Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Behavioral Prep for Kindergarten

I have been a Kindergarten Classroom Aide for years now. I've seen some children struggle with language barriers, dexterity, and speech impediments. But all of these challenges are typically overcome by the end of the first semester. Even children whom have never attended preschool, daycare, or have never seen public television can catch up to the educational and developmental milestones of their class mates. But there are some things that aren't and simply cannot be taught in the kindergarten classroom. Behavior is the most inhibiting shortcomings a kindergartner can have. Behavior is taught at home and takes longer to become a habit. If your child hasn't been taught how to behave prior to kindergarten, prepare to show up on back-to-school night and find your child is isolated from the entire classroom. This is a practice I find both disturbing yet effective. Here are some behaviors that crucially must be corrected prior to beginning kindergarten.

1. Hitting - Children hit. It's common. They don't have the vocabulary to express themselves effectively, so they lash out. We live in an age of Zero Tolerance. Many schools don't apply this rule to kindergarten but still, many do. Teach your child to use her words not her hands. Also teach her that even if she's just kidding, to keep her hands to herself. If someone hits her, the antiquated rule of "hit her back" needs to be retired. In kindergarten, we tell an adult. Better to allow her to be a "tattle tale" than to receive a call for her violent behavior.

2. Solo potty time - You may think it's cute or funny that your child camps outside the bathroom door when you go, but it is socially unacceptable. In kindergarten, your child cannot join others in the potty, nor can your child be chaperoned. Your child needs to be able to conquer his fear of the toilet flushing or having the door closed while using the restroom. Otherwise, be prepared to hear tales of other kids laughing at your child "doing his business" in front of everyone. This is something you should correct for your child's safety as well. A child who does not need assistance inside the bathroom stall is less likely to be comfortable with strangers touching, wiping or seeing their genitals. Kindergarten teachers will not and cannot go into the restroom with your child. Prepare them to do it on their own now. Also, teach your child that it is okay to ask to go to the restroom. Some timid children have been known to wet their pants rather than ask to go to the restroom. Public urination is also socially unacceptable. Some of you may think this is obvious, but consider the fact that I have seen boys and girls using the tanbark as a litter box.

3. Meltdowns - Meltdowns, tantrums, emotional breakdowns, no matter what you call them, they completely disrupt class. When your child throws a fit, the teacher has to stop what he is doing to get your child under control. There are at least 20 other children in the classroom who desperately need the teacher to finish the lesson. That won't happen if your child is on the floor in the middle of the room. Teacher's Aides like myself, will do all we can to quiet the tantrum, but like the teacher, we are needed elsewhere. We are correcting papers, prepping stations, testing reading, being language interpreters, prepping snack, and maintaining safety. A tantrum is understandable and forgivable but it is also detrimental to the learning environment.

4. Stealing - Kids steal because they don't understand why they can't have what they want anymore. Parents say, "no" and the child doesn't comprehend or agree with the logic behind it. In the end, the local AM/PM is short a candy bar. This isn't cute and can be very serious. Some families are low income. Every headband, jacket, box of crayons, took a financial sacrifice. Teach your child empathy to quickly curb this behavior. No one likes to be stolen from. Help them understand that.

5. Touchy Feely - This is all encompassing. Nose picking, crotch grabbing, licking, biting, chewing all need to stop by kindergarten. The most obvious reason is germs. Pencil chewing and nose picking cause illnesses to spread. Everything else causes fights to break out.

Sometimes, children pick up bad habits just days before starting kindergarten. Be sure to tell your child's teacher that you are having issues with curbing a certain behavior. The teacher will be more patient and more helpful with correcting the behavior. There are times when aides like myself are assigned to a child specifically to help with a disruptive behavior. If your child is taking longer than you can allow, to learn control certain behaviors, be prepared for a complaint to come home. Don't be defensive or rude. Acknowledge the problem and assure the staff that you are trying and that you need more time. Sometimes, staff can forget that behavior modification can take time too.

Remember, teachers are not parents. It is not their job to parent, or raise your child. It is not their job to discipline your child. Please don't expect them to do so. Be proactive and supportive and your and your children will make it through kindergarten with ease.