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Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

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Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby jmom08 » Mon Feb 15, 2010 08:00 pm

I hope this is OK to post here -- it's unrelated to PE other than the fact that DS and I are PE survivors, and I think I'm especially jumpy/worried about DS being injured because of everything we went through during my pregnancy.

DS attends a church preschool, his class has 10 kids. He really loves his classmates, his teacher, and his school. The problem is that another boy with behavior problems seems to have singled DS out and plays really rough with him, and has now hurt DS twice. The first time, when I picked DS up from school, he looked like he had been crying hard and had bruises & raised bumps on his forehead & temple and around his eyes, and he told me that a particular boy had climbed on top of him when he was playing in a "tunnel" (plastic play equipment) in the gym on a rainy day, and the boy wouldn't let him get up. Two of the girls in the class came up to me independently to tell me that DS "hit his head." The teacher didn't see the incident & tried to downplay it, but the bruising looked worse by the time we got home, so I called the nurse and because of what the girls said & the raised knots on DS's head, they had me wake him up during the night & watch for signs of concussion. I told the teacher afterward about the nurse's advice, and told her which boy was involved, and asked her to please watch to make sure it didn't happen again & also talk with the other teachers watching the classes on the playground/gym. She assured me she would.

This time (5 weeks later), when I picked DS up, the teacher said DS came to her crying in the gym and told her the boy had been naughty. Again she downplayed it, but when I asked DS about it at home, DS got tears in his eyes and said that when he was climbing on *top* of this same tunnel, the boy pulled DS down onto the floor, and that DS's head hit the floor. That evening he suddenly started vomiting (no prior symptoms, no fever), so the pediatrician's nurse had us go to the ER, where the doctors insisted that we needed a CT scan (apparently the way he was vomiting & the timing was classic symptom of concussion). The scan was normal, so we just had a stomach bug and rotten luck on timing, but we are not happy about another possible injury (this time with CT scan radiation exposure). When we called to update the pediatrician's nurse, she said that we should tell the school that DS doesn't need any more CT scans because of that child, and that if DS were her son, she would have already done something about the other boy. So I feel absolutely horrible for not taking more action after the first incident.

DH & I notified the teacher we want a conference, and are meeting with her & the director on Wednesday, but in the meantime, she called, and I was disappointed with her reaction. She seems to think that it will be sufficient for her to watch the two boys more closely by herself (keeping them in the same class), and that she can keep them separate on the gym/playground. My concern is that she was supposed to be watching after the first incident, yet DS got hurt again (and no adults saw it happen), and I'm not sure how it's possible to keep 2 kids apart while watching 10 kids at once with 20 other kids running around (all age 3 classes have playground/gym time at once). I know I couldn't do it.

DS is developmentally on track, and is pretty articulate & accurate about telling us what happens to him, so we don't feel that we have a reason to doubt that the incidents happened the way he says they did. In addition, during a class party, I personally saw this other kid drag my son across the room by his wrist (the boy's hand was wrapped so tightly around DS's wrists that the boy's knuckles were white; the boy's mom walked over and asked her son nicely to stop, the boy didn't listen, and she didn't physically separate them, meanwhile my son is still being pulled across room). DS tells me regularly that this boy is too rough with him and that he wants the boy to leave him alone. Each time I talk with DS about staying away from the boy and telling the teacher when something happens, but I wonder how much DS can really be expected to assert/protect himself at age 3 - 4, and in the incidents where he got hurt, it doesn't sound like there's anything he could have done differently. When we invited the whole class to DS's birthday party, DS begged me to have someone keep the boy away from him so he wouldn't "be rough with me." The teacher has indicated that all the boys enjoy playing together, and it sounds like all the boys in the class can get rowdy at times -- but this boy seems to be the only one hurting other kids, and DS is the one getting hurt.

The teacher admitted on the phone that this boy has regular behavior problems and that she's talked with the parents "many" times and that it hasn't done any good (either talking to parents or attempting to discipline boy). So I was especially surprised when she suggested having my son go to play at a playground time with another age group. My son loves his friends, and some of these kids will be in his elementary school later on. I hate to see him punished / singled out because of another child's problem. I don't think the boy is doing it maliciously, I think he actually likes DS, but he doesn't seem to be able to understand (despite repeated warnings from the teacher) that it's not OK to physically drag/push DS around. And now we've had two possible head injury scares and a CT scan because of it.

I'm wondering if anyone has advice on convincing the school to take appropriate action to address the situation. DH and I feel that the teacher can't handle it on her own, especially given how soon the second incident happened after the first one (& that she'd been put on notice already about the issue). If the child remains in the same class / playground time as DS, we feel additional staff need to be involved in making certain the boy stays away from DS.

Pulling DS out of the preschool would be a last resort, both because DS loves the school and his friends, and because our options are really limited now that other preschools in the area have enrolled for next year (to the extent they had any 4 yr old openings to begin with). Preschools are frustratingly competitive around here, and we did dozens of hours of research (on safety, teaching styles, observing teachers, etc.) before picking this one. When we reenrolled in this school, we relied on the teacher's assurance that she would handle the situation and that things were OK -- I asked about it at DS's conference recently, I even asked if I needed to do anything else in helping DS about staying away from rowdy boys/play, and she basically said everything was fine. DS has continued to tell me about this boy being too rough with him, however, and I wish I'd listened to him instead of to the teacher. I believe that she hasn't seen DS getting beat up by this boy, but it seems like there are things she's not seeing.

I would be grateful for thoughts from anyone who's been through anything like this! Please feel free to message me privately too. I'm sorry for the long post... I'm just so stressed about the situation and the teacher's reaction, partly because I'm upset about the CT scan, partly because it would break DS's heart to have to leave the class/school. Both DH and I feel that we just can't take any more chances with head injuries.
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby mellybute » Mon Feb 15, 2010 08:51 pm

I have not had this experience but I do have an almost 4 year old son and also worked in a Montessori school for many years previous to having children.

My advice would be to talk to these parents yourself and see if you can get them to correct their son's behavior. Perhaps have a meeting with his parents alone and then if you feel like you're getting somewhere and you are on the same page, have a meeting with his parents and your child and discuss what is acceptable and what isn't. If the parents are unresponsive to your plight and you don't feel like you are getting anywhere, I personally would not allow my son in the class with this boy.

I would not allow anyone to harm, bully, manhandle my child in a rough manner. Your son cannot protect himself from this child and therefore, you're going to have to make decisions to do that. I understand him liking his other classmates, etc. but that is not worth getting injured to the point of ER visits and vomiting.

It COMPLETELY is the teacher's responsibility to make sure that this other boy behaves correctly and follows the rules. No child should be touching another child PERIOD. It's called keeping your hands to your own body.

But unfortunately their non chalant attitude about the whole situation is very disheartening and doesn't sound like a place I would want my child. Matters like this should be taken seriously and corrected immediately. It is the teacher/director's responsibility, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

I wish you the best, I really do. I hope you find some resolution.
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby milesymommy » Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:49 am

I'm sorry this is happening to your son! I had issues with this when my son was much younger. He was in daycare with 2 brothers. The older brother beat up on the younger brother, and the parents more or less condoned it ("boys play rough"). The older brother was placed in an older age group by the time my son was mobile and therefore "vulnerable", but the "rough play" the younger brother experienced was now engrained as the appropriate way to play. He was a few months older than my son, and very rough with him. I felt bad - this boy didn't know any different - but I needed to protect my son. Fortunately, the daycare staff was very vigilant on watching the boys. They were torn - it was a small daycare, and had taken care of the boys since they were babies. They wanted to kick them out, but also they loved the boys and felt like they were a positive influence in their lives.
My son got a few bumps and bruises, but never anything serious. We left that daycare when we moved, but I probably would have had more issues if we stayed longer.
I think talking to the parents is a good idea - although I know I would be hesitant in your shoes. Its hard to tell another parent their child is misbehaving. But I think it's what you need to do. I also would not let me son on the playground with the other boy until the problem is resolved. Maybe split time on the playground, so both get to play with friends?
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby jmom08 » Tue Feb 16, 2010 02:55 pm

Ack! I was hoping for good news (sigh!)

But thank you both for the advice. I had sort of ruled out talking to the boy's parents since the teacher has supposedly tried talking to them so many times (re: his behavior generally) and she says they're in denial, and since the boy's mom didn't seem very responsive/concerned while her son was dragging mine across the classroom. I think I am also sort of chicken about it. But if it would help, I will try anything (anything except putting DS at risk again). I guess that's my other concern, whether talking to the boy's parents would open up the possibility that I would have to let DS play with the boy again to see if he's improved. Which I just feel unwilling to do at this point unless an adult can literally hover over them at all times. Which I'm guessing no church preschool is going to think they can afford to do.

Melissa, I agree with you 100% on the touching. It sounds like you are right about our school, but I am depressed reading your response! :(

Some of my friends are telling me to remind the school that DH and I are lawyers. We don't want to get aggressive, though, we just want them to take it seriously and keep a dangerous boy away from DS. We're also not wanting the school to want to get rid of us (since it's not public school, we don't have right to attend), although I guess if they refuse to do anything beyond what they're already doing (ineffective supervision) we'll have to take him out. I'm so frustrated that this happened now instead of 2 months ago (or even 1 month ago) when we could have looked for another school. I am also sad thinking about how much DS loves school. Aimee, that is a good idea about splitting playground time. I also thought about suggesting they see if they could have the other boy to play with a different age group (maybe the year older, since the boy is so big and rough...), since I don't want DS to have to leave his friends and he's not the one hurting others. sigh. I am sorry you had to go through something similar!

Thanks again. I guess at least I'm not worrying about pregnancy symptoms at the moment...!
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby mnmom » Wed Feb 17, 2010 06:08 am

While I am going to take a little different approach here, that does not mean that I don't feel there is a problem.....Have you tried some role playing with your child? Maybe you can act as the aggressive child and have your child respond as he has. Does he say "STOP IT" or "I don't like it when you do that", or even "Let's do something else"? Or even more radical.....invite the child to your house for a playdate. Watch them like hawks and step in assertively but gently when the behavior takes place and tell the child "We don't treat friends like that here" and redirect. I again am not saying that you should continue to let your child be bullied. And, if he is exhibiting signs of fear already, it may be too late for this idea to be effective. Just another approach from a mom who has been there once or twice:)
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby mellybute » Wed Feb 17, 2010 09:47 am

Emily, I don't know the full scope of the situation (obviously) but am just giving advice on what I am seeing. Having worked in preschools with the same age children, it saddens me that the school isn't taking a more proactive stance with this obvious aggressive child.

Please let me know how this turns out and the resolution you find.
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby season » Fri Feb 19, 2010 02:04 pm

I'm concerned about this situation and the school overall. It's shocking that the school is downplaying your son being injured by another child! Does the school have a policy for how they report/document injuries. As well do they have a policy for how they should be handling an incident where an aggressive child hurts another child. It definitely should not be you discovering and/or your child telling you when he gets hurt. The school should be calling you!

Also, how is the teacher working with the kids when incidents occur. Is she talking with the boys - having them talk with each other? One of the big things that preschool is for is learning how to work with others, problem solve etc.

I have so many questions: Are these incidents happening out of the blue or are your son and this boy having conflicts that lead tot he boy being rough Does the other boy think he's playing - and not understanding how is playing is hurting your son? Is the other buy intentionally being mean/destructive? These are the sorts of thing I would expect the teacher to be working on in the situation. Just watching them closely is not enough - sure if she really can watch them all the time - she can intervene to some extent - but what is her plan when/if she sees an incident occur?
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby jmom08 » Sat Feb 20, 2010 00:56 am

Thank you so much for your replies -- update, DH & I met with the director & the teacher on Wednesday, but it was disappointing. The teacher plans to keep the boys apart in the classroom, but they don't yet know how they are going to make certain they stay apart on the playground, and while they're willing to move DS to another class, (a) that doesn't solve the playground time, since all the same age group often plays at once, and (b) DS loves his friends, and we strongly feel that it's unfair for him to have to move classes since he's not the one hurting another kid. The director refuses to move the other boy. I was really amazed at her reasoning -- she said that since DS is the only one who's been hurt, and that since *we* are the only ones requesting a separation, she says she therefore can't move the other boy. I repeatedly pointed out that the other boy is the one causing the injury and that our son is the one being injured. She doesn't seem to feel that's relevant. They tried to take a warm & fuzzy approach, but I just about lost my temper. The meeting ended with a discussion of the specific steps the teacher plans to take to keep the boys separate in class (& not treat DS like he's the one being punished), and with respect to the big unresolved playground thing, we told them we either need separate playground times (we even suggested the boys alternate times, so they can take turns playing with their own class), or have the floater/aid assist to make sure that someone actually watches the boys, since the teacher can't reasonably focus on these two while watching 8 other kids, and no adult saw either of DS's two injuries happen. The teacher didn't sound like she liked either idea, but the director took notes and sounded like she would investigate to see what they could do. The teacher did say that she would be willing to take her own class to the music room instead of the gym on rainy days. At that point I think I was turning into mama bear, they seemed to be more interested in finding a solution...

I'm most concerned about the teacher, and I hate feeling that way because we really like her in every other way. She kept repeating how much she wants us to feel safe & be able to trust her, and she even called me afterward to apologize for the incident. I think she is sincere, she seems like a good person. She seems like she's trying to smooth things over, but she kept making comments in the meeting about "normal play" and it seemed like she was minimizing what happened. When I mentioned the dragging incident I'd observed in the classroom, she said that the boy "sometimes pulls [DS] to go look at something, and usually he goes." I was too upset at the time for the comment to register, but I'm making a note now to specifically bring that up again... I don't want anyone pulling DS (or DS learning that it's OK to pull anyone else!). I hope it's just this teacher & this boy? The director is brand new, so I don't think she's been around long enough to have much of an influence (although it does sound like she won't be much help if something similar happens again with another kid). I'm thinking maybe I should go have a chat with the teacher he's likely to have next year, to see what her feelings are about kids keeping hands to selves & respecting others' bodies...

Lori, we did try talking with / coaching DS on asserting himself -- I don't think we used those specific words (those are good ideas!), but I'm not sure how effective he's able to be about stopping the behavior. After the most recent incident, I think I'm too scared of it happening again to be willing to give the other boy another chance on the playground. I hate taking an absolute position, but I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if DS ended up with another CT scan or worse because we decided to try again. We found out in the meeting that the boy admitted to having pulled DS off the equipment, and when I saw him dragging DS in the classroom, the boy didn't seem to respond to his mother's correction. I don't know the boy well enough to be able to guess what would get through to him, but I'm too scared after the ER trip to try it again with DS. :(

SueAnn, I do think the boy is just trying to play with DS. I don't know if he doesn't understand that he's hurting DS, or if he's been brought up to believe that being rough is OK. He seems to really like DS, which may be one reason the teacher keeps trying to characterize the incidents as "normal play" as opposed to injuries / risk of injury. I have a feeling that if it were her kid with two head injury scares & a CT scan, she might feel differently. :( That is a good question about her plan when an incident occurs. I will definitely ask her (since she plans to keep them in the same class!). Thank you!

Melissa, I am wondering if we should look into a Montessori school for next year -- there is one with a good reputation near our house that we'd looked at previously. We had picked this school because it lots of music/art/etc, which DS loves, & the Montessori school seemed almost exclusively focused on work time (& has longer, less flexible schedule). But I wonder if Montessori would be better about teaching respect for others? I hope that's not a dumb question, I know very little about Montessori other than what I tried to learn during our preschool hunt! I do hate the idea of starting at another school, esp. since most deadlines really have passed at this point, and DS loves the school and his friends so much. I don't understand how the director responded the way she did at the meeting. I keep wondering if I totally missed making some important point.

I almost forgot -- the boy's parents don't even know this happened. The mom called me yesterday to ask for a playdate. I was so caught off guard I didn't bring up the incident (had the genuine excuse of DS being sick). Afterward I called the teacher and told her I didn't feel comfortable not having told them what's happening, and the teacher suggested I go ahead and tell them. It feels like another bad sign that the school didn't take the incidents seriously enough to talk to the parents themselves. I'm drafting an e-mail to the mom now -- at least I can share the actual facts instead of worrying that they will hear a watered down version -- but I think I will also let the teacher/director know that I strongly feel they need to address it with the parents. (Am I totally fooling myself that they are going to make a real effort to make things safer??)

Thank you again everyone, and I am sorry again for the extremely long post. I really appreciate the concern & questions, they help me a lot. It also helps to vent & write this out. I wonder how much of my high stress over this is leftover from the fear I would lose DS during my pregnancy... sigh. You all are awesome (as always), thank you thank you!

edit: I forgot to mention some good news. The boy is going to a different school next year. I feel terrible for being so relieved, but phew. If we end up feeling we can trust the school generally with his safety (if...) maybe I could go myself to watch him during playground time for the rest of the year. At least as long as I'm allowed to be vertical with this pregnancy. :) He really loves his friends.
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Re : Preschool issue (age 3 - 4, rough kid hurting DS)

Postby mellybute » Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:58 pm

Emily, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Montessori. I worked in a "regular" daycare my senior year of high school in the afternoons. I worked in a La Petite for awhile in their infant room and a couple other private preschools. I worked at a very highly respected Montessori school here in the Rice Village area of Houston for about 4 years while attending college.

Montessori is the BEST when it comes to preschool. The philosophy and teaching styles are phenomenal. Montessori teaches practical life skills along with regular subjects such as mathmatics and language. The children thrive in the Montessori environment. It was the happiest and BEST place that I ever worked. After college I went into the corporate world and I still miss working at the Montessori school. It was a very happy place and night and day from any other school I had ever worked in.

If you are interested in Montessori for your son (which I HIGHLY recommend) please make sure when researching Montessori schools that they are AMA affiliated and that the teachers are Montessori certified. A lot of schools "use" the Montessori name and do not have the above accreditation to be a true Montessori environment.

I hope you find resolution with your son. I think an email or conversation with the boys parents is a MUST!! They need to know what their child is doing. And even if they downplay it, it will help you get it off your chest. The teacher actually admitting and telling you that the boy drags/pulls your son to look at things, is disturbing in my opinion. I think I would say to her "and you think that is acceptable?" and if she says yes, you have your answer. Remove him immediately. Do not leave your son in an environment that you may really regret one day. The fact that the did not tell the other boys parents about the incidents is very disturbing too.
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