Preschool assaults growing national problem

Invercargill child, 3, eye-gouged playmates
The Southland Times 08/08/2009

A three-year-old who was removed from an Invercargill preschool for assaulting children in “spasms of anger” this past year is part of a growing national problem, early childhood workers said. Early Childhood Council chief executive Dr Sarah Farquhar confirmed this week the child was removed last month because of “extreme behaviour problems” that threatened the safety of other children.

Children in early childhood centres with severe behaviour problems were now a serious issue, she said. “We hear of three and four-year-olds who punch other children hard enough to leave bruises, spit and kick for no reason, damage equipment, kick doors, and swear at teachers,” she said. “It’s more than just acting up that’s usually a fight over a toy this goes beyond. It’s children throwing rocks at windows, it’s being bad for the sake of being bad.”

The problem had grown during the past decade as the number of three to six-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education had risen to 92 per cent, she said. That had introduced children from a wider variety of socio-economic backgrounds but no one group was at fault, she said. “Sometimes it’s children from bad families but other times it’s children with good parents who just don’t set enough boundaries.”