4 year old won't participate in class - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-06-2010, 03:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just got back from a surprise meeting with my son's preschool teacher. He has always been a little "slow-to-warm", but I just found out that he won't participate or do anything in class.

I know that he's been shy, but I was really shocked to hear what she said. When he comes home from school, he plays with his sisters and basically repeats his day. He sings with them, teaches them the songs, and does projects. When he is in the classroom, he won't sing, dance, and they have to really push him just to paint or draw. He does fine at recess though. He is the complete opposite at home.

Since he started school, he has been having more outbursts and seems to get angry more. I am ready to call his pediatrican for advice, but thought I would see if anyone else has experienced this. It's very upsetting, I want him to do good in school and have fun learning!
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Old 10-06-2010, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by lotsoflove79 View Post

Since he started school, he has been having more outbursts and seems to get angry more.
This is a really normal reaction to the stress of a new situation.

It sounds like your DS is learning at preschool. He's just not comfortable with participating yet. How structured is the preschool? And does he say he likes it? If he likes going, I'd just give him more time. If he doesn't like going maybe a less structured more play based one would be better.
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Old 10-06-2010, 09:08 PM
 
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My DD1 spent the first two months of preschool hanging on the assistant teacher's leg, with her fingers in her mouth, gaping at everybody, and refusing to do ANYTHING except color with crayons all by herself in the corner alone. It took her a really long time to warm up enough to participate in anything-- and it was halfway through the year before she was actively involved in the class's activities. She was fortunate to have very understanding teachers, and it just took time and patience.

The best thing we did was to respect her pace-- to encourage her gently, but to let her be if she resisted, and let her come around all on her own when she was ready.

FWIW, I did notice something-- she wasn't saying a word in school, wasn't doing much of anything, but all of a sudden at home I started seeing elements come into her play that she was clearly learning from the school-- she was learning letters, learning new ideas for imaginative play, etc. Basically, she was spending her time at school "taking it all in," and then exploring all these new ideas in her play at home. So she really was learning-- just not in the same way as the other kids were.

Anyway, she's six now, and still slow to warm up, but far more socially confident. She spent two years at that preschool, and by the time she finished, she was happy, had made a ton of friends, bonded with the teachers, learned a ton, and increased her confidence tenfold. I was so glad I didn't give in to the impulse to pull her out, when she had such a hard time to start with. So glad we stuck it out and gave it some time.

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Old 10-06-2010, 09:11 PM
 
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Sounds like me at the same age (I once found a report from my kindergarten teacher that described the same behavior, along with a copy of my parents' response, saying that they were shocked because I was so vivacious at home).

To be honest, I was painfully shy for decades. I didn't raise my hand in class voluntarily till I was a senior in college. It didn't prevent me from being very happy in life. The outbursts sound like typical "new to preschool behavior." I would let it go.
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Old 10-07-2010, 11:12 AM
 
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What did the teacher suggest?

I have had kids who didn't/wouldn't talk, kids who cried, kids who didn't participate, kids who screamed- all kids react to new environments differently. In each case I would talk with the parent and see what they were like at home, how they interacted with other children outside the home and discuss options.

I had one little boy who rarely talked, and when he did, it was very soft and quiet. He smiled, he laughed, he played.
My little guy that screamed had some sensory processing concerns, so once we were able to get an evaluation, we were able to communicate better.
Each child was supported, we met the child where they were at- we talked to them, offered to let them sit with a teacher, told them they could bring a comfort item from home, worked with the child 1-1, did activities we were told the child liked. In general we did our best to make the situation less uncomfortable for the child while we respected their "slow to warm up" personality, or meeting their other needs.

As a parent of a child who was her own pace, the best thing that ever happened to us was finding a teacher who understood dd and did her best to help dd participate, but respected dd and didn't make her if she didn't want to. Over the year, the teacher encouraged dd to try more, and she did.

I hope the teacher is helping to create a relationship with your child and understand that it is "ok" that right now she doesn't want to participate. It sounds like dd is participating in her own way by observing. Some children are observers and that is ok!

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Old 10-08-2010, 03:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The teacher suggested that since he's been in school for over a month, maybe he is being more stubborn than shy. He does have a stubborn nature, but mainly when he wants to get his way. I kinda assumed that was normal for his age. But, he is truly shy around new people, even family members that he knows but hasn't seen in awhile. So, she wanted to push him a little harder to participate. Today he didn't want to go to school at all and has throwing horrible temper tantrums. I'm really hoping he adjusts soon, because he has changed so much in the last month and a half.

He is really learning in the school and when I pick him he normally says that he had fun. I wish I could have put him in a smaller school, I think he would be adjusting better. I am just going to give him more time and hopefully it will start going better. I should add that I am shy and had the same problems in school. I feel bad for him.
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Old 10-08-2010, 04:36 PM
 
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I guess I read "pushing harder" as doing "what the adult wants me to do", which can turn some children off. A month is a reasonable amount of time for some children but some do need more time.
I would wonder "getting his way" is his way of having control? Some kids do use control when they are feeling pushed.

If the teacher is expecting a lot of group interaction at the age, I would wonder how developmentally appropriate the program is. When I taught, I did maybe 10 minutes of "group work" and another 15 of circle time participation. As the year progressed I could increase the time, but in the beginning of the year most children weren't comfortable participating in group work.

Has the teacher done things to help encourage group work? Actually, asking children to work in a group actually takes work, you need to help them learn how to communicate with each other, the expectations and what gains they get from the activity.

Not trying to criticize the teacher but I have seen so many who believe group work is always appropriate at this age at the beginning of the year- and sometimes it is and sometimes it is not.

If your child doesn't want to participate what can he do during that time? For instance, for safety reasons, I required the kids who didn't participate to sit with us (in the same area) or to find a safe spot and they could either read or draw quietly until they were ready to participate. (See how this could be a control issue- I took the control out of the situation, the child could choose to participate). 9-10 the child would eventually participate (maybe that day, maybe in a week etc).

Has your child said why they don't want to participate?

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Old 10-08-2010, 08:38 PM
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That would bother me if the teacher were pushing. It's preschool! What's wrong with letting him just soak it up? As long as he's not distrupting things for others. My DD is very similar at times-- sometimes she really just stares and stares but we know she's totally taking it all in, and later can tell you all about it, sing songs word for word, etc. But like at storytime I'll ask if she wants to stand up and sing the song with everyone and she'll say no and sit with me instead. Then at yoga class she's up there with the teacher, doing all the moves the whole time. It just depends, and what's the harm in letting kids follow their own comfort level? Especially if they are clearly learning anyway. I would also worry if the teacher started ascribing negative motivations to his behavior, like stubborness. Maybe if they know you're okay with him just hanging back a while longer, they'll relax.
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Old 10-10-2010, 10:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am actually going to be requesting a parent-teacher conference tomorrow. I am concerned about the negative messages he might be receiving and that she mentions his shyness in front of the whole class. That makes him withdraw more and I'm sure feel even more insecure. My son has mentioned some things over the weekend that might indicate being punished for being shy. I'm pretty sure he is being in time-out if he doesn't sing with the class. I understand that he needs to follow rules, but that just seems wrong. I'm hoping to get everything straightened out, so he has a good start with school.
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Old 10-11-2010, 12:15 AM
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That seems really wrong, to me, too. Kids should not be labled like that, not publicly and not within their hearing, and they should SO not be punished for not singing along. What are these educators thinking?! I'm sorry, mama. I hope you have a productive meeting.
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Old 10-11-2010, 04:32 PM
 
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Some kids are slow to warm up and that's OK. Nothing you describe is outside of normal behavior for the age. The tantrums after school are extremely common.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lotsoflove79 View Post
The teacher suggested that since he's been in school for over a month, maybe he is being more stubborn than shy.
Let's say she is correct, how exactly does that change things? Whether he is being stubborn or feeling shy, the appropriate response from the teacher is to gently encourage the child.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lotsoflove79 View Post
I am actually going to be requesting a parent-teacher conference tomorrow. I am concerned about the negative messages he might be receiving and that she mentions his shyness in front of the whole class. That makes him withdraw more and I'm sure feel even more insecure. My son has mentioned some things over the weekend that might indicate being punished for being shy. I'm pretty sure he is being in time-out if he doesn't sing with the class. I understand that he needs to follow rules, but that just seems wrong. I'm hoping to get everything straightened out, so he has a good start with school.
Using shame on a shy or stubborn child is pretty much guaranteed to back fire.

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