“Children with deficits in behavioral control—such as those with externalizing problems including aggression and antisocial behavior— are more likely to have co-occurring academic difficulties”(Graziano et. al., 2010)
Young kids, especially toddlers and preschoolers, are still learning how to interact with the world around them. Just like learning to riding a bike, children need to be taught how to interact with peers and learn how to manage their own emotions. If they aren’t taught these skills, then they are going to keep crashing that bike whenever they need to ride it.
Emotion regulation is far more important in early childhood than learning how to read or write. Don’t get me wrong, they are all important, but if your child can’t handle day-to-day challenges then they will have a hard time enjoying school and being able to focus.
Researchers have found that emotion regulation skills in preschool are directly correlated to academic success in Kindergarten and beyond. Screen time and other societal changes have lead to decreases in children being taught about emotions and how to interact with others. People are quick to assume kids are being “bad” or they have ADHD or something along those lines, but that’s almost never the case. The Westernized world has become dependent on medications and short-circuited solutions. Instead of actually fixing the problems with concrete, they are putting some old duct time on it and calling it good.
Below are 5 Key Reasons Why Children Act out at School
1. They Don’t Know how to Talk and/or Interact with their Peers Productively
Just because your child knows how to talk (or maybe they don’t yet), doesn’t mean they know how to articulate their thoughts and needs into words. Children learn through experiences and by parents and teachers modeling desired behaviors.
If no one has gone out of their way to teach your child how to ask to play with other children who are already actively playing, it might not go smoothly. A lot of the time children will go up and start playing with toys that another child has already been engaged with and don’t ask if they can join in. This can lead the other child to get upset or fear they will ruin what they have been working hard on. This can lead to tantrums, hitting and other challenging behaviors.
Practice and consistently are key for success. Work with your kid and have them practice out loud with you. Have them say things such as:
“Hi Olivia, do you want to befriends and play together?”
“Hi Aaron, I like cars too, can I play with you or maybe have a turn after”
You need to also teach your child that people are going to say “no” or not share from time-to-time. Prepare them for this and talk about scenarios when they haven’t wanted to share or play with others too. It is also impactful to talk about times when you as a parent haven’t wanted to share with others (like that chocolate cake you’ve been saving up and craving). Parents are constantly sharing and giving to their kids so coming up with real-life examples shouldn’t be too terribly challenging.
Don’t expect your child’s behavior to change overnight. It is going to take several weeks, sometimes longer to teach them how to regulate strong emotions. Make sure to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want some one-on-one advice from one of our Early Childhood Behavior Experts.
Bonus Solution: Some children are timid and shy when it comes to saying things to peers, especially asking for permission. Having kids use a puppet or stuffed animal to “talk” for them can help build their confidence. Have them be the voice of the animal. You can model it first by showing them exactly what to say and do, and then have them practice. Give them positive encouragement along the way, even for the smallest accomplishment!
2. They are Lacking a Strong Relationship with their Teachers
Children spend a vast majority of their hours awake at school. If your child doesn’t have a relationship with their teacher, it can lead your child to feel less secure at school. Children who have an individual bond with their teacher have been found to come to them with problems they are having, listen better and have better academic success at school.
Most teachers go out of their way to spend one-on-one time with kids in their classroom. Sometimes kids with challenging behaviors can subconsciously spend less time with them or be more irritable around them. If you are worried that your child is isn’t building a relationship with their teacher, we recommend going in and volunteering in your child’s classroom and get a glimpse of what your child’s day is like. You might have some helpful insight that can specifically help your child.
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3. They are Overstimulated
Over stimulation is a major cause of a lot of challenging behaviors in Early Childhood. If your child is new to childcare or preschool they can be even more likely to be over stimulated.
Having 20 preschoolers in one room all day is just a recipe for noise, movement and learning all day. All of these combined, especially if your child is trying to focus on a new skill or project, can lead them to get upset or angry.
ALL Every early childhood classes should have calm areas, I call them Cozy Corners, where children can go and have alone time when they are feeling overwhelmed and over stimulated. Make sure children know the purpose of the cozy area or else it will turn into pretend play or other activities rather quickly. There should be rules, expectations and guidance. Teaching the child strategies for calming themselves down in these quiet areas can help reduce behavior problems at school.
I recommend using Tucker the Turtle. Early Childhood Specialists as a tool to help children learn how to regulate their emotions created him. It comes with a book and strategies to help you teach your child to manage their own feelings.
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