Parenting

My Son Got Kicked Out Of Kindergarten

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24 days. 24 days is how long my five-year-old son was in kindergarten before the school kicked him out. He was hitting and kicking other kids — sometimes spitting — almost daily. His classmates were upset (understandably). Other parents were upset (of course). The teacher “had enough,” we were told.

“We want to see him succeed,” the leadership team told my husband and me. “And we do not think this is the right school for him to do it.”

My husband and I put our son in private school because we knew he was showing signs of possible ADHD. He had problems in pre-K specific to aggression, lack of focus and moving around when he was supposed to stay seated, which we were able to break through after about eight weeks of intense work with his teachers, an at-home specialist, a school specialist, and the unwavering support of a preschool director who knew this behavior was not unusual and that progress takes time.

We hoped kindergarten would be the same. This school offered a much lower student-teacher ratio than our zoned public school and we thought the individual attention would be the magic ticket to getting our son through one of the hardest transitions of a child’s life — kindergarten.

Because, in fact, this sort of behavior is not uncommon. And often, aggression specifically is tied to slower development of impulse control neurologically, not the trauma or household violence or malnutrition the media likes to tie to challenging behavior. According to Psych Central, “Overly aggressive children appear to have less mature nervous systems than other children their age. This shows up in a variety of problems with self-control… Once they begin to get excited or angry, they have difficulty stopping themselves.”

I will not give up on him. I hope the rest of the world won’t, either.

Despite knowing aggression in young children is not uncommon, we still took this behavior very seriously. Every day I dropped my son off at school, I said a little prayer. I prayed that our discussions about kindness would finally sink in. I prayed that my son would “stop and take a deep breath” when he got angry or anxious, just as we practiced. Mostly, I prayed that no one got hurt that day.

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And then I focused on everything we were working on behind the scenes. We had a behavior specialist routinely shadowing my son at school. My husband and I were reading the recommended books and trying various techniques. We had met with a doctor who determined our son was still too young to diagnose but showing ADHD symptoms.

Even with all this in place, we had to pick our son up on day 24, along with all of his belongings, and take him home. Almost all the kids in the class got up and walked over to give my son a big group hug as he came to say a final goodbye. It was a moment that almost brought me to my knees.

The next day we signed him up for our zoned public school and we are ready to tackle the exact same issues at a different school. I have signed up for individualized training with a behavior expert who charges $350 per hour. And my husband and I signed up for a “how to deal with challenging behavior” parenting class that is free through the school district.

I’m amazed at how unprepared — or perhaps uninterested — the private school was to deal with behavior issues in their students. I’m flabbergasted at how easy it was for them to give up on a five-year-old. But most of all? I’m heartbroken for all the parents who do not have the financial resources, the time, and the privilege to get the specialized help we can only access through our middle class wealth. What happens to those kids? How and where will they get the help they need?

I’m amazed at how unprepared — or perhaps uninterested — the private school was to deal with behavior issues in their students.

As a society, we have a long ways to go in child development. Kindergarten should be a safe space for all children. I take my son’s aggression issues very seriously. But I also am determined to help him get past them.

I will not give up on him. I hope the rest of the world won’t, either.

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