22 September 2006

a preschooler's predicaments

So James has just had his first full week back at nursery school -- he's going 3 mornings a week this year, which is a very nice thing for both of us. But we are having a little trouble adjusting to being back at school -- sometimes it's just so hard to be four years old.

First is a sort of anger management problem that we've been dealing with since summer. James is very sensitive and emotional, has a hard time controlling himself when he gets upset, and has taken to very deliberately hitting other children during disagreements. On Wednesday a girl stole a block from him, so he snatched it and hit her with it. Today he and another girl disagreed about the source of the bells they were hearing from outside, so he hit her. This is really frustrating, because he knows that hitting is wrong, of course, but he is making the choice to hit. I've seen him act out in the heat of anger, and these incidents are not thoughtless reflexes. So we are working hard to reinforce appropriate standards of behavior.

Today we were driving home from school and I had him tell me his side of the story and we talked about what he could have done other than hitting. Then I gave him kind of a little lecture about the hitting, about how to resolve disputes, to remember to stay calm and use words, to remember that it's okay to disagree. After I was finished talking, there was a brief silence. Then James asked, very seriously, "What happens if you flush beer down the toilet?!" So it seems we also have to focus on the listening and concentration skills.

The other issue is a little more exciting: James is involved in a love triangle. There's a new boy in class, Bernie, who James has really hit it off with. Well, on Monday, James' teacher told me that James was talking all day about marrying Caitlin, a little redheaded whirlwind of a girl. I assisted in the classroom on Wednesday and several times James put his arm around Caitlin, kissed her on the cheek, told her he loved her. (She seemed kind of indifferent to him, but whatever. I like to see him expressing positive emotions, even if they're not returned with equal enthusiasm.) He sat next to Caitlin at circle time, but it was snack time when the trouble began. Because Bernie sat next to Caitlin, leaving no room for James, who was pretty upset about being separated from the girl he loves. Everyone eventually shifted and made room for James to sit on the other side of Caitlin, but then I noticed Bernie putting his arm around her. James' best friend making the moves on his favorite girl? Tragedy!

Of course, today, I heard not a word about Bernie or Caitlin, so maybe the whole thing is over. You know how preschoolers are.

So week 1 was not ideal, but we're hoping as we settle into the routine things will just get better. We'll see.

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