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HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

My Kindergartner Is Distracting Other Students

By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist

Question:

My son is in kindergarten and this is his first real experience with groups of kids. He was never in daycare or preschool; unfortunately, I think that kept him from developing his social skills. According to his teacher, he is being very disruptive in class. He can't seem to get control of himself or follow the rules when it's time to be attentive or quiet. He whispers in other children's ears and continues to try to engage them even after several warnings from his teacher.

The teacher often has to move him to another location to keep him from distracting other students. She's concerned that he does not have control of himself and is missing out on learning opportunities. She also does not want him to develop a social stigma as the "bad" kid and "trouble maker." In an effort to combat this, she has looked for opportunities to praise him in front of the class for good behavior, like raising his hand before asking a question, etc.

My husband and I have talked to our son about there being a time to play, a time to be quiet and listen and to let the other kids listen. We also give him daily reminders before he goes off to school.

His teacher has offered to write in a notebook how his day went (good and bad) and send it home so that we can reinforce the good behavior and also give consequences for the unacceptable behavior. What else can we do to help curb this behavior and foster a more attentive child who is respectful of the teacher's request to quiet down?

Answer:

Your son's teacher sounds like a gem. She is using a combination of behavior management techniques, including positive reinforcement and time-outs. In addition, her offer to send a daily note home is excellent. The better the communication among the adults in his life, the sooner your son will get the message about what behavior is acceptable at school.

Listening, paying attention and following directions are important skills that your son will need throughout his school career. However, because he has not been in a structured school setting before, it's not surprising that these skills are not well-developed. It's relatively early in the school year, and he may be a little overwhelmed and over-stimulated with all of the exciting opportunities he is faced with each day.

Talk to your son's teacher again and ask for further clarification about problem behaviors. Besides distracting other children, does your son fidget during floor activities such as story time? Does he rush through one activity after another without finishing? Is he showing aggression towards others, or blatantly defying his teacher's directions? If so, there may be more at play here than simply being inexperienced. If any of these are the case, ask his teacher to write a letter or supply some specific data regarding your son's behavior, then schedule an appointment with his pediatrician. At that time, any physical issues can be ruled out and a plan of action can be formulated.


Dr. Stacie Bunning is a licensed clinical psychologist in the St. Louis area. She has worked with children, adolescents, and their families in a variety of clinical settings for 20 years. Bunning also teaches courses in child psychology, adolescent psychology, and human development at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

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