5yr old poor behaviour and struggling to settle in reception(44 Posts)
DS started reception in September. Started ok-ish, not great at drop off but that was expected as had been the same at pre-school. Had a few issues wth his behaviour after Oct half term but that calmed down a lot up to christmas.
Since the Christmas holidays he has really struggled. Refusing to go outside at break time, refusing to do phonics and guided reading, and in the last week has refused to go into the hall at lunchtime to eat.
I was called in to meet with the class teacher and deputy head on Friday as he had had a terrible day. We discussed some strategies, what works at home etc and agreed that he would start this week with a sticker and reward chart.
I have just had a phone call from head of foundation to say he refused to go into the hall again at lunch time today so they said he could eat in the classroom, he then went climbing on the play kitchen, hid inside it and broke it. Shouted a lot, cried and basically had a bit of a meltdown.
We have been asked to go in tomorrow morning and meet with the head teacher and head of foundation stage.
He did 2 years at pre-school and we had absolutely none of these issues. We can struggle a little with his behaviour at home at times but absolutely nothing like what they are describing at school. However since he started school we are seeing a lot more anxious behaviour at home - his sleep has regressed massively, will no longer go upstairs/downstairs on his own etc.
He is my oldest child so I have limited school experience. This is breaking my heart and I want to work with the school to resolve but not sure what I should be expecting of them? My gut feeling is that something about school is making him v anxious, but how to discover what it is?
Has anyone had a similar experience with their child?
I am not an expert in this and it sounds very upsetting for all of you so I do hope things improve for him.
There was a little boy in DDs class many years ago who hid under the table and he was unhappy about taking part in activities such as assembly and outside play. The school gave him a TA at times when there was likely to be a problem to coax him out. I am surprised the school left him in a play area unsupervised. So at break, lunch etc. someone actually spent time with him. I think I would also look to him being part time for a bit, so not staying to lunch.
It seems his confidence has taken a big dip. Is it becuase he is having to follow instructions? This is why I think part time for a bit may help so he spends less time following instructions but he gets a lot of praise when he does take part as required. Does he just want to play so anything else is an imposition to him?
Do you take him up and down the stairs? Personally I wouldn't but that's because I do not like a child dictating like that. I know a lot of people are not like me though!
I am sure other people will have a lot more helpful tips and more insight. Please do not worry.
Does the noise upset him!?
Hall and play time are particularly loud
Ear defenders may help.
Some schools will provide ear defenders for pupils.
Sounds obvious, but have you tried asking him what he doesn't like about going in the hall, going upstairs, etc? If this is a sudden change to his behaviour then there is likely to be a reason for it.
Are you around during the day to be able to phase school a bit? Go in but just until morning break for one week. Lots of praise and positive reinforcement, then gradually build back up to a full day. I did something similar for one of mine that struggled at the start of school.
That said, I'd also be wanting to explore the possibility of something going on that he's not communicating to you - maybe some nasty comments from other children/scary dinnerlady/other thing.
You could try to set up a role-play type game of the school day with little toys and see if he gives any clues.
He does complain that the Hall is noisy, but I believe the school have tried ear defenders to no avail. It’s also tricky because some days he is fine to go and sit in the hall and have his lunch, it is only when he is having a bad day/feeling anxious that he won’t go in.
Unfortunately I work Monday-Thursday so phasing in time will be really tricky.
He says he’s too scared to go upstairs etc alone. You can see that in how he is acting too.
Things got worse this afternoon as I got a call to say he wouldn’t go home with the family member who usually picks him up on a Tuesday so I had to go and get him, he had ran off and was hiding in a music room (3 teachers with him tho).
He was then very angry at Home, saying he hated school and had broken something today, and next time he is going to break something bigger so he has to leave the school and then he’ll be “free” 😓 he also showed my DH a book he had made today called how to kill a teacher 😓
I think his relationship with his class teacher has completely broken down, she has not been the most understanding of teachers and I think he has picked up lots of negative vibes from her. He says he is not going back to school again. We are being as gentle as we can with him at the moment as he is clearly in distress, but are speaking positively to him about school.
Really grateful for any other thoughts/advice
Yikes, I'd be making an appointment with your GP about his anxiety and unhappiness leading to aggression.
Is there any way he can not have to go to school for a bit? A family member that can look after him during the day? He sounds really distressed and (personally) I can't see anything positive coming from forcing him to go until he's settled down emotionally. If there's really nothing else factoring into this other than THIS school (no emotional or special needs) then I think I would want to protect him from the cause of his distress. I know you can't just pander to kids all the time but this seems so extreme and he's so little. No wonder you're worried
I think I might also consider the other schools in the area, especially if it's an issue exclusively with this one/teacher that has spiralled out of control. I'm no expert though, that's just my gut reaction as a parent with a similarly aged child.
Has he got any friends at school that came up with him from preschool? Or has he made any new friends at school? It sounds to me that he's very isolated...Maybe he's lonely and a bit scared of all the changes. I would suggest that he's assigned a buddy in the class... Another child who is coping with school and maybe a bit more confident that will be his friend and sitting next to him for activities, lunch etc.. modeling good behaviour too. The teacher really needs to show reward at the slightest positive behaviour he's doing... Stickers galore even if appears like favouritism... Until his self worth goes up and he's valued as an important member of the class.... I would ask the school to share with you what rewards he's received weekly... Even sitting for register, putting his things away etc... All can be made to be huge achievements...I think this world really help. X
Oh god it is that bad isn’t it? I wasn’t sure if gp was appropriate, or if an ed-psych type person better (accessed via school)? Will ask at the meeting tomorrow. Will also take his book with us 😓
It is a lovely school and the staff generally great, it’s just this one teacher I have a bit of an issue with. There are 2 classes per year so i guess a swap could be possible. Think I will also try him with a packed lunch as he has asked for one and a lot of these issues seem to be happening at lunch time. Willing to try anything at the moment.
My heart is breaking for him right now 😓
Thanks hullabaloo, I totally agree that he needs lots of praise right now, I did tell the teacher at parents evening that he responds much better to positive praise. I think he can fall very easily into a cycle of negativity which is what has happened this week.
He has 2 friends from his pre school in his class, both girls. Don’t know if this is relevant but his class is girl heavy, with 16 girls and 9 boys. He talks about friends etc so not sure it is a social issue, but then I wonder why but he doesn’t want to go out at playtime, so maybe something has happened there.
ON a good day he is a very confident little boy and very keen to learn. I don’t recognise this version of him
I don't think it has to be dreadfully awful, panic-inducing, sorry if that came across as catastophising. But I do think it needs recognising as significant and responding to appropriately so as not to leave him with an anxiety problem, or ruin education for him.
If the school have an ed-psych person that could be a useful avenue.
I would be asking to meet with the school SENCO to see if they can do an observation and make recommendations of things they can do to support him.
This is scarily familiar. Ds is 7 and we had exactly the same problems when he hit year 2. It got so bad the GP signed him off for nearly a month before Christmas. He became violent, withdrawn, severely anxious, hating school and trying to get himself expelled so he didn't have to go back, saying he wanted to kill himself etc. it was felt he was autistic and various referrals went in. We couldn't believe the child they were describing - he was fine at home except for when things got really bad and it all spilled over at home like you are finding.
We also had a very difficult teacher who was very harsh with the children and very negative. Ds needs a lot of praise and nurturing and couldn't cope with the new environment and had no way of expressing how he felt (he is behind in his emotional / social development) and an ed psych assessed him as academically gifted (his teacher told us he struggled to learn and was behaving badly because he struggled)
We very nearly took him out of school completely but luckily the teacher has been absent from school and a new teacher with an amazing TA and SENCO have nurtured him back to a place of safety with lots of praise, encouragement and lots of extra work playing to his strengths. It's not back to normal and I think some permanent damage has been done but things are much better generally and he's getting stronger each day.
I would go to the meeting with:
- a list all the worrying things he says at home about school
- summarise his behaviour at home and make it explicit that he is very different at home
- ask what support they will be putting in. He needs to feel safe and if that means not doing what other children do, then so be it. Ds has loads of adaptations to keep him settled and less anxious.
- request an ed psych assessment
- get a GP review
- ask if they have any therapy / thrive in the school to help him unpick his feelings
- ask for a shadow teacher (deputy or someone) to view him in lessons as an observation
- ABC assessment of incidents to look at triggers
It was only when we started asking about abuse at school because he was fine at home that they started really wanting to get the bottom of things more seriously.
Thanks worrying, that’s really useful. So sorry that you have been through similar with your DS. Can I ask how long it took to see my improvements with the new teacher? I suspect that if his initial difficulties had been handled with a lot more kindness and in a much more nurturing environment things may not have got this bad...
The teacher we had just couldn't seem to see anything other than what was in front of her - she saw bad behaviour and dealt with it in the only way she knew how - by punishment (which for many children probably works, but when it doesn't and things actually get worse - you have to think differently!)
Anyway, when ds was signed off, he had a real break and the spilling over behaviour stopped within a week and he was lovely at home again although very anxious in general / scared / poor sleep etc. after a few weeks off, he reintegrated in short bursts and his old teacher had been signed off while he was off. It took about a week (which was amazing considering the teacher didn't know him at all) and we saw a marked improvement. The teacher / TA / SENCO had a complete change of strategy in class, much more gentle, nurturing interactions and really praising him. Then he had Xmas off and he's gone from strength to strength since the term started. We still have ups and downs but it seems around 90% is pretty excellent. I don't think the issues are done with though, the next teacher he has won't necessarily understand him which I'm dreading.
Teacher may yet come back though.......our formal complaint is ready if she does.
If you're on Facebook search for Therapeutic Parenting and ask in there for help. If you join their association they have lots of materials you can use to help both your child (story books that help them to tell you what's wrong) and letters for school etc. Also there's loads of support from people in the same boat as you or have been there, done that. It's really useful. They HATE sticker charts and punishment. !!
If he didn't want to go home with family member, it may not be as simple as he hates school?
My ds also didn't warm to his teacher at first in reception, because she was quite experienced and strict, so quite a big change from nursery teacher who used to baby him. I like her instantly, so always made sure to tell him that teacher really cared about him, so sometimes she needs to tell him off like us parents do. He loved his teacher in the end.
Not going to up stairs, is there particular reason why it started?
Can you really reinforce the positive aspects of school. Take in a favourite book to share with the class or something relating to the topic they are doing. Ask if you can have a copy of the phonics program they follow so you can maybe get him to show you or his dad or grandparents how to do it at home. Also inviting friends from school back for tea.
Try and engage him with things he does like or enjoy.
Lunchtimes are stressful and the dinner hall smells funny and is loud. If he has packed lunch could you put in something he really loves or some stickers or cards to open? Maybe put in something he is allowed to share with a member of staff he likes.
Starting school is stressful and reception can be chaotic and hard to cope with. Some children prefer Year 1 where things are more structured.
He is clearly stressed and acting out. It is hard but try not to worry loads of children go through these kinds of things.
Also ask the school to give him a visual timetable so he knows what’s happening. They use pictures so he will know what is happening next. He can put in some of the things he wants to do. If he is stressed leaving the room for phonics maybe he can stay and do it in the classroom.
Is the not wanting to go upstairs/ downstairs alone so unusual? All 3 of mine have had several phases of that! They don't "dictate" they just wait til someone else is going too or ask a sibling (they're quite nice to one another as they all understand each other). At 5 my middle one didn't want to sleep alone so his 2 year old brother offered to sleep in his room and that was fine (actually 2 year old also slept better).
My middle one had an anxious phase around 5 - he fortunately was in a 3-6 setting so didn't have to deal with change. I'd be starting with the simple explanation that he's struggling with this teacher ,(go with them having incompatible classroom personalities rather than anyone being horrible) and ask if a class swap is an option. If that doesn't work you know it's something deeper seated.
The other thing I'd also want to know is whether something has happened with the family member who usually picks him up on Tuesday. If it has, anxiety about that could be making him play up at school,as if he doesn't go to school he won't have to be picked up by this person... Especially if he's not totally clear on days of the week or its not always only Tuesday.
Oh one more thing - 5 is when the stupid phase begins where many boys and girls decide the opposite sex have the lurgy and boys only play with boys and girls only play with girls. If you've got any particularly erhem forceful but actually under the surface insecure types in the class they may be being quite nasty in the way they tease children not going along with this phase, and your ds's friends might not feel able to play with him for fear of teasing. That could be very upsetting for your DS if he doesn't "get" this totally illogical but somehow universal phase and feels abandoned.
We had a similar problem, turned out my LO had glue ear and couldn't hear the full range, when the glue ear goes everything sound really loud and they hide. Also glue ear affects behaviour especially at school. Please get your LO a hearing check just to rule this out.
Your poor DS OP he sounds so stressed and anxious. Quite a lot of what you've written feels familiar, though on a smaller scale. DS1 is also in reception, started well then towards the end of autumn term it all deteriorated. Sleep went to pieces, he was anxious about all sorts of things (including being on his own in a room in our house). Drop off and lunchtime are the big things for him. He finds lunch very noisy and also I think is struggling to navigate the social side a bit: the whole girls/boys thing is perplexing him, particularly as it seems to be acceptable for girls and boys to play together at breakfast club but not during the school day! It's a bit better post Christmas but not where it was in September. We're fortunate in that at school this is 'just' manifesting as crying and teariness (at home we get shouty grumpy child when he's feeling anxious). He has a lovely nurturing teacher and TA who give him lots of reassurance which is lucky because he absolutely cannot be handled 'strictly'- it spirals into rage. But it's so hard seeing your child so upset and not knowing how to help.
The school nurse can do some work to give him and you some strategies for his anxiety though this is just initial stuff like breathing and relaxation and trying to identify worries and triggers.
I would go to the gp as well though I think they'll say try school nurse first but make sure you have that contact with the gp too ...long term if things didn't improve its the gp who can refer to services like CAMHS
Just to add - we tried lots of the different suggestions above - transitional objects from home, breathing exercises, calm down space, feelings charts etc and they worked a little but because the root of the problem was still active, it made him feel even more under pressure to confirm and be 'fixed'. Now the teacher has gone and his academic abilities have been recognised, his anxiety has lifted enough for the other strategies and techniques to actually help rebuild him.
In KS1 a lot of children really need calm, nurturing teachers who are firm and clear but not cruel. I've also found if they've got their own children, it makes them a lot more able to relate to the child's issues.
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