Our 5-year-old is struggling in kindergarten because of behavior. He runs around the classroom instead of staying in his seat, refuses to stay quiet (shouts) when the teacher is teaching and disobeys her instructions, sometimes refusing to do the lessons. What can we do at home to stop these behaviors in school?
Hello, and thank you for your question. I am a retired teacher, having taught preschool, Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade for 30 years. I can honestly tell you that the behaviors you describe are absolutely normal. What's not right is the expectations schools have for 5-year-old boys. Having said that, if withdrawing him from Kindergarten and waiting until next year isn't an option for you, below are my suggestions.
Remember that no human being is motivated to solve a problem unless that problem is causing them some measure of grief. Make the burden of his actions rest on his shoulders. I recommend you let his teacher know that you are committed to helping your boy become responsible, respectful, and resourceful. Ask her to choose one classroom behavior of his that she'd like to see eliminated and focus on that. Let's say she chooses to focus on him not shouting when he's supposed to be listening. At the end of his school day, all you need is a thumbs up or thumbs down signal or note, and you will follow through at home.
Let him know that you've spoken with his doctor who told you that smart 5-year-old boys who don't follow instructions at school aren't getting enough sleep! Strip his room of all entertainment value, leaving only books, crayons, paper, and furniture. Cancel all extra-curricular activities, including play dates. Make a chart with ten boxes. Tell your son that he will be going to bed right after dinner until he remembers not to shout out in the classroom for ten CONSECUTIVE school days. Roleplay with him, taking turns being student or teacher, and act out some situations in which he's prone to shouting out, giving him other options to try instead of vocalizing such as tapping his fingers against each other, counting to 10 on his fingers, taking 2 deep breaths, or singing a song he likes in his head. Help him to understand that not following his teacher's instructions is disrespectful and irresponsible and, as his parents, you won't let him be either. If he gets a thumbs down during those ten days, and he likely will, the chart starts all over again.
The key to this, or any method, is calm consistency. Your goal is to help him learn to respect authority and be responsible for his actions. These two character traits will be of immeasurable benefit to him, and those around him, and are worth the work and time it will take to for him to develop. Keep your cool and stay the course. Please let us know if you need clarification or further support.
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