We need help: 3.5 year old entirely different at school - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 17 Old 01-22-2009, 08:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My heart is in my stomach. I need some words of wisdom, lots of them. I have no idea what to do.

Ds is in a Montessori preschool full time. He started this fall, and the transition in seemed absolutely flawless--from day 1, he was completely engaged and ready to go. The problems began about 6 weeks later, and they're all over the place, but seem to stem (I think) from anxiety and wanting individual attention, and knowing exactly how to stop a classroom in its tracks.

He's hitting and pushing other kids, apparently without provocation, and is fully able to articulate that he knows it's wrong, hurts their feelings, etc. The most I've been able to get out of him is that it's because they're not listening to him, but the teachers' account is that it's out of the blue. He's deliberately ruining other kids' art projects, messing up their puzzles and projects, etc. During gym time, he's doing this weird eye rolling with his head to one side, arm/hand flapping. When confronted with a new setting (eg, field trip to the bank today), he's very quiet and standing back, but then he's loud and disruptive in the classroom. He's started biting his fingernails, too. He'll break into song during circle, but not the same song everyone else is singing.

They've got him 1-1 with a teacher pretty much all the time right now, which isn't sustainable, nor is really a solution, nor is it fair to the other kids. I really like and respect his teachers, but I'm immensely frustrated, because I can't do anything in the moment when I'm not actually there. They've called in the school psychologist to observe him.

The thing is: I don't recognize this kid they're talking about. Don't get me wrong, I have seen him do each of these things, but only very briefly, in moments of unusual frustration. But it's like the have the Mr. Hyde while we get the Dr. Jekyll at home. This is a kid who is incredibly verbal and social and outgoing and friendly. He's spontaneously affectionate, very secure, and has a well-developed and active sense of humor. I'm certainly not saying he's perfect or that they're incorrect in their observations. He's definitely got a strong will, and we've got a "chill" system in place at home that's working really well for him to get in control of himself again. I'm guessing he would qualify as "spirited" pretty clearly. But still...

I don't know what to do. I don't want to leave this school: if this is a group setting problem, a new school won't help. Plus, purely logistically, we can't afford it, since we're paid through the end of the school year, and finding him a new spot would be next to impossible where I live. More importantly, though, I want him to be able to work through whatever this is. I want to help him figure things out. How?? Individual problems in the moment I feel like dh and I have a handle on--but this amorphous *thing*, with all its weird and annoying and upsetting and destructive patterns, we're at a loss.

Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated. I'm pretty much at a low ebb of parenting here.
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#2 of 17 Old 01-23-2009, 12:10 AM
 
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Originally Posted by nabigus View Post
My heart is in my stomach. I need some words of wisdom, lots of them. I have no idea what to do.

Ds is in a Montessori preschool full time. He started this fall, and the transition in seemed absolutely flawless--from day 1, he was completely engaged and ready to go. The problems began about 6 weeks later, and they're all over the place, but seem to stem (I think) from anxiety and wanting individual attention, and knowing exactly how to stop a classroom in its tracks.

He's hitting and pushing other kids, apparently without provocation, and is fully able to articulate that he knows it's wrong, hurts their feelings, etc. The most I've been able to get out of him is that it's because they're not listening to him, but the teachers' account is that it's out of the blue. He's deliberately ruining other kids' art projects, messing up their puzzles and projects, etc. During gym time, he's doing this weird eye rolling with his head to one side, arm/hand flapping. When confronted with a new setting (eg, field trip to the bank today), he's very quiet and standing back, but then he's loud and disruptive in the classroom. He's started biting his fingernails, too. He'll break into song during circle, but not the same song everyone else is singing.
They've got him 1-1 with a teacher pretty much all the time right now, which isn't sustainable, nor is really a solution, nor is it fair to the other kids. I really like and respect his teachers, but I'm immensely frustrated, because I can't do anything in the moment when I'm not actually there. They've called in the school psychologist to observe him.

The thing is: I don't recognize this kid they're talking about. Don't get me wrong, I have seen him do each of these things, but only very briefly, in moments of unusual frustration. But it's like the have the Mr. Hyde while we get the Dr. Jekyll at home. This is a kid who is incredibly verbal and social and outgoing and friendly. He's spontaneously affectionate, very secure, and has a well-developed and active sense of humor. I'm certainly not saying he's perfect or that they're incorrect in their observations. He's definitely got a strong will, and we've got a "chill" system in place at home that's working really well for him to get in control of himself again. I'm guessing he would qualify as "spirited" pretty clearly. But still...

I don't know what to do. I don't want to leave this school: if this is a group setting problem, a new school won't help. Plus, purely logistically, we can't afford it, since we're paid through the end of the school year, and finding him a new spot would be next to impossible where I live. More importantly, though, I want him to be able to work through whatever this is. I want to help him figure things out. How?? Individual problems in the moment I feel like dh and I have a handle on--but this amorphous *thing*, with all its weird and annoying and upsetting and destructive patterns, we're at a loss.

Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated. I'm pretty much at a low ebb of parenting here.
That throws up a lot of red flags for me. You said the school psych is going to evaluate him? I'd have a private psych do an eval as well. It could be nothing, perhaps he just doesn't enjoy school right now, or is going through a tough develomental stage. But a lot of that part I bolded is concerning. Good luck to you
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#3 of 17 Old 01-23-2009, 01:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I know, it sounds really weird and odd. But what's really weird is that he's a super social, super connected, super secure kid otherwise. I've seen him do it, and it's more of an excited thing that he uses as a coping mechanism? It's like they're describing someone else's kid, because I find it so hard to reconcile with my joyous, happy, fun, and loving 3.5 year old.

I know this is quite the brain dump, but I really appreciate input from the folks here, so keep the comments coming....
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#4 of 17 Old 01-23-2009, 01:24 PM
 
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I don't have experience with this, but I'm wondering about sensory issues. It does sound like he's trying to use coping mechanisms for when he feels "out of control." There are a few sensory threads in the Special Needs forum -- and I often hear a book called The Out of Sync Child recommended as well.

An evaluation sounds like a good first step.
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#5 of 17 Old 01-23-2009, 04:47 PM
 
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can you keep him home on Mon or Fridays? I would work 1 on 1 with him one day a week, either playing or doing library story times, dance class etc. He is so young it could be just an adjustment but it wouldn't hurt to devote a day a week for a while and get a lot of time to observe.
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#6 of 17 Old 01-23-2009, 06:58 PM
 
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Something about the environment must not be right for him at this time. Maybe it's just too long of a day? I'd consider cutting back to half days.

Can you go and observe a day or two? That might give you some insight. It's hard figuring out whats going on when you are hearing a translated version of events. I know I've run into many situations where people peg my ds's behavior on the wrong thing since they don't understand him as well.

Mom to unschooling 4everboy since 8/01
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#7 of 17 Old 01-23-2009, 08:55 PM
 
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Maybe he's just too young for that much socialization and stimulation. I know none of my kids would've been ready to be in school full-time at the age of 3.5, no matter the curriculum.

Tanya ~~ mother to: Beth, 12 -- Cali & Trent, 9 -- Melanie, 8 -- Jesse & Davin, 5 -- Baby Shae 9/1/2009
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#8 of 17 Old 01-23-2009, 09:47 PM
 
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Maybe he's just too young for that much socialization and stimulation. I know none of my kids would've been ready to be in school full-time at the age of 3.5, no matter the curriculum.
These are my thoughts too...when I was reading your post I thought to myself that ds1 would probably act like that as well, if he were really uncomfortable and trying to cope. He would destroy someone's project to get some one on one, and he is very very gentle. I can see it though.

Mary, Mama to 3 boys! 9/05 & 8/08 & 7/12
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#9 of 17 Old 01-24-2009, 12:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This is all really helpful, thanks.

The problem is, we really can't cut back on his hours by much, though we can do some juggling and pick him up early a couple days a week. I feel like he got so much positive attention as the class clown at the start that that's what he's comfortable doing. And now, I'm not sure how the teachers could do things to break these patterns.

Dh and I are each observing next week, and we're meeting with everyone (teachers, school psychologist, etc) next week. I've also set up an appointment with his ped to get a referral for a psychologist, just to be on the safe side (although I dont' want to go anywhere near pathologizing him). Fingers crossed....
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#10 of 17 Old 01-24-2009, 01:35 AM
 
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An evaluation by a psychologist sounds like a good start. I would first wonder if he is feeling really stressed out. Another thought that comes to mind is maybe sensory issues? My son, who is normally connected, happy, interactive, etc, has some really "weird" behaviors, usually when he is around large groups. I didn't even know such a thing existed until fairly recently. He is going to have an OT evaluation soon - maybe that is another option for you?
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#11 of 17 Old 01-24-2009, 05:10 AM
 
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Maybe he's just too young for that much socialization and stimulation. I know none of my kids would've been ready to be in school full-time at the age of 3.5, no matter the curriculum.
My thoughts too. I can see my DD acting out in a very similar way if she was exposed to that much stimulation. I hope you get it figured out!
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#12 of 17 Old 01-24-2009, 06:20 AM
 
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He's hitting and pushing other kids, apparently without provocation, and is fully able to articulate that he knows it's wrong, hurts their feelings, etc. The most I've been able to get out of him is that it's because they're not listening to him, but the teachers' account is that it's out of the blue. He's deliberately ruining other kids' art projects, messing up their puzzles and projects, etc. During gym time, he's doing this weird eye rolling with his head to one side, arm/hand flapping.

Food food food. Or rather, non-food finding its way into what you think is food.

What does he have? Have Uncrustables suddenly joined his daily diet? Or anything different? I mention Uncrustables b/c people think "oh it's PB&J, it's portable, fabulous!" and don't realize how cruddy the ingredients are.


My son had nasty, violent tantrums. I used to worry that he was going to be a heartless soulless, well, killer someday b/c of his tantrums.

And then one day I watched him eat a lollipop at a festival, his first DumDum, and within 20 minutes he was violently attacking me. And I thought...aha, that's it. OK first I cried and just tried to get him to stop, and I was embarrassed b/c everyone was watching, and I saw utter fear behind his eyes, and then I calmed him down, and then I carried him home on a very hot July day and he passed out while I was carrying him home, and I put him down and posted my dread fears about him, and at some point that day I had my "aha" moment.

He cannot have corn syrup, corn syrup solids, or high fructose corn syrup. If he has them he becomes wildly violent, he *cannot listen* (it's possible he can barely hear, he doesn't give ANY indication that he's hearing us when it happens). He does WEIRD things with his body. He rolls his eyes (I looked at pictures of him while he was eating the DumDum and doing an art project, and his eyes were rolling up like that which was weird) and turns in circles with his head cocked.

It's like he's doing everything he can to get the bad feeling OUT.

I realized it when he was 3. He hadn't really eaten processed food until he was well into his 2s, so it wasn't *that* long (compared to how long another kid might have been reacting) that he was doing all of this, but it was long enough. Ever since we figured it out, ever since we've started to watch his diet, he's been involved. We call it the "dragon". It makes him a dragon.

Interestingly, Disneyland has helped us figure out the exact ingredients...finally read the ding-dang label for the Uncrustables while at Disneys California Adventure. He was halfway through it. He was only 3.5 but saw me reading the label and he asked if it had "high fruit cor'suup" in it. I said yes, it did, along with regular corn syrup (what fabulous ingredients!), and that he could choose to finish it or not, that I'd buy him better food if he didn't finish it, and that we would now be moving to a spot where he could run around for half an hour if he needed to. He put it down, we moved, he ran around, got it out of his system.

Figured out the corn syrup solids part at Disneyland too, after having a Dole Whip (soft serve nonsense that tastes vaguely of pineapple and melted plastic), when he was jumping out of his stroller and running around in a HUGE circle at the entrance to Adventureland, not hearing me, not stopping, almost running into who knows how many people, as I tried to reign him in.

And so on and so forth. Although I'd love it if we did NOT have to find these things out, I'm glad we've had a Disneyland thing the last few years, so we could hone in on the EXACT ingredients he can't have.



So check out his diet. WHAT are they feeding him? What have you introduced as a fun food, or an easy food? Etc etc. Lollipops, ice creams, popsicles, Uncrustables, many many MANY jellies and jams (not so much with the preserves). Organic foods can have organic corn syrups and even organic corn syrup solids...they don't have anything such as an organic HFCS though, thankfully. M&Ms, oh gosh the list goes on and on.



If it's not that, if his diet does not have any of those things, I have read that gluten and dairy can each have the SAME effects that happen when my guy eats corn syrup products.

Oh, and SOME kids react that way to ALL corn products. I'm thankful that the corn has to be heavily processed before DS reacts...he can have corn and even cornstarch (which is nice b/c he can have powdered sugar on his pancakes even when we don't bring his organic, real maple syrup...powdered sugar is "cut" or rather processed with a touch of cornstarch to help it "flow") and that makes it much easier on us than if he couldn't have ANY corn.


Good luck! Although food stuff is NOT easy, it's easier than many of the alternatives that might explain his behaviour, IMO.
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#13 of 17 Old 01-25-2009, 01:17 AM
 
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I put some comments in bold.

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Originally Posted by nabigus View Post
He's hitting and pushing other kids, apparently without provocation,

not nice, but normal--has the school offered any strategies how you can work on this in tandem with them?
and is fully able to articulate that he knows it's wrong, hurts their feelings, etc.

again, not nice, but normal, especially if he's stressed/uncomfortable/wants attention

The most I've been able to get out of him is that it's because they're not listening to him, but the teachers' account is that it's out of the blue. He's deliberately ruining other kids' art projects, messing up their puzzles and projects, etc.


Is this his first time in a group/school setting? Could it be as simple as he just needs to learn to behave?



During gym time, he's doing this weird eye rolling with his head to one side, arm/hand flapping.

All the time? Every day? Have you seen this?


When confronted with a new setting (eg, field trip to the bank today), he's very quiet and standing back, but then he's loud and disruptive in the classroom.

So, he's quiet in shy in new settings, but boisterous at school--that sounds pretty normal.

He's started biting his fingernails, too.

Do you bite your nails, or does your husband? I bite mine, and my 3 and half year old just started. Nasty habit, and I regret it but I don't think it makes her or me that unusual. I do think I tend to be a high stress person and maybe my DD picks up on that.


He'll break into song during circle, but not the same song everyone else is singing.

Because he is 3 and half! I bet sometimes other kids try to take off their clothes, or bark like dogs or meow like kittycats.


Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated. I'm pretty much at a low ebb of parenting here.
I don't want to make light of anything you've posted, or that the school has told you, but it sounds like he's not in lock step with the behavior they want, so they are putting everything out there, and most of what you posted I don't find concerning.

It sounds like he needs some help socializing (ie, not messing up people's games, learning to play peacefully in a group) and the rolling eyes/flapping should be looked into but the rest sound pretty normal for 3 and a half to me. Frankly, I think it's odd that your school would bring things up to you like singing a different song or being quiet on a field trip, your post made me feel like the school is trying to lead you to label him in some way. And, he's just 3!

My DD has been in daycare since she was 12 weeks old--so I believe in day care, I believe in pre-school, but I think that some environments work better than others and it is so individual. That said, I'd look into getting the rest of your $$ back, and the possibility of finding a new school next year. DD was at a great daycare until this year, that she outgrew. I moved her to a preschool in the fall. Overall, it was a bad move. We tryied to make it work until before Christmas when we were lucky enough to find another school that could take us in January, and now things are much better. It just wasn't a good match for us. His behavior could be stress related, and you can try to work on it with the school or find another school/administration that's a better fit.

I guess, over all, try not to think of this as an amorphous thing--I think if you concentrate on the destructive behavior and try to work that out--the rest will either be irrelevant or fall into place. Their behaviors change so quickly at this age.

Hang in there!
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#14 of 17 Old 01-25-2009, 10:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Arrgh, my computer just collapsed in the middle of a long response. A good reason to be brief, I guess.

I really appreciate all these thoughtful responses. We're still struggling--and probably will be for a while--to figure out how to think about this. Is it just a bad set up, with the teachers establish bad patterns that were originally endearing? Is he just stressed and anxious and unhappy and acting out? Does he just need practice interacting with other kids so he's not resorting to hitting? Is it not taking a nap that's turning him into a changeling?

madskye, I really appreciate your post. I'm definitely feeling like they like quiet, compliant kids and are trying to locate the problem in my ds. It's extremely encouraging that you found a situation that worked for you after one that didn't, too, since we may go try to go the route of finding a new place.

milkybean, I completely hear you on the "dragon" thing--there are definitely times ds *can't* seem to hear us, although they're very rare and seem to be mostly about fatigue. But it sounds like the school sees this a lot. Ds's diet is very minimally processed--he's definitely not getting dyes, and seriously minimal corn syrup. He's already dairy free. I'm dreading the thougth of a gluten reaction--I had to do an elimination diet when ds was a baby for him.

I wish I could just yank him out right now--and it's reassuring that other people could see their kids acting like this--but discouraging because I can't.
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#15 of 17 Old 01-27-2009, 08:41 AM
 
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Arrgh, my computer just collapsed in the middle of a long response. A good reason to be brief, I guess.

I really appreciate all these thoughtful responses. We're still struggling--and probably will be for a while--to figure out how to think about this. Is it just a bad set up, with the teachers establish bad patterns that were originally endearing? Is he just stressed and anxious and unhappy and acting out? Does he just need practice interacting with other kids so he's not resorting to hitting? Is it not taking a nap that's turning him into a changeling?

madskye, I really appreciate your post. I'm definitely feeling like they like quiet, compliant kids and are trying to locate the problem in my ds. It's extremely encouraging that you found a situation that worked for you after one that didn't, too, since we may go try to go the route of finding a new place.

milkybean, I completely hear you on the "dragon" thing--there are definitely times ds *can't* seem to hear us, although they're very rare and seem to be mostly about fatigue. But it sounds like the school sees this a lot. Ds's diet is very minimally processed--he's definitely not getting dyes, and seriously minimal corn syrup. He's already dairy free. I'm dreading the thougth of a gluten reaction--I had to do an elimination diet when ds was a baby for him.

I wish I could just yank him out right now--and it's reassuring that other people could see their kids acting like this--but discouraging because I can't.

So weird that you mention the nap! I didn't bring it up but that was actually the root of the issues we were having this Fall. In our case, she was fine at school, but when she got home it was misery from 3-7 and half the time she'd fall asleep for the night before 7. Not fun or normal for her to melt down for 3 hours every afternoon. Now her school schedule is 9-4 (longer) but it includes a 90 minute nap/quiet time period after lunch each day. And she sleeps! She still needs it.
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#16 of 17 Old 01-27-2009, 09:32 AM
 
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Maybe he's just too young for that much socialization and stimulation. I know none of my kids would've been ready to be in school full-time at the age of 3.5, no matter the curriculum.
This.

A school situation may be different from a daycare situation. School may be more structured even though it's Montessori.

Ds#1 went to a Montessori preschool at 4 years old. If I had it all to do over again, I would have waited until he was 5. I DID wait to send ds#2 at 5 years old to send him to preschool.

It sounds like your son may be stressed by preschool.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Plato
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#17 of 17 Old 01-27-2009, 01:20 PM
 
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Are you sure a friend is not sharing some food at snack or lunchtime that is agitating him?
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