As a parent of a preschooler, it can be worrisome when your child starts acting out in school. From displaying a defiant attitude to back talking and lying, there is a wide range of behavioural problems that children can display in kindergarten.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do at home to help your little one deal with his or her strong feelings.
Here are five common behavioural problems kids go through in kindergarten in Singapore, along with tips on possible causes and how to help them.
Lying is a common problem
Everyone lies or has lied before – even adults. So try not to take it personally when you catch your child lying, although you may feel betrayed, shocked and hurt.
Start by thinking of the situation from your child’s perspective and understanding what compelled him or her to lie. Was it to get something they wanted? To cover up a mistake and avoid being scolded? Children usually lie when they are afraid that the truth might have negative consequences.
Think of the classic example of a child with cookie crumbs smeared all over his face, insisting, “No it wasn’t me. I didn’t eat the cookie.” The kid wasn’t “bad.” The kid wasn’t a “liar.” The kid just wanted a cookie and he was worried that if he told his parent (or teacher), then he would not be allowed to eat it.
How to help: When you catch your child in a lie, explain why it is important to be honest. Explain what it means to trust someone. Let them know that regardless of their intentions, it is never okay to lie. Be understanding but firm.
Backtalk often starts during Kindergarten in Singapore
Your child starts kindergarten in Singapore, and all of a sudden he or she is talking back, shooting smart-alecky retorts, perhaps coupled with an eye-roll. Rude language, snarky tones and disrespectful behaviour can be infuriating, but as with all behavioural problems, it is best to start by determining the root cause.
So why is back talk a common behavioural problem amongst kids who start kindergarten in Singapore? At this age they are beginning to gain more independence – that may be why they talk back when they are requested or ordered to do something. Your child may also be testing an authority’s limits and trying to get a reaction by being rebellious.
Separately, the root cause could be unrelated to you. Perhaps your child is having a tough time at school and does not know how to express his or her frustrations, so it is being taken out on you or another authority. Or maybe your child is merely imitating brash language that he or she has heard before, spoken by a friend or an adult, without actually understanding what “Back off!” or “Mind your own business!” means and why it is disrespectful.
How to help: After you determine what may be causing this behavioural problem, talk to your child and explain how his or her rude comments make you feel. Together, come up with alternative ways and phrases for your child to speak his or her mind. Observe your own interactions with him or her to make sure that you are modeling the right attitude. Praise your child when he or she exhibits positive behavior and politeness.
Bullying is unacceptable in kindergarten in Singapore
Have a zero tolerance policy for bullying. Start by explaining what bullying is, who a bully is, and provide specific examples of physical and verbal bullying (e.g. “hurting others, doing mean things, picking on others, taunting and calling them names, taking others’ belongings by force,” etc.).
Bullies are people who pick on others to feel powerful. Sometimes this is triggered when a child is going through a stressful life event. Bullying is a serious problem and should be dealt with accordingly.
How to help: Start by teaching your child to treat everyone with respect and kindness, no matter their appearance, race, religion, family background, or special needs. Always encourage positive behaviour and tell your child that you believe he or she can change for the better.
If bullying persists, seek the help of a therapist or work with your child’s teachers, ccounsellor and school officials.
Emotional regulation problems require practice and coaching
Children who start kindergarten in Singapore should be turning five years old. By this age, having recurrent, raging meltdowns and tantrums in class is a sign that he or she has difficulties with emotional self-regulation.
A child who is unable to restrain his or her immediate behaviour response is prone to acting out. You might observe that your child gets “easily distressed” (at seemingly simple tasks), which inevitably leads to instantaneous outbursts and hugely intense, negative reactions.
Remind the child to slow down instead of being impulsive. Coach your child through a situation that he or she has trouble handling. Break down the activity into small steps and target one step at a time, allowing your child to build self-regulation skills, until your child can complete the challenge on his or her own.
This “scaffolding” process requires practice, feedback, and praise, and should eventually lessen your child’s meltdowns.
Disobedience and not wanting to listen
Not listening to the teacher is another common behavioural problem that kids go through in kindergarten in Singapore. Perhaps your child ignores the teacher’s orders on purpose. Or could it be that your child does not understand what is being asked? There are many different sides to a problem and it is always important to look at it from your child’s perspective too, instead of assuming right away that he or she is in the wrong.
Children’s relationship with their teacher is dynamic and that can make or break their experience in class. It affects how they learn, act, and feel.
How to help: “Do you like your teacher?” “Is there anything that your teacher does that you wish she or he wouldn’t do?” “Do you feel that your teacher likes you?” are some questions to ask to help you gauge whether your child is getting enough positive attention in class. Talking to your child’s teacher, learning her perspective and communicating your concerns will also help.