It’s very, very common for me to hear from parents that their child is struggling with behavior at school, but is a great kid at home. I’ve had a lot of frustrated parents in my office because they just don’t know what to do. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of barriers in the school system, including teachers with too many kids in their classroom. I’ve also heard some kids name “punishments” at school that are actually positively reinforcing their negative behavior… this isn’t necessarily because the school is clueless; sometimes what is “punishing” for one kiddo can be reinforcing for another.
So what can you, as a parent, do? One thing you can do is use a reward or consequence at home for your child’s behavior at school. This would require you to work with your kiddo’s teacher to somehow (phone call, email, note sent home, etc) get a message EACH DAY from the teacher about how the child’s day went. TIP… you’re going to want to pick one or two “problem behaviors” to get feedback on – this could be aggression, compliance with schoolwork, or anything else your kiddo might be struggling with – make sure your child’s teacher knows what specifically to report on. I’ve had a mom send a “smiley chart” to school, with the teacher’s approval, to be completed each day. I’ve also had moms who just get a short email update from the teacher.
From there, you get to decide whether you want your child to earn something extra if they behaved well, or if they lose a privilege or earn some other kind of consequence if they displayed any negative behaviors. A few examples:
- Reward: Child can earn an extra 30 minutes of electronics time if the teacher says they did well that day.
- Reward: Child can earn a special after-school snack if the teacher says they did well that day.
- Reward: Child can stay up 10 minutes late if the teacher says they did well that day.
- Consequence: Child has to complete an extra chore if the teacher reports negative behavior.
- Consequence: Child loses television time if the teacher reports negative behavior.
- Consequence: Child has to complete an extra math/reading/writing worksheet if the teacher reports negative behavior.
Pick something that you know will motivate your child, give them a heads up about the change, then be as consistent with it as possible! Eventually, once your child is successful, you will want to fade the consequence or reward. So you might start offering a reward every other day instead (for good behavior on both days), then eventually just once per week (for good behavior 5 out of 5 days per week).
*Note: I’m not recommending that all parents use a reward/consequence system for school behavior… this is more for the kiddos who are struggling with something specific at school*