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Youngster Kicks and Bites Classmates

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I teach early childhood music education. I am currently teaching a child who is four and a half and kicks and hits other classmates when things don't go his way. Parents only response is that "He is a good boy". His verbal skills are OK but he is an ESL student. He understands everything I say to him. How can I work better with the children?

A: This is a youngster who has, at least in your class, inadequate violent impulse control. You clearly cannot have your class disrupted on a regular basis by this child. If indeed there is no language problem, I seriously doubt this aggressiveness is exhibited only in your class.

I would arrange a meeting with the boy's parents and their son. At this meeting I would begin by calmly looking at the boy and telling him how much you want to continue to teach him. Find some positive thing(s) to say about him. Then address the parents and go over some of the instances where their son has hit and kicked his classmates, saying that you want to help them and him in any way you can to control his outbursts and continue to have him in the class. Say something like, "Let's see if we can find out what bothers your son so much that he hits and kicks other kids. Maybe if we know what bothers him we can teach him to come to you or me and tell us IN WORDS what is bothering him. I'm sure we can all work together to make his music class more enjoyable for him and his classmates. Will you help me?"

Then I would turn to the boy and say, "I'm looking forward to a much happier time in class with you. If something or someone is bothering you please tell me right away with your words and we will work something out, OK?" If you receive denial and/or no cooperation from the parents and the boy's behavior continues to regularly disrupt your class, you need to ask the parents to withdraw him.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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