How to Deal with a Child Misbehaving in School
Wondering what to do with a troubled child? Whether your 3-year-old is misbehaving at preschool or your 13-year-old is acting out in school, managing your child’s behaviour when you’re not around is challenging.
But it’s important to understand that even the most well-behaved children can get into trouble at school or daycare sometimes. So to prepare for the possible day when your child gets in trouble at school, follow these tips for effectively handling the situation.
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Keep Your Cool
A teacher calling or a requesting to talk about your child’s behaviour might catch you off guard. And you might feel embarrassed or angry. But it’s important to remain calm and gather the facts before you let your emotions overwhelm you.
So listen to what the teacher has to say—and without interruption—so you can understand the entire situation instead of jumping to conclusions. If you are too upset to stay calm during the conversation, ask to arrange a conversation later on so you can calm down first.
Respect The Educators/Daycare Providers Who Brought This Issue To Your Attention
Listening carefully to the teacher is also respectful and helps keep the conversation on a positive note. As a parent, it can be easy to jump to the defense of your child when their behaviour is being criticized. But it’s important to be respectful of the teachers or school personnel who are reaching out to you.
They are speaking to you in the best interest of your child, and the last thing they want is to start a conflict. So keep your mind and heart open when meeting with the educators—they care about your child, too.
Hear Their Side Of The Story, Ask Questions
Listen to what the school or daycare has to say about the incident and ask questions calmly to help you understand why your child could be acting out.
Following your conversation with the school or daycare, listen to your child’s side of the story. Approach the subject with your child in a calm manner that is not accusatory. Ask open-ended questions to get to the heart of the issue. And let your child speak without interruption.
Make A Plan
Create a plan with your child and their teacher or caregiver to prevent this problem from happening again. Keep these tips in mind for your plan:
Communicate Clearly and Respectfully With Your Child
Speak with your child respectfully and with empathy. Acknowledge their possible triggers, but also explain how their behaviour affects others—e.g., not letting other kids learn or have fun during play time.
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Also explain that if they repeat the unwanted behaviour, there will be consequences and you will have to have this conversation again.
You can teach your child effective and positive ways of dealing with their emotions, such as walking away from someone who makes them mad, confiding in a teacher if they are upset, or shaking out the wiggles if they feel restless and confined during circle time.
Timeouts Are Ineffective For Toddlers, Talk To Them Instead
If your toddler is misbehaving at preschool, don’t use timeouts as a form of punishment—they simply don’t work. Instead of feeling empathy towards others and accountability for their actions, a child in a timeout will feel like the victim with built-up anger and resentment toward you for being unfair.
There are better ways to communicate with your child so they can understand why their behaviour is inappropriate.
Problem Solve Together
Work with your child and their teacher to come up with a plan to remedy the situation. Maybe your child owes an apology to a classmate or a teacher. Maybe they need to clean a mess or fix the damage they caused. Or maybe they need to redo an assignment.
Be sure to ask your child what they feel are possible solutions so they will feel empowered to problem solve with you. Also, consider role-playing the possible scenarios so your child will feel more confident to work through the problem.
By including your child in this plan, they will feel accountable for their actions and be more willing to follow a plan that includes their input.
Tell your child that you will be following up with their school or daycare about their behaviour so they will be less likely to repeat the negative behaviour. And be sure to follow up with the teacher.
Solidify Your Relationship with the Teacher/Caregiver
Keep communication open with your child’s teacher so you are both comfortable with each other when you need to talk about your child. Ask the teacher what their preferred method of communication is, but don’t risk ruining the relationship by contacting the teacher to complain all the time.
Also, try to create a strong relationship between your child and the teacher. A young child may be having trouble adjusting to preschool. So the younger the child, the more important it is for them to have a solid relationship with their teacher. And their strong early relationships with teachers will help them respect teachers throughout the years.
Monitor the Progress
By establishing a positive relationship with your child’s teacher, you can easily check in with them to monitor your child’s progress. If the problem behaviour is an ongoing issue, you can ask for daily updates from the teacher and keep a journal to monitor the issue.
When your child has a good day, you can then reward them for their positive behaviour.
Praise Positive Behaviour
Acknowledge and praise your child’s positive behaviours. For example, if they had a good day at daycare or school, allow them to do something they enjoy, such as go to the park, have a friend over, or watch an episode of their favourite TV show.
But if they repeat inappropriate behaviours at school, take away something they enjoy—e.g., no TV. Having rewards and consequences in place will help your child understand what to expect when they behave a certain way. You can also practice positive behaviours at home, such as sitting still, listening, and following directions.
Remember that even the most well-behaved kids can get into trouble sometimes. So don’t beat yourself up. Instead, work with your child and their teacher so your child can learn positive behaviours and grow up to be a kind and respectful person.