As the end of the school year draws closer, I am troubled by the lack of progress a 4-yearold boy in my class has made so far this year. His behavior has been consistently disruptive and aggressive, in spite of the many different strategies I've tried, and numerous conferences with his mother. I'm nervous about what her reaction will be when l make the recommendation that he spend the summer with a specialist, which l plan to do. She's a single mother with other stresses in her life, but I just know Max won't be able to handle kindergarten unless he gets therapeutic support. he alienates all of his peers and teachers as well.

Documentation (including time, setting, activity, and children or staff involved) helps to clearly describe the problem when meeting with parents. The kinds of classroom behaviors that need careful documentation include:

  • physical or verbal aggression toward children or staff;
  • explicit sexual behaviors directed at self or others;
  • control behaviors-excessive bossiness with other children and/or efforts to control adults;
  • self-destructive behaviors, such as daredevilry or self-inflicted injury (head banging and skin mutilation are two examples);
  • unpredictability with both peers and adults; unpredictable behavior probably causes the greatest amount of stress in the classroom for both children and adults.

Making Referrals

Depending on their severity and frequency, these behaviors sometimes require a referral to a state child-protection agency. Documentation can help you identify children who need that additional protection. If you are in doubt, you may decide to refer the family. You are required to report any behaviors that might reflect abuse at home, either abuse of a parent, a sibling, or the child in your care.

Meeting With Parents

When meeting with Max's mother, keep in mind that:

  • she may be struggling with these behavior problems at home and want help with them;
  • there may be an unidentified neurological problem. You can support parents in requesting a physician's evaluation if a neurological problem is suspected;
  • there may be an identified neurological problem that Max's mom is reluctant to share. If that's the case, gently encourage her to share any strategies that she may have found successful, and explore together to find other helpful strategies.

It's important to communicate to parents that tension or disagreements at home directly affect young children. Tension at home is often played back in the classroom as unpredictable or aggressive behavior. Max's mother might find individual or group counseling helpful.

Even very young children know when they are not working well with their peers. Through family support and daily classroom interactions, we can often help children manage their stress and their behavior. We may try several strategies before finding the one that will work for a specific child. Classroom strategies range from gentie reminders about behavior to specific activities that will help a child refocus. Children flourish when they have a supportive home environment and strategies that help them to be successful in their classroom.