BreezieB asks:

Needing help with 3-5 year olds

Hello.  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day(s) to read this.  I have a quick question about how to help 3-5 year old children who are consistently violent in their behavior.  Separating them from the violence they bring upon others is not as easy as most may think.  We are encouraged to sit with the child who is misbehaving and either read to them, or discuss why they are taking a "break".  With some children, this method seems to be working.  With others, it's not so effective.  Might anyone be able to suggest another method, (aside from expressing continuous concern of their behavior to their parents), that may ameliorate such instances?  Thanks so much!
In Topics: Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago



Boys Town National Hotline
Feb 21, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

You are right, it is very difficult to separate children that are violent especially when they are in a group setting. I encourage you to continue to tell the parents of their childs behavior. Keeping that line of communication open is essential. Can you talk with the parents to see what type of help they have accessed or if they could help you with some strategies that work at home for them? Understanding that there may be many factors to consider: Has their home environment changed? Are they hungry, thirsty, tired, or not feeling well? Does the child understand the clear expectations of controlling their own frustrations and not lashing out at others? Also remember what stage they are in their development. Kids this age will have mood swings, not get along with others at times, etc. Kids at this age want to impress their parents, and therefore, they seek that positive attention. Right now, it would seem the kids are constantly choosing the violent behavior because they are getting attention--they do not care if the attention is positive or negative, they are concerned with attention. Therefore, when teaching to kids of this age, its very important to be simple and specific to what they are doing, and how you would like them to behave instead. You can work into the class day how to get along with others, and monitor their play. Make sure there is a lot of praise for the children when they can get along together--can they earn something as a class? Or, can each child bring in something from their home to share about them. If you feel that you need further assistance and would like to talk to someone, please call the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. We have crisis counselors available 24/7 to help kids, parents and families. You can also offer our number to the parents of the children. You may also want to look at our website, We have some books that may also help you and their parents. I am specifically thinking of "Common Sense Parenting, of Toddlers and Preschoolers". There are many helpful tips and strategies to consider. Thanks for reaching out and asking for help! Take care and let us know if we can be of any further assistance.

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Additional Answers (1)

lkauffman writes:
Vicki L., a preschool teacher and intern at helped us with this response. Thanks, Vicki! Please see her advice below:

Getting To The Source Of The Problem
All children at some point will act violently toward other children - especially those who are socially and emotionally delayed (because they haven't learn how to deal with their emotions properly and they can't control their behavior).  Violent behavior only become a concern when it become regular and constant.  When children behave violently, giving them timeout and talking to them about their misbehavior will only temporarily solve the problem.  It might settle down an upset child and quiet down the noise of the classroom.  But ultimately, the teacher must get to the source of the problem of why the child is upset, what cause him/her to behave so violently.  The "answer" to the "problem" can be found by talking to the parents and keen observations of the child's daily school life (What s/he does/play at school?, Does s/he play alone or with other kids?, Is the child eating well at school?, Is the child eating well at school?, etc.).  The family, the school, and the child is what formed the "whole" child.  When one piece of the puzzle is missing it's very difficult to see the picture clearly.  Hence, to truly understand a child, one needs to have a close relationship with the parents and some individual time with the child at school.
Here I would like to offer some anecdotes to help understand how  little things can change a child's behavior (for better or worse):
1.  When I started working at a preschool, John behaves like an angel.  I always remember John as wearing a blue cap and walking around having a smile on his face.  Then about a month after I started working at the preschool, John wasn't smiling anymore; he became violent and start biting children and start throwing solid objects at them. I did noticed something different about John, he wasn't wearing his his blue cap anymore (John's mom said that they blue cap was missing and no where to be found).  About 3 weeks of John's violent behaviors, I found out that John's family is moving to another state at the end of the month.  To this day, I still wonder, what caused John's violent behavior - the missing blue cap or his family moving to another state?
2.  At the same preschool, when I started working there, Nicholas was the most uncontrollable kid.  Nicholas is not violent but he gets in trouble alot.  Nicholas was very verbally expressive so mostly he would say something that is not appropriate or he would talk back to the teachers when the teacher asked him to do or not do something.  On July 1st of this year, Nicholas was promoted to the Pre-K class.  Then miraculously the loud mouth Nicholas disappeared (or graduated) from the school that day and a well-mannered, polite Nicholas joined the school.  What cause the sudden change?  Don't really know. Nicholas was in the same school; just a different classroom.  The new classroom consisted of only 10% new children and 90% are the same children that Nicholas knew.  Besides, Nicholas is only with his class for about 2 hours (circle time and morning outdoor play) each day.  For the rest of the day, he still spent them with the rest of the school in the large group environment.  A mystery to be solved!
3. Lastly, I would like to share a story about my son.  My son internalizes alot of things, his feelings, emotions, etc.  For example, if my son is crying this very instance, it's not something that just happened, or happened 5 minutes ago, or happened today,  Whatever that is upsetting my son could have happened last week or possibly a month ago.  I am sure there are lots of kids out there like my son.  So sometimes when a child displays a violent behavior, to get to the source of the problem, the teacher needs to dig very deep.  Communication with the parents, other teachers, children in the school/classroom and the child him/herself will help answer many questions.
Hope this helps!
> 60 days ago

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