Q&A: My Child is Aggressive in Preschool

Tamara GuoBehavior, Challenging Behavior

blockquote_bgMy child does great at school but she is just aggressive. She turned 3 in February and is the youngest in her preschool class. The other kids are turning 4. The problem is there is a new teacher in her class and my child has picked up a very aggressive behavior toward her friends. I don’t know what to do.  My husband think she has A.D.D.

My first suggestion would be to schedule a sit down meeting with her new teacher to discuss your concerns regarding your daughter’s aggressive behavior. There is always a reason behind a behavior and together you need to figure out why she is being aggressive towards her friends. Is she on target with her speech and language skills and social skills? Sometimes children with delays in speech or social skills will use hitting or other aggressive behaviors to get attention or to get their point across if they don’t have the other necessary skills in place. Is she overly tired? Does she get a lot of attention when she acts out in the classroom? Preschoolers without delays are still prone to temper tantrums, aggression and fighting over toys and this is not out of the ordinary. Preschoolers in group settings are even more prone to these behaviors.

What you need to establish for your daughter is whether this is typical for her age or if you think it’s something more. Also, your child’s teacher needs to have skills in behavior management in the classroom. If you are seeing these behaviors at home and school you and your child’s teacher need to establish a behavior plan so that you can all be consistent in managing these behaviors and eventually diminishing them. For most acting out behaviors, the smartest thing parents & teachers can do is to be consistent, and to anticipate times when problems may occur. You have to be proactive, and head off situations in which there are likely to be meltdowns, aggression or tantrums. Parents and teachers can divert attention, for example, offering one child a different toy when two children are fighting over something.

Offer choices when appropriate, explain things on the child’s level, and enlist the child’s cooperation as a helper in the classroom. Ignore what can be ignored, pick your battles and always lavish on praise when your child is behaving appropriately. Let them learn that they receive attention for behaving, rather than for misbehaving. Behavior sometimes escalates with changes, so a new teacher can be one reason she may be acting out, especially if she was attached to her other teacher. Basically at age 3 most children are still learning to self-regulate and most behaviors, although bothersome and worrisome at the time they occur (biting, hitting, etc) do not usually continue long term and by the time children are 4 they are much better at self regulation.

So if your daughter was 4 going on 5 and still demonstrating these behaviors, I would say it would be a bigger concern. If you have concerns that your daughter’s behavior is escalating or not improving over time, you could seek an early intervention evaluation with your local 3-5 service provider. But, I would definitely start with meeting with your child’s teacher. For more information on behavior and self regulation you can check out these links on our web page: self-regulationchanging behaviorbehavior management.