When a child is having behavior problems at school, the earlier a workable solution is developed and implemented, the better. When poorly handled or ignored, behavior problems can quickly escalate into a much bigger problem.
The First Step:
Meet with your child’s teacher to fully understand what the behavior is all about. Ask questions to determine when the behavior happens and how often it occurs. These answers can provide important clues to the bigger questions, like why is the behavior occurring and what might help change the behavior?
The Second Step:
Parent and teacher should discuss the behavior with the child to get his perspective. The key is to discover the trigger within him that is driving the behavior but also to determine what might be making it difficult for him to either curb the behavior or to be able to engage in more appropriate behaviors.
Too often, step two is left out and the parent and teacher move on to step three on their own without input from the child. When this happens, important information will be left out, making it difficult to resolve the problem. For instance, the behavior may be the result of frustration or boredom during math because the child is unable to do the assignment. Another example is the child is not able to do what he is asked to do even though he wants to. I am reminded of a therapy session with an 8-year-old named Austin. He was having difficulty controlling his behavior in class and trying to be silly. I told Austin that he needed to stop and think before he did things. I saw a blank stare in Austin’s eyes that told me that he did not know what to think about. So I said, “If you were to raise your hand and ask the teacher if you could throw a paper airplane across the room what would you say?” Austin answered, “She would say no.” “If the teacher said no, would you do it? I asked, and he said, “No”. That led to a discussion that enabled him to greatly improve his impulse control.
Teachers, Parents, AND the child should come up with some possible solutions and agree on one they ALL think might work. This could include changes in his workload, extra help with difficult subjects, or teaching him appropriate skills so that he can engage in more appropriate behavior. Often a home-school contract is helpful to provide positive reinforcement at home for appropriate behavior at school. I have provided effective models for these contracts for younger and older children in Total Focus.