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4yr old DS being unkind and violent to others

(21 Posts)
Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 09:33:24

I've NCed. Here is the situation.
My 4yr old DS is in reception in a small school. The reception intake is only a dozen or so children and predominately male (I have no idea if that's relevant or not but I'm setting the scene). DS is an only child. He can be stubborn and silent but I think is a nice boy who wants to make good choices.

In the last couple of weeks I have been made aware of a few occasions when he has hurt other children. One was a bite because he was in a bear hug from this other child and couldn't get out. Two were using a pencil to stab the other child (different children each time) when the child was annoying him in some way.

Yesterday I was made aware that he had been threatening to kill another child. I found out this morning that he had said he was going to kill this child's mother, father and brothers. Also this morning he pointed at another child's work and declared that it was "rubbish" (thankfully that child wasn't actually present to hear it at the time).

There are three other boys in the class who are challenging in their behaviour - one of whom was the one who DS threatened (and also stabbed with a pencil). The teacher has given me the impression that DS gets irritated with other people's behaviour (DS's general classroom behaviour is good; he listens well and gets on with his work) and tries to deal with it himself. That's obviously not an excuse and doesn't explain this sudden venom towards other children.

After the violent instances I introduced a sticker chart with a reward if he got all three stickers (for being kind, polite and helpful) but with a sanction if he didn't get the "kind" sticker. There hasn't been any more violence since that except for a couple of petulant slaps towards me.

We have a long chat after each instance. I try to be calm and allow him to talk and explain so he knows that he is listened to. I have stated clearly our expectations. I have tried to get him to empathise with his victims which he sort of does I think.

I feel I am failing, really failing both him and the poor kids on the receiving end of his behaviour. I know that he's tired, he's said as much but he goes to bed as early as possible and sleeps well so all we can do on that score is look forward to half term. I'm sure he's nicer than he's behaving at present but I simply don't know what to do to help him. I tend to end our chats with a cuddle and a reminder that I love him very much.

I just don't know what to do.

Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 10:36:08

Bumping. Sorry. Any suggestions really gratefully received.

CrispPacket Thu 09-Feb-17 10:38:33

Sorry no advice really but bumping up for you.

Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 10:39:29

Thanks CrispPacket. flowers

GwenStaceyRocks Thu 09-Feb-17 10:53:05

Hmm, there are a few different issues. It sounds as though he's reacting to what he perceives as rule-breaking by the other DCs. He needs to be reassured that the teacher will manage their behaviour and that he isn't the class policeman.
The violence has to be met with a zero tolerance policy, even if it is just 'petulant slaps' at you at home.
I'd be concerned about where he has heard threats to kill tbh so I would be trying to tease that out a bit more. As a child, he has no real appreciation of the meaning of the words he's using so it's not the same as an adult making a similar threat but I'd want to see what he thought the words meant, and where he had heard it.
If you haven't read 'How To Talk . . .' then I'd recommend it. Give your DS some ownership over how he thinks he could react better and possibly role play different scenarios.
Oh, and don't be afraid to give the school the option of moving his seat, or keeping him in at break. He may be finding all the interactions and lack of control overwhelming, a quiet seat and space may help him.

Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 11:05:10

Thank you Gwen. I'm trying really hard not to be THAT parent who lays all the blame for her child's behaviour at the door of another child. Having said that, the "I'm going to kill" has definitely come from one of the three challenging kids and the version of events I have just been given is that DS was following along with one of these children. Still not ok obviously. I think he knew he was saying something unkind but not, as you say, the real implications of his words.

Hitting is instantly challenged ("we do not hit") but he is VERY stubborn so a demand for an apology will always result in silence. He will sometimes do a "sorry" cuddle. Hitting comes under the heading of "unkind" so if he doesn't get his kindness sticker then he loses Paw Patrol privileges.

I shall take a look at "How to Talk" - thank you. I'm worried that stuff going on at home is making him stressed (nothing terrible - possible house move, I'm a bit stressed generally and trying REALLY hard to keep it to myself) but his language is not at a point where he can clearly express how he is feeling.

GwenStaceyRocks Thu 09-Feb-17 11:19:24

Since DS was small, we have always had a rule about apologies. It's not enough to say sorry, you have to do something to make it better. If your DS is stubbornly refusing to apologise then maybe let him have the option of doing something to make it better or to show that he's sorry instead.
He probably is picking up on the stress at home but it also sounds as though school is stressful for him. I'm surprised (with such a small class) that events are escalating without the teacher intervening eg I would have thought the teacher would have stopped the bear hug before your DS felt so trapped that he had to bite to get free.
I remember reading wonderful advice when DS was little that said don't view your DC as an extension of you, so don't feel ashamed or that they have let you down. I think your embarrassment is making this feel worse than it is iyswim. Also, if you're trying to deal with your own embarrassment then you're not absolutely focused on what your DS needs.
Did the school suggest any strategies that they are going to use going forward?

purplecollar Thu 09-Feb-17 11:23:23

I think it's probably quite overwhelming, finding yourself in a pack of dc, having to find a place within it. Mine really struggled in reception year with just knowing how to react to some quite difficult and new situations.

I don't know the answer but I would be inclined to just spend lots of time with him talking through what he could have done in that situation, how could he have handled it better, how do we think the other person felt.

My friend had a dc who had a problem with biting. She spent a lot of time trying to improve the problem. I think the parenting course she went on recommended allocating them 20 minutes a day for 1:1 time where her dc chose what to do, with a parent's full attention for that period.

If it's any consolation, mine definitely found Y1 easier. It's far more structured and supervised with them having a place at a desk, getting used to a smaller group of people on their table. Less crazy behaviour from others because the day is more sitting, listening, doing a bit of work rather than let loose in a room for free play.

One of mine was a participant in a big fight in Y1. I was horrified. Her very lovely Y1 teacher told me - they get into social situations and they just don't know how to resolve them. They haven't yet got the skills, experience, capacity.

So sorry, I don't know the answer either really. But just rambling in the hope it's of some help.

Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 11:42:31

Thank you both. I am acutely aware that I may be catatrophising a little. I'm massively hormonal so probably not thinking very straight. Have managed to not actually have a little sob about all this but God it's hard. You are right - he is not an extension of me but he is a product of his environment and genes so I do feel responsible for the choices he makes. Mostly I feel really awful that I haven't given him the skills he needs to deal with this stuff, I feel like I'm really letting him down. I know he is sad and tired and stressed but I don't know what to do about it.

@GwenStaceyRocks no strategies have been suggested. I implemented the sticker chart which has helped a little. I get the impression that the teacher doesn't like telling me about DS's misbehaviour and always minimises it to some extent. When he stabbed someone's hand he wouldn't say sorry and so he was taken to another class for the rest of the morning (it would have been the Head but he wasn't available). He did relent later on when his very sweet TA had a chat with him.

@Purplecollar - thanks for sharing your experiences. That makes me feel a little better. I do talk to him a LOT and try to get him to talk as much as he can but he has a limited attention span especially after school when he's tired. I try to talk to him when we're doing something so it's not too intense and I do get a little more out of him then. When he thinks he's in trouble he retreats into himself with "I don't know" and silence. That makes it doubly hard.

I should clarify that although the reception intake is small, there are a number of Year 1s as well which brings the class up to about 25 I think. There are two TAs though (at least in the morning). I have faith in the teacher, she can't see everything but the class does seem to be a little bit rough.

DS never used to be like this and I'm tempted to blame it all on outside influences. Honestly, he really is a lovely little boy most of the time. I just want to keep him safely at home away from everyone else! I won't obviously but God I'm tempted.

purplecollar Thu 09-Feb-17 11:59:55

I know. I hated sending one of mine to reception. Ours was a total zoo with 60 dc let loose in the free play area. Some of the situations they encountered I've never had to endure and am not quite sure how I'd cope really. But they do learn over time. It's just a long process. Nobody presents a perfectly behaved dc to reception year.

I think it was about year 2 my friend said to me, having been called in to see the teacher again, that's the first time I haven't felt they were blaming me. You aren't there at the time so you can't make their choices for them. It's really not your fault.

Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 12:08:58

I worry I made a really bad choice with the school. I went and looked around a few and I chose this one because I liked the reception teacher (still do) and I liked the vibe of the place generally. It went into Notice to Improve about a week after my visit! But the new Head is lovely, everyone is clearly working their socks off and DS is learning at an incredible rate. It's just that the intake is a bit rough (I'm really sorry, I know I sound awful but I just don't know how else to put it) and I think that's what has pulled the school down - not entirely obviously but it has an impact.

Thanks for being kind. flowers

GwenStaceyRocks Thu 09-Feb-17 12:17:44

The teacher might be minimising it because she realises how little he is and what a big adjustment school can be. flowers
But your DS is lucky because he has you to root for him and support him.
I know what you mean about wanting to keep him at home. It's so tempting! School is a big adjustment for parents too.
Focus on having some fun and love bombing in your time together.

purplecollar Thu 09-Feb-17 12:21:41

If the teacher and the head are great, you can work together to resolve this. We live in the smallest house in a very wealthy area. The school is massively over subscribed. But we too have these issues, believe me. We still have to repeat quite frequently "well they may do that in their house, but we do this in ours". Or more loudly, I don't care what they're doing, this is what we do.

Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 14:19:24

@GwenStaceyRocks. Yes I think love-bombing is the way forward. I've been concentrating so hard on sanctioning and talking that I don't think he likes me very much at the moment. I have tried to get DH to be the Good Cop but it's not a role he feels very comfortable in! Whatever has happened today we will hang out together and cuddle. And you're right - it may well be that the teacher has a better sense of proportion than I do! She is very supportive and lovely and DS likes her a lot so hopefully we'll work it out together.

@Purplecollar Yes I have used that line too. I may start to use it more now though!

I am slightly nervous about pick up time this afternoon. There has been something most days over the last fortnight. Keep your fingers crossed.

purplecollar Thu 09-Feb-17 14:33:04

Good luck, I hope it's been a good day for him.

Embarrassedandsad Thu 09-Feb-17 15:56:10

Ah well. Picked him up without being summoned by the teacher which is nice. He came out smiling. I asked him and he promised that he had been kind all day. I asked about specific children and he said he hadn't been near them so I'm inclined to think he's telling the truth.

I asked who he played with and he said (without a hint of sadness) "I just played by myself because I wanted peace and quiet". Which is probably him showing great self-awareness although it made me a tiny bit sad for him.

Since he's been lovely since we came in I have let him have hot chocolate and Paw Patrol and I'm going to get him to help me make dinner.

If we can just survive tomorrow without incident it might get better after half term...

GwenStaceyRocks Thu 09-Feb-17 20:11:02

Well done your DS! Don't be sad that he played on his own. I know it sounds lonely but I know my DS would sometimes just take himself off to sit in a corner of the playground when he wanted a break from all the bustle. I used to put a little notebook and pencil in his pocket so he could draw or write if he wanted some time out.

purplecollar Fri 10-Feb-17 10:27:26

Ah that's good. I think they all play on their own from time to time. Yes looking forward to the half term rest. Hope you have a good one.

Embarrassedandsad Fri 10-Feb-17 10:44:09

Thanks both. @GwenStaceyRocks - yes I think it was a wise choice on his part.

The nice news this morning was that his lovely teacher grabbed me to tell me that his phonics is beyond many of her Year One students which made me very proud and he seemed quite happy too. She also reminded me that he is very little and learning about emotions and relationships as much as he is learning about letters and numbers.

I should get How to Talk today so I shall read it carefully and get some tips.

archersfan22 Fri 10-Feb-17 12:44:01

Glad you had some positive feedback this morning.
My son, who is a bit younger than yours, pushed a smaller child out of the way so he could get to the car he wanted to play with. I was really shocked as he is usually a gentle little soul. I guess it's something most of them do now and again.
In terms of playing on his own, I wouldn't worry too much as it sounds like they have quite a bit of socialising/playtime during 'lesson' time, so perhaps playtime is his break from the other kids. Unlike when they're older and lessons are more formal and so playtime is the time for informal socialising.

Embarrassedandsad Fri 10-Feb-17 14:55:08

Yes I think you're right @archersfan22 - he does like to be able to have his own space (one of the violent incidents was when another boy was trying to physically pull my DS over to a game he was playing. DS really REALLY didn't want to go and so after a little bit of pulling and pushing he punched the other kid in the face).

It is a bit shocking isn't it? When they do something outside of the character you believe they have? I'm hoping that we're getting a handle on it. I have the "How to talk so tiny kids listen" now so I will be working my way through that later on this evening.

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