When you mention behavioral problems in school, most people think of high schoolers: unruly teens who don't listen to their teachers, make fun of their superiors, goof off in class, and, in more extreme cases, get violent.
The truth is, behavior issues appear at every single age level--most people (parents, I'm looking at you) just don't realize how their kids behave when they're not at home.
Lesson Number 1: Your child DOES NOT behave the same way at school that he/she does at home.
So let's talk about one student in particular that I had in one of my preschool classes; we'll call him Mr. A. This child was three. Nothing particularly outstanding about his appearance--short (obviously), a little stocky, pudgy cheeks, dark hair, dark eyes (which, when my roommate saw a picture of him, she described as "dead, dead eyes," but that's neither here nor there). Mr. A was a last minute addition to the school roster, added in when another family suddenly withdrew their student a week before classes began.
On the first day of school, Mr. A was dropped off by his mother and father. Within the first five minutes, we found out that Mr. A's parents were divorced, really disliked each other, and fought constantly over how to best parent him. The father left first, promising to return later to bring Mr. A his lunch. The mother stuck around.
Mr. A sat happily on the floor throwing Duplo blocks at the wall while his mother told us lovingly of her "little prince." In the next few minutes, she referred to him only as a prince, an angel, and the best boy in the whole world. I kid you not.
And then she left.
By the time we got to morning recess, Mr. A had hit another student, had three screaming fits, and made two other children cry. We all prayed this was first-day acting out.
Turns out, this was normal behavior for Mr. A. Within the first hour of every school day, he threw a screaming fit. Not just a bit of screaming and some pouting, but all out rip-your-lungs-out-of-your-chest screaming that invariably started with a long, loud wail you could hear all the way down the hall in each of the classrooms. When he finally settled down, he spent the rest of the morning hitting, kicking, and biting the children who sat next to him during circle time. When it came to play time, Mr. A liked to throw wooden blocks at the teachers' heads, beat the other students with toys and books, and draw on the walls with permanent markers.
Mr. A spent most of his time in the time out spot.
The teachers hoped that, with consistent consequences, Mr. A would learn how to behave properly in the classroom. He did not. In the very last week of school, he was still hitting and kicking the other students, often making them cry. Throughout the year, more than one parent approached Mr. A's teachers to tell them that their son or daughter was afraid to come to school because of Mr. A. Two days before school let out for the summer, Mr. A was covering the bottom of the slide with mulch and throwing it into other students' eyes. When I asked him to stop, he didn't--and when I ended up having to forcibly move him away from the slide, he responded by throwing mulch at me as hard as he could.
Let me tell you how fun it was to drag a screaming, thrashing, biting, and kicking toddler across an enormous playground to his teacher. He sat outside and screamed for over an hour before finally stopping and being allowed back in the classroom.
And despite all this, when his mother arrived, he smiled and tilted his head to the side and was perfectly behaved. She always greeted him with a hug and asked, "How's my prince today?"
Just wait until I tell you about Mr. J, the other violent student--this one liked to attack the teachers.