Friday, March 21, 2003

How would you have handled this?

So my older son is 3 1/2 and has been going to day care for close to 1 1/2 years. He's usually well behaved but (like most 3 year olds) he has his days where he acts out. Yesterday he was written up in an incident report for throwing toys at children and smacking a boy in the face! He hasn't been written up in several months. So I dropped him off this morning and his teacher was telling me about what happened. Obviously I, the parent, need to do something but wasn't really sure what to do since it happened yesterday. I told him that hitting isn't nice and he will be in trouble if I hear of him doing it again. How would you handle something like that? I feel like I didn't do enough to help prevent it from happening again or something.

Answer on How would you have handled this?

It is the duty of the day care to handle simple misbehavior like this - it is normal misbehavior and I would wonder at a child care provider that thought that you needed to "do something." Discipline is a never ending task and the child care provider simply needs to reinforce the message that hitting when you are mad is not OK - use your words - time out - and frequent talks about what it is to be a "good friend." You can have frequent talks about it as well - talking about his day and what was frustrating and then you can tell him what he should do when he is frustrated with another child. Give him messages about expressing himself "That hurt my feelings. I was playing with that, don't grab it from me. Let me have a turn." And I also told my kids that toys are never more important than a person's feelings. I also taught them to use their "big voice" so that they can get the teacher's attention when a more sneaky child is trying to take a toy or is hitting them when the teacher isn't looking. "DON'T HIT MEEEEE!" All of these thing can help your little guy navigate in his day care world.

But children learn best with immediate consequences or reinforcement. If child care providers are not giving BOTH adequate and immediate reinforcement AND consequences, they are not doing their jobs. There is no reason to expect you to give consequences that are so remote and pointless by that time. General reinforcement of what it means to be a good friend along with ways of sticking up for himself without resorting to hitting is the best that you can do. Bringing up bad behavior and giving consequences when you arrive is counterproductive and cuts into your time to be positive and loving with your child.

If your child is in need of behavior modification - it would be happening every day. Behavior modification would involve charting misbehavior/behavior and giving rewards. I would not do this except in the circumstance that there is something developmentally inappropriate about the way the child is behaving, meaning that he has missed some messages along the way and needs intervention. This post does not lead me to believe that is the case, but rather that he is normal and his misbehavior is normal and should be handled by the adult in charge immediately.