An inconvenient boy

In Four-Year-Old Expelled for Acting Like a Child, Kender MacGowan argues that it’s unreasonable to kick a boy out of preschool for threatening his friends.

Unable to sleep during nap time, and made to step into the hallway until he could stop crying, the cranky 4-year-old lashed out in a classroom at The Family Development Center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

“I am going to go shoot all my friends!” he said, according to a written account that the day care center provided the boy’s parents after the July 22 tantrum.

In three years at the center, Kyle had reported for fighting over toys, not staying still at nap time and running when he was supposed to be walking.

The father of an 8-year-old boy, MacGowan thinks it’s normal for little boys to run around and be up when adults want them to be quiet.

When I was a kid, we rode our bikes without helmets and our skateboards without kneepads, and climbed trees and fell out of them in our neighbor’s yard. Nothing was said other than “Oh, are you OK?” We got angry with each other and made silly threats (”I’m gonna hit you so hard your grandkids are gonna cry”), and had fights, many times where one of us or — more usually — both of us ended up with bloody noses, scrapes, and bruises. But the next day, sometimes in the next ten minutes, we were back to being friends.

I just read Howard Buten’s When I Was Five, I Killed Myself, which features an eight-year-old boy who frequently expresses the desire to kill people and things he dislikes. He also “socks” other boys for teasing him. It’s an odd book (very popular in France) about an odd kid, but his wish to “kill” is considered quite normal.

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  1. Margo/Mom says:

    I have seen data that suggests that pre-schools have a bit of a problem when it comes to suspension/expusion. And since most are completely in the private realm, this is how it goes. While I can sympathize with low-paid, not very well-educated, overworked child care workers (although I would expect a bit more from a University Family Development Center) dealing with problems by trying to make them (the kids) go away, the reality is that some kids are easier to work with than others. Ask any parent with 2 or more children. This doesn’t make them pathological.

    I think what they need is a grandmother–someone to say to a cranky four year old (with authority), you are going to come down the hall with me. Now, sit on my lap in the rocking chair and tell me what you are so upset about and we’ll see if we can figure out how to make it better. Key is understanding that an overtired four year old has probably gone beyond their ability to “self-sooth,” but this doesn’t mean that they don’t still need to sleep. I have filled that role before with kids (even ones that were threatening death) and it generally works. Boys particularly seem to respond by falling to sleep–if you can just get them to hold still.

    But I also have a son who came to a parting of the ways with a child care center at about age 4. He did things like taking the toys off of the shelves, not respecting other children’s toys. I was glad to leave–things were not going well. And I would say that he has always been a child with more intensive supervision needs and I understand (believe me I understand) how tiring this can be. It frequently wasn’t the particular things that he did (although he had his own particularly creative response to the world as well) as just the constancy of ALWAYS doing something.

    We have got to beef up our commitment to finding ways to care for the needs of all the kids–even the tough ones. They are so interesting.

  2. I don’t have an opinion about whether he should have been kicked out or not (because I don’t know the details of his history at the school), but it sounds as though the problem is with his parents. If the father thinks it’s acceptable for kids “to run around and be up when adults want them to be quiet,” it seems as though he doesn’t understand that a child has to be trained NOT to do what comes naturally. Yes, it is normal for a child to WANT to do what he wants all the time, but it’s the job of responsible parents to teach children to be controlled, first by adults and later by themselves. A kid who is justified when he just follows his instincts is a kid who’s later going to have trouble with lack of self-control.

  3. Robert Wright says:

    Normal to sock a child in the face and make his nose bleed?

    Sure it’s normal–when nobody is around telling you it’s wrong.

    Lower standards low enough and it eliminates all bad behavior. By definition.

  4. Sounds like a perfectly normal Klingon child. He sounds like many of the kids I grew up with. Most of us grew up OK.

  5. Sounds like…a boy. I grew up playing with boys–in sandboxes, on swingsets daring one another to jump, or otherwise just being active. They were more fun than playing with the other little girls who just wanted to play house, or tea party, or other (quiet) things. Girls are ideal for preschools–they’re predisposed to be more quiet and better behaved than boys of the same age.

  6. Charles R. Williams says:

    It seems the boy is in day-care and not preschool. Maybe he needs to be home with his mother instead of being “institutionalized” as he has been for the last three years. They say day-care can lead to more aggressive behavior.

  7. Margo/Mom says:

    David M.

    I wonder how old your sons were when you could be certain that any time they left the house they would do everything adults told them, never run when they were supposed to walk, always be quiet at nap time, oh, and never fight over toys. And how do you train then to make this happen?

  8. Catch Thirty-Three says:


    My response, based on your history of posts, will make you extremely squeamish.

    How do you train boys to make that happen?

    A belt worked for me…

  9. Margo/Mom says:

    C33–and had you accomplished this feat and in this manner by the time they were of day care age (say age 3-4)?