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Five-Year-Old Acting Out at School


I’m having a huge issue with my five-year-old pre-K son. The teacher keeps telling me he doesn't want to do his work, that he’s easily distracted and he often bothers other students while they are working. He apparently can't keep his hands to himself and gets close to other kids’ faces and doesn't know what personal space is. He is a good boy at home and very smart, but I just can't get him to behave in school.



You’re not alone. Many children struggle with the structured environment of school. Because he is still young, you can teach him by role-playing at home. Give him an assignment as though you were the teacher, then set the timer to see if he can stay on-task until the assignment is completed and the timer dings. Praise him as he begins to do it successfully.

Do the same with personal space. Show and tell him how close he can get to others. Use an object as a measuring device. Then practice it frequently, each time using and demonstrating how far away he needs to be. Reinforce him with praise, high fives, pats on the back and hugs.

When he feels like touching others, show and tell him how to either put his hands in his pockets or, if his pants don't have pockets, to put his imaginary “handcuffs” on: arms behind his back, with the thumb and index finger of one hand latching around the wrist of the other.

Teaching and practicing how you want your child to behave is the most effective technique when it comes to attempting to correct misbehavior. Because he is only five, “show and tell” is ​effective because he can visualize and practice positive behavior, making it more likely he will actually do it.