Teaching Young Children About Limits

There's a difference between normal exploration in young people and repeatedly engaging in prohibited behaviors.
My five-year-old son is in kindergarten. Recently I found out from other parents that my son has been asking their daughters to pull down their pants. He has also pulled down his pants in front of them. I told him that this behavior wasn't acceptable the first time I heard about it. But he has done it again and then lied to me about it. How do I handle this situation?
This sort of behavior is usually seen as normal exploration in a five-year-old. Your son, however, has repeated the behavior even after being told not to do this. A very logical consequence for a child who cannot play appropriately with other children is to not get to play with other children at all. In other words, since your son cannot play nicely with the girls, he cannot play with them at all.

Your letter sounds as if this behavior occurred at school. Make sure that your son's teacher is aware of the problem so that your son can be closely supervised. If it is happening in the neighborhood, another logical consequence is that he can't play with other children without an adult around at all times.

Talk with the school counselor about your son's behavior. She may be able to give him some individual time. If these behaviors continue and you decide that your son needs additional help outside the school, the counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community.

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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