Smart is as smart does.
A quick digression


I’m finally feeling better after a bad last week… so that means I’m also feeling up to discussing something else that happened. My son had his first “assessments” at school. 

Academically, he’s fine. Knows his ABCs, and colors, and shapes, and the names of three different animals (yes, that’s how it was written on the paperwork). Not that I was worried, whether he did well academically or not. I mean, these are two- to three-year-olds.  I know there are parents who do, but I’m not going to stress over the “academics” of preschoolers.  Enjoy being three, you can study the finer points of dodecahedrons later. 

However, Chance’s behavior has been “red-flagged” at school. His behavior is “age appropriate”, yet still “consistently excessive” in terms of energy, aggressiveness, and “lack of focus” compared to the other kids his age. (Don’t you love all those quote marks?) The director of the school was very nice and supportive (yes, the director was in my parent-teacher conference), but she also suggested that we start looking at other assessments for Chance. 

I can’t say part of this was terribly surprising. There have been ongoing issues with his aggression at school and we’ve been working on it. It’s not that he’s a bully, it’s not vindictive behavior… but he’s very rough. Sometimes it’s in play and sometimes it’s not. He can’t seem to NOT touch the kids around him. If someone is holding his hand he tries to touch with his feet.

And if it’s a bad day and he’s told to not kick, he might start those feet flailing just because he was told not to.

See, because my son IS strong-willed.  And highly energetic.  And cheerfully exuberant even when he’s being completely and purposefully defiant. He’s impulsive (good and bad) and affectionate (good and bad). Choke holds and hugs can look interchangeable. He might hit a kid over a toy and two seconds later give him a kiss. He always wants to be with and/or meet new people, even if he’s not getting along with them very well.  He has no fear physically and the (sometimes idiotic) bumps to prove it.  He is often totally exasperating and makes me want to tear my hair out, but he’s also one of the most fun kids I know. 

And I don’t want anyone squashing any of that out of him. 

Yet we do need to get his behavior under control. 

(This just feels crappy.)

So the energy and rough behavior wasn’t surprising.  What was surprising was that I didn’t realize his focus was so far off from the other kids. Because when he wants to be he can be very focused. But his teachers say his mind seems to be “always working” and therefore he loses concentration instead of focusing on what’s at hand.  Or he’s too busy noticing other things to pay attention to what he’s supposed to be doing.  I know he can be all over the place when he’s excited – I’ve seen for myself that if we’re at a birthday party or other function, he runs at twice the speed as the kids around him – but apparently at school he’s almost always all over the place and the lack of concentration shows.

Now we are setting up appointments and doing all the reading and so on and so forth.  And it’s a bit overwhelming.  Immediately, ADHD popped up. Which also wouldn’t be that surprising; two of my brothers were/are ADHD and we’re almost certain it might be undiagnosed in Keen’s family as well.  But other terms and disorders were mentioned in that parent-teacher meeting (not that they were suggesting) and I’m slogging through those as well.

Even though… it might not be anything.  It might be a blip brought on from potty-training-induced anxiety.  We might be playing too rough with him inadvertently and he’s transferring the roughness.  He also didn’t start the “terrible twos” as early as most of the kids, so I was sort of thinking/hoping that maybe it was just hitting extra hard now. (At least that was what I was thinking before he was red-flagged.) I am still hoping that Keen and I can make changes with our approach to help Chance make changes with his behaviors. That was research I had started looking into before his school assessment came up.

This is coming out a little choppy but that’s where I’m at at the moment.  This will probably have to be a two-parter (or twenty-parter).                 - wg



This is my daughter to a tee. Gosh. I know exactly where you are coming from.

I'm sure that if I lived in North America, my kid would be considered ADD or something. Personally, after having had a brother who was "ADD" I'm pretty well sold on the idea that this is a make believe syndrome. Coined by people who didn't have any imagination and couldn't imagine having to deal with a kid that's going a 100 km/h in 5 different directions.

My mom went with the flow and trusted the system. My brother went on ritilin and that's when things started to really go downhill. I don't want to freak you out with the details, but kids that have been on ritilin [seem to] end up as junkies. Happened to my bro. My mom is kicking herself now.

So... whatever you do... if they offer drugs to calm him, try and and keep away from the pills. They aren't for the kid, they are for the people that have to deal with the kid. Boo.

My two cents. Sorry if I got a bit preachy but I hate the fact that my brother's eyes are dead from drugs and all because these people couldn't handle him when he was younger.


I am by no means an expert, but it seems like three might be a bit young to start worrying about whether or not he's "focused". I mean, holy hell, he's THREE. It's, like, the age where they are annoying.

I'm kind of annoyed for you that the school is already evaluating and red-flagging and giving reports. Some kids are just by nature more high-spirited. And upheavals can make toddlers (especially boys, I'm going to say it, the genders are different, people) more aggressive, more obnoxious, more bloody damn toddler.

Clearly you know your own kid best. And if you think there may be more to it than normal toddler behavior (whatever that is) then by all means do some research, avail yourselves of some resources, get educated. And likely this post was just to get the worry off your chest and not a cry for assvice from the internets. :) But try not to let it consume you, and don't be afraid to stand up to the teachers and ask them how they handle Chance when he starts getting wired. Compare their methods with yours. Maybe you just need to make sure everyone's being consistent with him to settle things down a bit.

Good luck!


Hi, I found your site through Momma Em, who found my site through... I have no idea. Soo, I don't know you from Adam, but I do know kids and I do know how it is to be a parent. I was a preschool director before they raised the 'red flag' and used Ritalin and I raised 3 children fairly successfully.

Your post really struck a cord in me, so I hope you don't mind if I put my 2 cents in. Ok, so here goes. Early intervention is always good, so continue doing your homework and work on investigating behavioral management techniques before drugs. He sounds active, as a lot of boys are, but he doesn't sound totally out of the ordinary to me. My youngest was very much like him and he now works for the sheriff department as a correction officer. A job where you definitely have to control yourself. It wasn't easy raising him, it took consistency and patience, but it was totally doable.

One of my favorite text books on working with children's social development is, "Guiding Children's Social Development: Theory to Practice". I think you might find some proactive approaches that can help your son. I wish I had read it when I was in the trenches raising my kids. And it is totally normal for kids to do what you tell them NOT to do. Practice telling them what to do, it works much better. Good Luck.

the weirdgirl

Thanks ladies! You know it's funny, I've seen meds work and I've seen them NOT work. I'm definitely a fan of structure and behavior modification techniques over meds. Especially at three-years-old! Unless they are off the chart with problems, I don't see any reason to put a toddler on medication. 'Cause there ARE kids who are more spirited than others without anything being "diagnosed". And frankly, a lot of those characteristics that are red-flagged in preschool are celebrated in adults, athletes, etc.

My concern is that IF there is something else going on, then we do early intervention so he's in the right environments. My biggest fear is that Chance starts to feel bad about himself because he's always in trouble, and I will do anything I can to prevent that happening.

By the way, any book suggestions are welcome! I've already picked up "Raising Your Spirited Child", and "Taming the Spirited Child" is on its way. If you've found books that you like please share. There's so much out there it's overwhelming.


A tip I wished I had back when Mark was three (he is now 12.5) was this: it is amazing how many children are never actually trained in behavior that we think is obvious. Like, how to stand in a line. Or how to listen.

I actually within the last year did this with both of my kids (also Kira, age 8). I taught them what listening looks like. Listening looks like sitting still, with nothing in your hands, keeping your eyes on the person speaking. Then later to reinforce, if you see your child wiggling around or not focusing, you ask, "What does listening look like?"

Mark (probably) has (undiagnosed) ADD, and this has made a big difference to him, even at this age. Never too late. But man, I wish I had done it earlier. mk

p.s. A little late, but I'm delurking! Actually, for reasons I can't quite remember, I drifted away from here awhile ago, but am back. Waving hello.


He sounds like a normal three-year-old to me.

Personally, I think in America, the ADD/ADHD diagnosis is thrown around way too much. Way too many kids are on Ritalin these days.


If this is mostly just happening at school, would you be able to sit in on a day at school to observe what's happening? In the context of a lot of stimulation (kids to play with, changing activities) and discipline (confined spaces and behaviors) does he find it difficult to conform?

I agree with changing behavior thru positive statements about what to do as opposed to hoping they'll understand that saying "not" before a statement means stop. How many of my adult coworkers also don't hear the "not"?! It's an amazing phenomenon.


Spirited does not necessarily mean ADHD. I'm with Jason; I feel too many kids get labeled with ADHD. But since his school has questions and you have questions of your own, I would definitely look into getting a professional assessment.

And if this ends up being a twenty-three parter (or a 230-parter), so be it. It's your site. We wouldn't read if we didn't care.

If you need anything, just ask. I'll be thinking about you guys.

the weirdgirl

Makira, thanks! That's a really good tip and I'm going to try it. There are lots of things like that that people just expect kids to know. You're right, I think it's good to "show" them sometimes.

Hey Jade, actually since I've chaperoned events a few times I have seen him at school. His behavior is much better when I'm there. The directors feel it's partly a security issue. He's having the most trouble with transitions; they think he feels out of control and then starts getting physical with the other kids as a reaction. When I'm there he's much calmer because he feels more secure. Plus, I can keep a closer eye on him than the teachers trying to manage the whole class.

Jason and Chag, I hear you on kids being over-diagnosed. I get so frustrated that there seems to be such a narrow standard that kids, especially young ones, are supposed to fit into. At the same time I have seen kids who really need extra help... so I'm trying to stay open and proactive.

Thank you for all your good thoughts and advice, everyone, I really appreciate it.


This may be completely off the mark, but the way you described his needing to be touching people kinda reminded me of the way some people describe a mild sensory integration disoreder. I have done absolutely no research on it, but if you're looking around, maybe throw that into the mix to look at too. Maybe not. Feel free to ignore...

Lori at Spinning Yellow

I had to chime in here b/c my son, Scott, has Sensory Processing Disorder and had many of the issues you describe here. I like that Spirited Child book, recommend it highly. Also, you might want to consider a screening/evaluation by Early Intervention b/c it is possible that it is NOT ADHD and may be more of a sensory thing that could be helped with state provided OT (or other services). BUT, it might just as likely, be totally normal!!

I think it is Ok to red flag b/c you'd rather know now than later feel that they didn't tell you they had a concern. But it doesn't mean there IS a problem.

Sorry for the rushed comment - if you want more info you can e-mail me!


I discovered mostly by chance that Mark can hear the lights in the classroom. (I can, too, but I have trained myself to tune it out) He's highly sensitive to visual and auditory stimuli. That's a lot of input to handle, no wonder he gets easily distracted.

(Still frustrating)

I also agree with the overuse of the ADD/ADHD diagnosis, and especially with the drugs. I have not and will not have Mark tested, because I don't want him boxed into that. I'd rather just recognize that his particular personality has XyZ quirks and work with them. (still, it becomes very easy to throw it on the "possible undiagnosed ADD" that I toss out sometimes for a shortcut)

WG, I'd love to know how my tip works for you! mk

red pen mama

As the wife of a psychologist, I was going to chime in with my 2 cents too. (I'm not a professional, but I'm married to one...)

But I think you've gotten a lot of good comments here, so I've nothing to add. Except: you seem to have very good instincts. Trust them. Good luck.



I have nothing more to add to the comments people have already made, except to say that if/when the time comes for some kind of intervention beyond just a change in technique of teaching behavior to him, you and Keen will know what to do. You seem very in tune with Chance and with each other and I've no doubt that you'll make an informed decision. Good luck!

the weirdgirl

Hey Katie, yeah, I've been looking into those, too. Thanks! (And sorry I haven't been by lately. I've had my head up my butt with other issues.)

Lori - I've been thinking of you, too! I'll probably email you soon!

Markira - I'll keep you posted!

RPM and Andrea - thank you both so much! You have no idea how nice and validating it is to hear someone else thinks I'm working off good instincts! There's a lot of opportunities to doubt yourself with this parenting gig.


I heard something, a while back, on BBC Radio. A reporter was interviewing a scientist who'd recently written a book (I forget the author and title) about people who were dominating, aggressive, type-A, etc.

She had a fascinating theory. Basically it's like this: Our pre-human ancestors had alpha males and alpha females, just as the great apes do today (the silverback male gorilla being the best-known example.) And even though these proto-humans evolved into modern humans (100,000 to 500,000 years ago), the alpha-male and alpha-female genetic traits remained--and still remain. So dominating, aggressive, type-A people are simply alpha males and alpha females.

In other words, they are the born leaders-- and Chance may be one of them!

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