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Question
Posted by: R | 2013-02-04

5 year old

HI Doc, thanks for your always sensible and truthful advice.
I have a 5 year old in Gr 0 this year. I took him out of his previous school due to the complaints by his teachers, after taking him to a play therapist who found his behaviour to be age-appropraite in some cases and in others to be learned. He''d been at the same school since 3 months and I found as time went they were getting busier, with more kids to the ratio of teachers. So in the end, after they found it difficult to accept the play therapist report, and gave me a bit of nasty attitude I thought a change might be good.
I went to some diffiulty finding him a good school as it was late in the year, but eventuallly we did get accepted at one of the best schools.
Now his new teacher is also complaining, that he does not pay attention in class, and even on the playground. I am still to meet his teacher to find out the details of this behaviour. I am concerned.
What I am finding difficult to reconcile is that fact that at home he listens more often than not, is very loving and an appreciative child. He is so aware of things children his age are not, like being caring towards other people, understanding the cost of things, asking if I mind he cuts one of my flowers for something he may want to use for, like feeding caterpillars. He''s a naturally curious and investigative 5 year old.
He gets enough attention at home, even more than his 1 year old brother, as I try to make him feel just as important as the baby. He loves the baby too, but at times is a bit careless around him. He hardly ever gets disciplined at home as he is generally well behaved.
I am so very disappointed as I try so very hard to give my children the right attention as I work full time. Their father works away and is hardly ever there, so I try even more hard to fill both roles. He never seems bothered that his father is not there, as this has always been the situation since he was born.
Would you suggest I take him for more play therapy, or an educational psychologist?
The first complaint was last week and I had a chat with him. His father is home this week and went to fetch him from school and this is when the teacher complained for the second time. It sounds very serious and I''m worried.
What else can I do to make my child understand he needs to be serious about being in school from now?
We have now decided to stop TV during the week. And also to move bed-time from 8 to 7. he does get up at 6 in the morning and spends about 3 hours in after''care at school, then we get home by 4:30. Could the days be tiring for him? I also don''t want to keep making excuses for him, which I never do with his knowledge.

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Our expert says:
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Nasty attitudem unless we provoke it, is never a good sign when it comes from schools.
In this new school, of course you're right, you need to meet with the teacher and find out more about what's troubling him. But don't be too puzzled that he seems different at home and at school - you're probably perceptably different at home and at work, and maybe different when with different friends, or at a party, and so on.
If he hardly ever gets disciplined because he usually keeps to the rules and expectations, that's fine. So long as its not because discipline is lax and significant rule-breaches are being ignored.
As his father has been largely absent since his birth, he presumably sees dad as an occasional treat, rather than a constant pleasure, like mom.
If you want more expert advice, I'd strongly suggest a CHILD psychologist, maybe an educational psychologist, and NOT a play therapist. I think Play Therapists are over-valued by teachers, and NOT qualified to make all relevant diagnoses. Its a form of therapy that may or may not be useful in a given situation. But STARTING with a very specific type of therapist rules out all other types of intervention. Its like sending him at the first belly-ache, to a surgeon who always takes out the appendix, before we know surgery is needed or if the appendix is at fault.
The sort o complaints you quote are worth attention, but don't sound "very serious". They occur in very many kids. His day could be tiring, as you describe it.
The punishment of no TV sounds like you could be getting it wrong. Punishments work when they are very specific and for a specific time, and for the breaking of a very specific rule, so it's obvious exactly what the boy needs to do to redeem himself - it doesn't sound here as though he may be clear what exactly he has done wrong, and more important, what exactly it would look like for him to get it right

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