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Jennifer, School Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 397
Experience:  Collaborative parent consultation on everything from modifying behavior to child development.
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I read you response to the question about 3 year old pushing. We

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I read you response to the question about 3 year old pushing.

We have done all of these things to the letter for several months, seemed to have nipped it in the bud and two weeks ago it came back worse than before. His teacher are very involved as well.

He is about to get kicked out of preschool.

Hello and thanks for using!

I'm glad to see what you've tried already. That's very helpful. The important thing to think about is what could possibly be reinforcing this behavior for your son.

People (including children) only do behaviors that work for them in some way. There's something about this behavior (either the behavior itself or the consequences that follow) that is maintaining it for him as an acceptable thing to do. Does that make sense? He's gaining something and we'll need to figure out what that is in order to find a replacement behavior / reward that will meet the same need yet through more appropriate behavior.

I'd encourage you to continue what you're doing, but sit down with his teachers to ask them a few key questions. This process is called a Functional Behavioral Analysis. You can look those words up online to find several templates for those kinds of teacher interviews or you can just ask a few based upon my answer. Essentially, this interview always includes questions about three parts -- the antecedent or trigger (what usually happens immediately before the misbehavior), the behavior itself (hitting) and it's consequence (what happens after -- both immediately and long-term). This is often referred to as a-b-c. Ask about how the teachers respond, how peers respond, and if there tend to be certain situational factors that tend to heighten the potential for his acting out (e.g., feeling hungry or tired, certain teachers or peers being present or absent, etc.)

By analyzing all of this, you're looking for a few things... You're trying to theorize what could be motivating him to continue with the behavior (some examples might be seeking attention from peers or teachers, avoiding an activity he doesn't like, expressing his frustration, or even the sensory experience of hitting). The other things you're looking for are things you can modify to shape the behavior itself. Without knowing the a-b-c details, I can't offer suggestions specific to your situation, but I can tell you that in general things that I've done in behavioral plans include providing a child with some skills training on how to calm down and practicing use of an appropriate place / way to vent frustration (if the child is simply lacking emotional regulation and the ability to express his feelings), offering a squishy ball or directing to a safe object to hit (if this is a sensory stimulation issue), providing LOTS of positive praise for good behaviors and ignoring misbehavior as much as possible (if this is an attention seeking behavior), etc.

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you! I'd be happy to help you analyze what is happening once you've done the teacher interview. It may also be beneficial to have a classroom observation done if that's possible to get an objective view of what's happening. I hesitate to say you should do this since he'll know you're there and behave differently, of course. If there is a counselor who works with the school or another teacher who might be willing to watch for 20-30 minutes and take some notes, it might be very valuable information.
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