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Preschool teacher too harsh?
Q: Whenever my 4-year-old son gets a time-out at his preschool’s extended care program, he loses privileges at home, too. However, I feel that one of the teachers—a student teacher still working on her degree—is giving time-outs when a warning would suffice. How do I deal with this without undermining the teachers or being inconsistent?
Kate Cleveland, Ohio
A: First, let me say that I think you are doing exactly the right thing to give him a time-out at home if he gets one at school. That kind of school-home cooperation is essential if a school program is to be effective.

With regard to the teacher, I would support her decisions and actions as much as possible. Your son probably can’t tell the difference between a teacher and a student teacher. To him, both seem “old,” experienced and in charge. If you demean her to your son, it might make him even more unruly and give him the feeling that he needn’t obey the student teacher.

You must have a good relationship with your son or he wouldn’t tell you about his school time-outs, knowing that he would get another at home. Use the frankness and honesty he is showing to talk to him about rules. Explain that his extended care teacher may have stricter rules than his daytime teacher but that, whenever she is in charge, he has to go by her rules.

And don’t hesitate to talk to her if you are convinced that she is being too strict. She has probably been told by her supervising teacher when to give a warning and when to use time-out and may be simply trying to follow instructions. After this, if you are still convinced that she is being too stern, schedule an appointment with his main teacher.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education