Undesirable Influences at Preschool

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Son is starting to pick up on aggressive behavior

Feb 2008

My 2 year old attends preschool part time and I have some concerns regarding the aggressive behavior of some of the children. I have witnessed the behavior when I drop my child off in the afternoon. My son is also starting to push, slap, and pinch at home. I spoke with the teacher and she said this is normal behavior, but I feel as though the school does not do enough to stop it. I want my son to learn social skills and how to handle himself on the playground so I do not want to be too sensitive. Does anyone have experience with preschools in the East Bay that do a good job of handling aggressive behavior and promoting empathy, peace, kindness? What do they do? What can I do as a parent? Andrea

Just so you know, chances are pretty good that your child is slapping, hitting and pinching at school just like he is pinching, hitting and slapping at home. As a preschool teacher, I would not label a child exhibiting these behaviors as 'aggressive.' I would label him or her as 'normal.' As his teacher (and I am not your child's teacher, because I live in a different state), I wouldn't feel it necessary to talk to you about your son's 'aggressive' behavior unless there was something specific that we were working on together. Even then I wouldn't tell you that your kid keeps smacking kids and grabbing their toys, I would probably say something casually like 'Joe and I are working on sharing this week.' If your child was having a tougher time than 'normal' I may talk to you privately about some things that you could model at home with him or ask some techniques that you find effective at home to handle the child's frustration (which is tough for the newly two as they are just beginning to test their boundaries in a way that is unappealing to adults and many parents don't have good behavior management techniques yet).

As far as 'empathy,' 'peace,' and 'kindness...' From what you say, your school already reflects those values...They have an understanding of what is normal for a two year old. Regarding their handling of it, have you asked for specifics from the teachers? What do they do when your child is involved in a very emotional situation? Do they read books on the topic during story time? Do they model gentle behavior? Those are just two quick things that come to mind. Chances are they employ many wonderful techniques that they can share with you to use at home. your kid is normal...so are the others...

I would say that yes, it does seem that kids at this age hit. However, there is a big difference in how things are handled by different schools/teachers. Our first preschool was horrible as far as the teachers handling the constant feeling of stress and violence that I felt was happening and basically just said that ''kids will be kids''. So, ok, maybe, but the truth is I felt like what was happening did not sit well in my own gut and I could not in all good conscience leave my child at that school. I moved schools and it was the best thing we did! Although there is a an occasional incident of hitting at our present school, it is handled in such a loving and compassionate way that I feel so much better about it when it does happen. I guess what I am saying is that the bottom line is that you have to trust your own gut and if it feels like your school is not capable or willing of handling kids who are out of control, then I would look for another school. Good luck with your decision

I can definitely relate to your experience. My 2 year old does not hit but is the one that gets hit. So, we practice a few strategies at home. I tell him repeatedly the words he needs to yell when he gets hit: ''Stop hitting'' and ''No Hitting'' and then I take out his arm when he is saying these words. Then we role play. He does this at home. But, when we are in the park or class, he doesn't say these words, instead he looks at me for help. So, I tell the child who hits him to stop hitting and I hug my son. I then tell the other child that he hurt my son and that he wouldn't like it if he were hurt. But, even though he is still not saying his words in public we continue to talk about it and role play at home, in hopes that he will say it in the future. I think that I've done my part at home.

As for the preschool, I informed my son's preschool teacher that he tends to get hit. I asked the teacher what techniques they apply when hitting occurs. They say that they tell the person who hits that hitting is not allowed. I then asked a favor from her, which is to hug my son when this happens as a way to comfort him and know that he did not do anything wrong.

One of the moms who is in my mommy and me class suggested to the following, which is implemented in her son's co-op preschool: emphasize that the person hurts the child when he hits. You do this by talking to both children, and really show them that the person was hurt, ''look at face, he really didn't like it'' ''you made him very sad when you do that, you wouldn't want to feel sad, would you?'' Then, you TELL, not ASK, the child to say sorry. It really bothers me when moms say, ''Can you say sorry to him?'' The parent has to take responsibility for his/her child's actions and by telling the child to say sorry is one way to accept the child's actions and take responsibility.

As you can see, this has been a big issue for me and my son. I think toddlers hit him because he is very tall for his age and they think he is a big kid. I can only teach my son the techniques and hope that he will apply them.

Good luck! Precilla


What can I do to reduce the corporate exposure at preschool?

Oct 2006


We have a 3 year old son, who is warm and caring. He attends a Montessori preschool full-time and does well there. He is not an outgoing, run-around and climb the walls kid -- never was. More cautious and thoughtful and likes to be a follower and fit in with the rest of the kids.

Anyway, now that he in class with older kids (up to age 5) I have noticed a huge surge in the amount of expsosure my son has to things like Disney, superhero's, and the like.

I don't want my child exposed to all that and up to now he has had no idea who Goofy, Superman and the rest are. Now, he plays Spiderman in the play yard and it seems that every child comes to school in Lightning McQueen or Batman clothes. Lunch boxes are a veritable who's who of cartoon characters.

Ironically, my husband and I work in TV, but don't let our son watch any. We figure there is enough time in his life to be seduced by advertising, whether it be Happy Meals, t-shirts, stickers and the like with the latest Disney product and we would rather not encourage it.

What can I do, if anything, to reduce the corporate exposure at school? All tooned out

I can identify with wanting to protect children from marketing and merchandising, but unless we choose to live alone in the woods, we're exposing them to SOME of it. The best we can do is to minimize the effects and share our own values--but also ultimately find ways to deal with the fact that we don't want our children to feel like outcasts.

My understanding is that Waldorf schools can be more proactive about lifestyle choices of the sorts you're making, so perhaps you might want to check them out. We decided, though, that they weren't for us, and while we can pick schools that support our family's educational goals, we can't control everything, especially other families' decisions.

I'm sure it gets harder, but so far, so good. Our 3-year-old still doesn't watch tv, but she now recognizes some Disney characters, for example, and takes little note of them. She was clueless when a kid at preschool kept saying, ''Swiper, no swiping!'' from Dora, but that fact didn't derail her ability to play at school nor did it make her beg for tv. And, my favorite example, she excitedly told me one day after school, ''There's a restaurant called Old MacDonald's!'' mom

Are you open to changing preschools? If so, you might get in touch with the East Bay Waldorf School for a list of preschools where this is not an issue, because the parents agree with you that TV is not a great idea for young kids. I was interested in the fact that you both work in TV--Waldorf parents also tend to keep young kids away from computers, and a lot of the parents are computer professionals. --Another Non-Commercial Mom

Besides keeping him home, the only sure way to cut down the influence of commercialism and media on your child is to switch to a waldorf based preschool where media exposure is discouraged. There you will also find a calmer, nurturing environment that may fit your son's temperament better (I have a similar son who flourished in waldorf) and like minded families who are concerned about the same thing. Contact the East Bay Waldorf School for local preschool recommendations no TV family

Our Montessori preschool does not allow ''character'' clothing, lunchboxes etc. (although some kids do have character lunchboxes.) You could try asking your school to adopt that policy of no character clothing; it doesn't seem like a huge burden on the other parents. There is some Montessori-esque reason behind not having character stuff, though I don't know exactly what it is anonymous

Hi, My son is also at a montessori with 3,4 and 5 year olds together. His school allows media characters and I notice the kids going through phases - last year it was all power rangers and star wars, this year it seems to be pirates and knights. It doesn't bother me (i also work in the media business) and it doesn't bother me that it goes on at his school, cause overall they are a really sweet group of kids and they socialize really well together. If it did bother me or if I sensed any over aggressiveness coming out I would talk to the teacher, and/or look into a Waldorf school or there are some montessoris that do not allow any media items or tv watching. Unless a majority of the other parents or the teachers really had a problem with it i think it would be a little much to try and force the school to change it's policy. okay with spiderman

The bad news is, there isn't really anything you can do to limit your child's exposure to cartoon characters at school. (Short of choosing another school where ALL the other parents feel the same way, and even then it probably wouldn't work because the kids see the lunch boxes and so on in stores anyway.) The good news is, you really don't need to worry about it. If your child continues not to watch the actual TV shows or movies in which the characters appear, then the characters are just basically props for imaginative play. So he wants to play Spiderman?

That's not different in any important way from wanting to play ''hero'' or ''police'' or any other fantasy role involving physical activity and pretending to have magical powers, which is totally normal for preschool boys. Does it really matter if he calls it ''Spiderman'' instead of a more generic name? In my opinion -- as the mother of a 5-year-old boy who watches very few movies and almost no TV, and whose only clothing or accesories with superhero images is one three-pack of underwear - - not at all.

The only thing you need to watch out for is, if your son goes to playdates at his classmates' homes without you, ask the other parents about their TV-watching rules beforehand.

And if your son wants a licensed-character t-shirt or lunch box, don't freak out. Use that as an opportunity to discuss these issues with him (in an age-appropriate way, of course). You may find that he has very interesting reasons for liking certain characters -- whether you agree to pay the price for the merchandise or not, you're likely to learn something about his world and teach him something about how to make his own way in it Holly

First of all, I love that you work in TV but won't let your child watch it. That should be a good reminder to the rest of us...something about making sausage... Anyway. Does this Montessori school allow those toys to be brought to school, or are kids just wearing the t-shirts and playing games based on what they've seen? I had the impression that Montessori schools did not let any toys come to school, licensed characters or not. If you want a school where no Batman t-shirts or lunch boxes are allowed, check out Waldorf. Personally, I think that is going a little too far and I don't see how that can affect your child. Similarly, I think that jumping around on the monkey bars saying you are Spiderman is not harmful either. I guess your kid is getting second hand marketing but they are not getting the ill effects of being a couch potato. Superheros and fairy tales do have a role in our society and if your child is learning about them from their peers in an imaginative way instead of swallowing the Disney version whole, all the better anon

Nothing. Welcome to school time. Just wait until elementary. And, this is the Bay Area. Imagine how it is elsewhere? -Anon.

I don't think there is any way to put the genie back in the bottle as your son is now old enough to have experiences away from you. I found the book ''The Other Parent: the Inside Story on Media's Effect on Our Children'' by John Steyer very interesting because it talks about all the media influences on your child not just television from now and for the rest of his life. This author's idea is that we cannot raise our children in a box, they are in the world and will be bombarded by media messages. What we can do is begin to teach them to be media savy. And we need to start teaching at a young age as they are already under the influence. media mom

Yes, it is so difficult to avoid all the commercialization of childhood; there is little support for that goal in our culture. What we have done is chosen a Waldorf education. This may or not be the right choice for you, but there are Waldorf preschools. Even if you don't embrace everything about Waldorf, it is a good place to look for support in your pursuit of less mass media for children you are not alone

From what I've heard, perhaps you should look into Waldorf schools. I think they are anti-commercial, anti-TV, movies, etc. for all their students. Then your son would be with children who are similarly not exposed to the things you describe. Otherwise, kids these days are just into all that, and as your son gets older, it will be just as available to him as it is in preschool heidilee

Three is a really cool age. Three to four is when kids really begin engaging each other in conversation rather than limiting exchanges to adults or just sort of talking 'at' each other. Because conversation requires talking AND listening, however, it also means that your kids is finding out about things that previously you had been able pretend didn't exist. It sounds like a tough job when all of his peers are dressed from head to toe by Madison Avenue.

Have you thought of looking for a new school? I honestly don't know anyone who dresses their children in anything with a cartoon character on it. There may be the odd lunch bag with a cartoon character on it thrown into the lunch basket in the morning, but that would be more the exception to the rule. And, I would hazard a guess that the offending lunch bag was purchased when Mom or Dad had a weak moment in the store after a very long day or grandma purchased it because she thought it was cute. Also, while tv does have a place in our households, it hardly dominates. Most of my friends are the shove the kids into the backyard for some fresh air, making and decorating sugar cookie types, or strip down to your skivies and go at it with the finger paint sorts.

Otherwise, continue to keep that tv off/minimized. I wouldn't advocate total 'deprivation' later on, but it sounds like you are already cognizant of that need for balance later. Try to suggest alternative games to Batman. One of my daughters is very active -- has been since the day she was born. But, she HATES the Batman game as much as I do. I try to channel the kids in the playard away from Batman to a game of tag or 'redlight greenlight' or jumping contests -- active, but not sort of violent zap you in your face kind of play. Also, plan get togethers or trips to the playground with kids that are more his speed. -hate batman, too

Well, a Waldorf school will, theoretically, consist of kids whose parents let them watch little or no TV, and will not allow character clothing & accessories or play. But if you like Montessori pedagogy, there is much about Waldorf that may turn you off (as it did us).

You could talk to the school director/teachers and ask about whether rules could be made restricting characters on clothing & other items, and redirecting any character based play (our AMS-certified Montessori school does this).

But I think it is hard to reduce exposure to commercialism in childhood these days. While trying to limit exposure, we should also work to make our kids critical consumers and talk to them about what they are imitating/desiring (asking why they like superheroes, telling them how you feel about them, etc.) Montessori Mom