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Silly in Preschool

“My youngest son just turned 4 and is in preschool 4 days a week.”

“I approached his teacher to ask how he was doing and she said fine. She said at times he is silly in class or is a distraction and sometimes he doesn’t stop when he is told to. He is not rough or hurtful to anyone. She says it is his personality, which I agree with. She said he loves to do his school work and is smart. Also that he knows he is one of the older kids in the class and he tries to be a leader. I think, because I compare him to my oldest, that he is immature for his age but at home he listens most of the time. He is a loving, happy boy and is a joy to our family. I just want to get this silliness and acting out in class under control before kindergarten. He has one more year before kindergarten but I want to get a handle on it before. I feel if I didn’t ask his teacher she would have never said anything. I hate to see or hear he has to sit in time out or he is acting out. What can I do with him to help?”

The teacher is describing a preschool boy with completely normal behavior. This is how most 4-year-old boys act. Acting silly is what these kids do for fun. Why? Because they are happy, because they like to show off or make the other kids laugh, because they are bored in class, or because it’s fun!

Children this age, both boys and girls, need to run around and work off steam with physical activity. Because he is a boy, this child will have more trouble sitting still so your son needs to run around and do lots of active play at home as well as school.

The teacher told you several very positive things about your child. He is “doing fine.” “He is not rough or hurtful to anyone.” He loves schoolwork and is smart. He tries to be a leader. And you told me wonderful things about your son: “He is a loving, happy boy and is a joy to our family.”

You are a conscientious mother, you have high expectations for your child, and you want your son to do well at school. Therefore you want him to make a good adjustment to preschool. I think he already has. You especially want to know that you are not doing anything wrong or failing to do what is necessary for your son’s school success. You are not.

But let me tweak your attitudes a bit. We cannot make our children perfect because no human on the planet is perfect. That means every child, even the good little girls, will need to be disciplined at school and at home. Time out is good, especially for your smart son. Sitting in time-out helps him recognize what is unacceptable behavior and, hopefully, decide not to do it any more.

What about your role as a parent? What can and should parents do about a child’s behavior at school? First of all don’t worry or dwell on what the teacher said, or think it means your son is on the way to bad classroom behavior. Keep in touch with the teacher periodically but don’t hover. If she makes suggestions about your boy, listen. She deals with many children and has a perspective you may not have.

Use the power of Parent Propaganda in a smart boy who wants to please you. Once in a while say “We expect you to behave in class and do what the teacher says.” But don’t ask him how he behaved in school every day, rather ask what he learned that day or what was the most interesting thing he did.

If the silly behavior escalates and the teacher suggests an intervention use a chart. “Every day you don’t misbehave at school you get a gold star, after a week you get a reward (making the child wait a week is good training for postponing gratification). Also plan little projects at home that require passage of time like a garden in a flower pot. Above all expect the best from him and tell him you do.