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My Five-Year-Old Daughter is Having Major Issues in School


​​My five-year-old daughter is in kindergarten and is having major issues in school. She can't (or won't) stay where she needs to. At this point, the school is removing her from any social activities with other students due to her hyper ways. She does not hurt, bother, or cause issues for the other students in her class, but her teacher said, "She is the worst child she has taught in twenty-plus years of teaching." I'm at a loss for what to do. I've tried everything to get her to stay still and do what she's told, but it's not working. Medication is the last resort, and now the school is pushing for her to be medicated or have her removed from school.



In looking at your daughter's behavior, has she previously had difficulty in group or educational settings, or is this a sudden onset? Does she display this behavior at home and in other settings, or is it only exhibited in school? If it is a school-specific behavior, then it's obvious that can control her behavior in certain settings. 

Try talking to your daughter's teacher to see whether this behavior occurs during certain times of day, during particular activities, or with specific children. It's also essential to outline with her teacher an intervention during school in order to deal with her behavior. Some schools have behavioral consultants or school psychologists who can assist with developing a plan. It's important that you work closely with the school to rectify the behavior.

It would also help to have a consistent approach for dealing with her behavior if she's having problems at home. The suggestions below can help you deal with your daughter's behavior and can be applied both at home and at school. In fact, it is preferable that you and her teacher take the same approach to dealing with her behavior. 

Talk with your daughter about her behavior at school. Make sure to clearly outline your expectations for her. If you are also having problems at home, you can address those as well. 

Define for her the desired behavior. She needs to know what the rules are both at home and school.  If she breaks the rules at home, stop her and describe the problem behavior. Then give her a negative consequence.

Have her practice the behavior that you want her to display. It's important to be consistent with the process, and you should remain calm as you go through this process. 

Praise your daughter when she is sitting where she needs to be and complying with instructions. 

Ask your daughter's teacher to take a baseline of how long she can sit while at school. It also would be helpful if her teacher can keep data on what locations, subjects, and activities she is able to sit through better, as well as the situations when she is disruptive. This will be helpful in evaluating where to go from here. Once the teacher takes a baseline and determines what your daughter's average time is for sitting still, she can build on that strength. At first, she can give your daughter a reward or praise when she sits for a period of time, and then the teacher can gradually increase expectations. When your daughter does sit calmly, she should receive praise or a special reward, such as being a teacher's helper. 

Make sure to give your daughter positive praise when she behaves. Be specific in your praise, and praise her often when she is doing well. Many families like to use a chart to document positive behavior. You can also add the behavior that you want her to display in the school. Your daughter can even help create the chart: Let her pick out stickers for the chart, and give her a larger reward when she displays positive behavior for a certain amount of time.

Set up the expectations for the reward so it's achievable for your daughter. For example, if she has issues daily, then you may want to set expectations for reward daily. Also, rewards don't have to be expensive. In fact, some families use a "joy jar" from which children can pick from a variety of rewards, such as spending time with adult, a trip to the library, their choice of favorite meal, etc. Have your daughter help write rewards she would like to earn on pieces of paper, put them in a jar, and let her draw from the jar when she behaves appropriately. 

Your daughter's teacher seems to be very frustrated with her. It's also important to evaluate whether your daughter's teacher is frustrated to the point where she is no longer able to be effective with your daughter.  If this is the case, then you may want to request a different teacher.

Finally, it's understandable that you want to consider medication as a last resort. However, a behavioral evaluation can provide you with more information about what is going on with her. 

If you would like to talk more about this subject, call the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. A counselor is available 24/7. You can also visit for a number of great parenting resources.