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Dear Teacher


Bossy, Unhappy and Bilingual Kids


Teachers Answer Your Tough Questions



November 01, 2009
>Unhappy Child in Preschool

Question: My 3-year-old son is not doing well at his current preschool. Two of his teachers are very stern and strict – not too friendly either. (I've visited the classroom.) My son is afraid of them and is always crying and unhappy. They don't help him join in the activities either. The lead teacher doesn't think he is afraid of them specifically – but of everything. She has suggested counseling. I wanted my son moved to another class, but the director refused. At a different preschool last year, the teachers were gentle, and he had no problems. Unfortunately, there is no room for him at that school.

Should I keep him in this school or look for another where he'd have to adjust to a new environment? And how can I tell what kind of teachers he'll get? – Unhappy Child

Answer: You've been to this school and seen it is not right for your son. It doesn't make any sense for him to stay and have a miserable experience. Put his name on the wait list at the previous preschool and start looking for a new preschool. Visit to make sure the teachers at a school are right for your child before enrolling him. If .you like them, chances are that he will, too.

Helping a Bossy First Grader

Question: My daughter is the youngest in her first grade class. She is spending all her time trying to get the other girls to like her. She is coming off as being bossy, and the other girls don't like that. What can I do to help her adjust? – Bossy's Mom

Answer: First of all, how does your daughter behave with family members and neighborhood children? Do you see a similar pattern of bossy behavior? One effective way to change it is by playacting different situations so she knows how to act appropriately.

Explain to your daughter that when she asks for things in a demanding way, the other girls will not want to play with her. Help her to learn how to rephrase what she wants in a nicer tone like "May I play with you." She needs to learn to ask and not demand. When she exhibits demanding behavior at home, ask her to rephrase what she wants. Also, you need to explain to her that sometimes other children will not respond favorably to her nice requests.

Learning Two Languages as a Child

Question: My husband and I both come from Spanish-speaking countries. Now that we live in America, we want our daughter to be able to speak both languages fluently. How do we do this without getting her mixed-up? – Two Languages

Answer: Being able to speak both languages will definitely benefit your child in the future. If your daughter has been hearing both languages, she is well on the way to learning each one. When children pick up two languages before they are three, one language may dominate at times. Research shows, however, that early regular exposure to two languages allows most children to become successfully bilingual. There is some disagreement about whether or not bilingual children develop vocabulary slower than those who speak just one language.

To help your child learn both languages, she will need to hear each one frequently in order to acquire sufficient vocabulary to speak them well. Use both languages in a natural way in your home. It's also a good idea to read books to your daughter in both languages to expand her listening vocabulary in each one.

Was Skipping a Child the Right Thing to Do?

Question: After just a month in kindergarten, my son was moved to first grade. The principal never even told us about this. I had to learn it from my son. The first-grade teacher is quite demanding. My child is now having spelling tests every Friday. Will not going to kindergarten affect him later on? I know that kindergarten would be boring for him and think it would be too drastic to put him back.— Kindergarten Question

Answer: It is rather astonishing that the principal did not speak to you about moving your son to first grade. Talk to the first-grade teacher right away and find out if this move was truly appropriate for your child. If he is unhappy and struggling, he might need to return to kindergarten. On the other hand, if everything about the first-grade experience is going well, then it was a good move and your son did not need the kindergarten experience to prepare him for future schooling.

Many parents who say that their children are bored in kindergarten will envy the fact that your child was removed from a class that could have been boring for him. The results of skipping like your son did are generally very successful.

You need to become more involved in your son's education. When the move was originally made, you should have talked with the principal about whether skipping kindergarten was appropriate for your child. Please keep track of how your child is doing by talking to his teacher from time to time and whenever you have questions.

Parents should send questions to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or ask them on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.

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