We all want our children to be well behaved, especially when we’re not around to intervene. So that’s why it can be so difficult when we get that phone call from school saying that our child is misbehaving. While it may not always surprise us, it can be embarrassing and frustrating because we can’t be there to redirect our pride and joy!
So what do you do? Here are a few things to try:
- Ask the teacher for details about the situation. What happened? Who was involved? How often does the behavior occur? What was done to correct the behavior? It helps to know the specifics so you can be more effective when talking to your child.
- Initiate the conversation by asking your child how school is going. By asking their opinion, instead of starting off with something like, “I heard you were misbehaving today,” your child is less likely to get defensive and more likely to open up to you.
- If your child says everything is fine, gently probe for more information using the specifics you learned from the teacher. For example, you could ask, “How’s everything with Bobby? I heard you two weren’t getting along the other day.” This type of statement lets your child know that you have more information without blaming him or her for the situation.
- If your child still doesn’t share any information, calmly summarize the situation as you heard it from the teacher and ask for his “side of the story.” For example, you can say, “Well, I understand from your teacher that you and Bobby weren’t getting along yesterday and you hit him in the stomach. Can you tell me what upset you?” Hopefully, your child will be more forthcoming because he’ll know you have already heard about what happened at school.
- After giving your child an opportunity to share what happened from his perspective, explain why the inappropriate behavior is not OK. Sometimes young children don’t realize their behavior it not OK, while others need reminders.
- Ask your child how she would feel if someone treated her that way. Promote empathy and understanding of other people’s feelings. I like to read Understand and Care by Cheri J. Meiners to kids when I’m teaching them about why it’s important to think about other people’s feelings.
- If your child is misbehaving out of anger, teach them anger management strategies, including walking away, counting to 10, inhaling deeply through their nose and breathing out through their mouth, squeezing a stress ball, clenching and relaxing their fists, scribbling their anger on a piece of paper and throwing it away, or tearing up a piece of paper into small pieces. When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Maude Spelman helps children understand how to control their anger.
- Since positive reinforcement improves children’s behavior more than punishment, you could also praise your child on the days your child behaves well at school to motivate him to have more good days. This would involve having daily communication with your child’s teacher. You could also develop a reward system. For example, each day your child gets a positive report from school, put a sticker on the calendar. At the end of the week, your child gets a reward of some kind (like a treat, extra TV time, a new book, a quarter).