Undesirable Influences at Preschool
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Undesirable Influences at Preschool
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?
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
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
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.
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
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!''
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,
(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
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
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?
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
this page was last updated: Nov 10, 2008
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