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Abusive Preschool Classmate

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

Q: My son's preschool classmate threatens the other children with death on a daily basis. He doesn't, however, seem to do this in the context of a game such as cops and robbers. He's a bright four-year-old who's also physically violent, although the threats are more common. The teachers and his mother have assured me that this is normal behavior. I find this hard to believe, considering that the other children seem to be afraid of him. I am considering removing my child from the school because of this. Am I doing the right thing?

A: It is absolutely not normal behavior for a preschooler to be making death threats to his peers on an daily basis. I'm surprised that preschool teachers with any training in child development would regard such behavior as "normal." His mother is clearly in denial about his psychological well-being if she is unconcerned about his chronic, physically violent behavior and his death threats.

I would ask other concerned parents to meet with the head teacher and her staff to discuss what they plan to do about this boy. If they are steadfast in believing that there is nothing to worry about and that his behavior is perfectly normal, I would strongly consider placing your child in another preschool. A preschool staff who would not see this boy's behavior as seriously destructive and alarming don't possess the wisdom that I would demand of my child's caretakers.

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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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