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Preschoolers Gone Wild

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Ronda Kaysen: It was "Helicopter Parents Gone Wild" at one Brooklyn, N.Y., preschool this past school year. In the end, the head teacher sent out a missive telling brazen parents, "In my entire 12 years of teaching, I have never experienced such an ineffective and distressing chain of events."

kid tantrum

The "chain of events" that transpired at Park Slope's Old First Nursery School -- one of the oldest cooperative preschools in the city -- centered around the issue of misbehaving 4-year-olds.

According to the New York Times' City Room blog, three children in the 15-student class were engaging in such outlandish acts as taunting, hitting, pushing and biting their classmates. At the request of parents, an outside observer was brought in -- who found the classroom to be normal and the teachers to be in control.

But expert opinion didn't appease the angry parents, who took the issue to the greater parent community and insisted that the troublemakers be sent home.

The Times reported that, as parents got more and more enraged by babes behaving badly, external evaluations were conducted, a session with a mediator took place (during which a parent wielding a banjo suggested a new school song) and a group of parents went so far as to try to implement a "no-tolerance policy toward aggressive behavior." 

In a heated e-mail exchange with other parents, the parents of one child wrote, "As the parents of a child who has been hit, knocked down, spit at, bitten and emotionally taunted throughout the year, we have to ask ourselves, what on earth is so wrong with a child being sent home when they have repeatedly hurt other children?" The parents added that "seeing a child sent home" would make their daughter "feel safe about going to school."

As the mother of a preschooler, I think this brouhaha seems so over-the-top. I mean, we're talking about 3- and 4-year-olds here. They're not exactly the most socialized bunch of citizens around.

Isn't the point of preschool to teach kids how to get along with others? Part of learning to play with other people is learning how to deal with aggressive kids. For the misbehavers, spending time with other children helps them learn that it's not a great idea to smack their friends.

It seems to me like this bunch of parents (who can afford to shell out nearly ten grand a year for preschool) is having a hard time facing the reality that they can't protect their kids from every conflict that befalls them, and that, from time to time, their precious progeny will get into a tussle or two.

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jr June 30, 2010, 7:28 AM

I live in the neighborhood. You are correct, the parents are out of their mind. Think ultra super liberal guilty conscience no discipline out of their minds people.

Kristin June 30, 2010, 8:54 AM

That is beyond ridiculous.

comment June 30, 2010, 9:10 AM

The acts described in the story (hitting, biting, etc.) are normal for 3 and 4 year olds. However, I wonder what disciplinary measures were used to make sure that the rest of the students felt safe. If it got to the point that other students were scared to come to school, then the school might not have done enough to control the poor behavior. Kids at 4 should know better and have self control against hitting - although, occasional lapses are expected. But, if the behavior was routine or excessive then more extensive disciplinary actions might have been needed. Our preschool (4 year olds) uses the red light system - you start in green and progress to yellow and red with violations. If you go past red then parents are called to pick the child up for the day. I don’t think this is unreasonable. The kids are given many chances to get control of themselves and change their behavior. These teachers have classrooms of 20 kids and can’t spend all day dealing with 1 or 2 troublemakers. It’s just not fair to the rest of the students.

bitten toddler June 30, 2010, 10:03 AM

This really upsets me…yes bitting etc can be a normal part of growing up but by 4 years old that is a parenting issue. As the parent of a toddler who was repeatedly bitten for months by another child I finally had to relocate him to another school because it is just not fair to constantly put your child into a bad environment. My child should not have to have black and blue welts on him every other week because another parent thinks it is just a phase and they will “grow out of it.” In my opinion there are 2 different situations with agressive behavior, one is a true developmental phase the other is nothing more than BAD PARENTING. It should be determined which situation the behavior falls into and manage it as such. My son goes to a great program and most good programs have a no tolerance policy…3 strikes and you are OUT.

Christie Barnes June 30, 2010, 4:10 PM

Kids go from a world of self, where they were the center of attention to a nursery or school world where self takes second place, or isn’t allowed.

Kids learning to relate to other kids looks like bullying. Kids have to learn what is and isn’t acceptable behavior and how to relate to other children.

As a mom of triplets plus a tween, I was paranoid but am riding the wave. By all means get rid of the biters, set out the behavior rules and enforce them, but parents, you are in for a tough ride to mature behavior.

Learning to behave is something that parents can’t buy for kids.

Alesha July 20, 2010, 9:39 AM

My daughter is two and I teach her that those things are not acceptable. Its all in the parenting. Does she get aggressive, yes. Does she get in trouble, YES! I do not allow my child to be mean to other children. I know that she has to learn to interact with the other kids, but when a child is screaming and trying to literally DRAG you out of the daycare because one of her classmates is “bullying” her, thats a red flag to me. That says that whatever he is doing to her is being allowed to continue. I don’t believe that any child should be allowed to push, hit, kick, bite, etc.. another child and be allowed to get away with it. Discipline! Middle school children, elementary school children are killing themselves because they are being bullied and nothing is being done about it! And this happened in our community recently so I am speaking truth. Nip it in the butt early on and don’t allow it and maybe, just maybe the youth in America will not be so out of control.

Anna August 7, 2010, 11:47 PM

Hard to say without knowing exactly how bad the behavior was. My daughter doesn’t come home from pre-school with bite marks, so obviously this isn’t an unattainable goal.

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