. Our afternoons generally consisted of looooong temper tantrums, fighting and defiance about every little request. It went on for months and was exhausting. I used to tell myself that it was a good sign they would meltdown like that at home - it meant they felt really safe to express their strongest emotions at home. It's kind of cheesy but it's also true and helped me keep an empathetic perspective on their behavior. I perfected a lot of non committal phrases like "That sounds frustrating", "You really wanted X", "Oh?" and "Mmm". And just let them get it out. A lot of times it didn't make any sense to me but they just needed to let it out.

    I think it would also be good for you to talk to the teacher and just ask her how she handles confrontation between children in the classroom so you know where she's coming from and what she's trying to accomplish. Hearing her perspective will help.
  5. eagleswings216

    eagleswings216 Well-Known Member

    I didn't hear the OP saying that she expected her daughter to get her way.  What I think she was expecting was that the teacher provided more guidance and help for her daughter's feelings rather than just telling her to stop or go off by herself and deal with it.  Kids need help learning to deal with emotions.  Something along the line of "I know you are sad (mad, frustrated, etc.) because you wanted to sit beside me, but _____ was here first.  It will be your turn another time.  You can choose to sit with us and calm down, or you can choose to go sit at the table and then join us when you are calm".  As opposed to "Stop it or go sit by yourself", which comes across as more mean and punitive, and demeans her feelings.  Validating someone's feelings doesn't mean you give them their way - it just means you let them know that they have been heard and understood and valued, even when they can't have what they want.
    As a counselor who works with kids, I totally get what you are saying.  Kids need to learn to understand and deal with emotions.  They need guidance, hearing the words, empathy, etc.  However, I work in a school, and I also know that in the classroom setting, the teacher can't always stop and have that interaction with kids every single incident all day long.  And teachers are human - it's easy to lose patience with a strong willed child, especially if this scenario happens often.  Some teachers are masters at keeping patience, but most are human like the rest of us and it gets tiring over time.  Only you can decide if this class isn't the right match for your daughter's personality, but remember, you can talk with your daughter at home, too, and talk about and validate her feelings and try to help her understand what she is feeling.
    2 people like this.
  6. Kendra

    Kendra Well-Known Member TS Moderator

    From the teacher' point of view here. If a child was disappointed about something at a group time and their reaction was to cry or make a scene or prodiction then I would ask them to find a spot away from the group until they could calm down to enjoy and participate. Not harshly certainly but crying does not get you your way.

    If this is her first experience in a group setting it can be a hard lesson to learn. We are into March now and actually, there is a switch that happens sometimes when after months of things going along fine, some children may decide to test what else can happen with the rules so it can be totally normal to see new resistance.

    In your post I'm concerned about the assistant teacher telling you the head teacher was harsh. A professional has no business bad mouthing her partner/coworker to a parent. Even if asked. Things like that should go through the supervisor if she has concerns about classroom management. It could also lead to a breach of confidentiality.(yeah, been there, done that)
    3 people like this.
  7. Kludelhoven

    Kludelhoven Well-Known Member

    Christy,  I agree with what Eagleswing said above.  Do I think she should cry and get her way, no.  However I do agree that the teacher should have validated her feelings and then tell her to either join the group or sit elsewhere.  Are you sure the teacher actually said it to her that way or is the assistant teacher leaving things out?  I would definitely talk with her teacher and see how you guys can work together to help the situation.
    I am not dealing with these issues at school with Lauren but I definitely am at home.  She is a model student at school but at home its just like Claire.  Crying over everything that doesn't go her way or if she isn't controlling the situation.  I am just hoping its another behavior phase and she is  testing boundries.
    I love our preschool here in Hummelstown, facebook me if your interested, they are wonderful!
  8. KCMichigan

    KCMichigan Well-Known Member

    I suggest you volunteer in the class or spend the day there. Then you will have a better handle on what is happening.
    As a PreK teacher, I agree w/above PP that the teacher should validate her feelings and then offer two choices (sit with the group or be upset in a place that is not distruptive). 
    I would also keep in mind that it is possible that the teacher has had that discussion with your DD before- so it was likely that your DD may have known her choices already. In March-- most kids know the choices available and/or have practiced emotional control and had those conversations with the teachers. Those conversations should happen- yes all the time. But occasionally, if the group is moving on or the behavior/emotion was just visited the second conversation may be shorter and/or a  reminder of choices.  When you have a room of 12-18 three to five year olds, sometimes you have to move on before other children start to copy the behavior/leave the group/grow restless and a child that is resistant to transitions and/or attention seeking will often  join with less fanfare or just choose to be upset about it until they are ready to move on (adults do this too!!) . Sometimes you have to get to know the kids--- some kids will really strive to get that conversation going just for one-on-one attention even with negative behaviors, others need verbal affirmation and that it is OK not to always get your way and then they are able to move on. The co-teacher also could have stepped away to have that discussion with your DD while the lead teacher moved on to the activity with the group- we do that a lot in our classroom.
    I agree that it is unprofessional of the co-teacher to speak poorly of the main teacher. 
    Also, note there is a difference in 'stern' and 'mean'. Sometimes the same words in a different tone make all the difference, and you have to witness it to interpret it and even then some kids/adults will take away different interpretations.
    An adjustment to preschool is tough sometimes, it is challenging for some kids to go from a small family dynamic to a large group with multiple personalities. 
    Some kids go through phases, where they have a challenging few months and then a lull before it starts all over again. Ages 3-5 are a time of change, kids are trying to figure out independence, learn new skills, tackle group dynamics, learn to control emotions and impulses,  develop empathy for others and see themselves as individuals.
    Unless you know for a fact, I would not claim that a student left after spoken to firmly. Kids leave programs for all sorts of reasons-- moving, availability, home changes, etc. 
    Again- my best suggestion is to visit/volunteer. We have parents in/out of our classroom helping and I think it gives them a good idea of how we run the class, what is expected, and what is actually common behaviors.
    2 people like this.
  9. rrodman

    rrodman Well-Known Member

    My 6 year old son is very similar to your daughter, and I have said the same thing to him. Now, I think I would deliver the message more like eagleswings wrote it, but I have definitely told him he has two choices: stop the crying/screaming/whining/arguing and join the activity or go to his room and cry/scream/whine/argue. I find it to be very effective as usually it's an attention seeking behavior. So seeing that the behavior isn't getting the desired result shuts it down. And giving him the choice lets him spend more time working through his emotions if he wants.

    Now that he has started K, we have also been having him meet with the guidance counselor in a group designed to help kids work through these issues as they start K. They spend a lot of time talking about emotions and how to handle them, and we reinforce in calm moments at home. But that wasn't really an option in a daycare/preschool setting.

    So, I don't really see a problem in what the teacher said.
    1 person likes this.
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