There’s nothing worse for a parent than getting a call from your child’s school saying that your precious little angel has been disruptive in class. While I’ve been lucky enough to avoid those calls so far with my oldest daughter in Pre-K, she’s as energetic and strong-willed as I am, so I’m expecting more than a few of these calls once she starts Kindergarten in the fall. In preparation for this new milestone, I’ve researched behavior management tips for school-aged children.
Here are seven tips I’ve picked up along the way for elementary school.
1. Talk to the Teachers
Your child’s teacher will take the brunt of their bad behavior, so they’re your best resource for information direct from the horse’s mouth. First of all, choose not to panic. Teachers are used to all kinds of behavior, and they’re not judging you for your little one acting out now and then.
The trick is to form a team with your child’s teacher, so the two of you can work together — you from home and them from school — to come up with the best plan to help your child learn how to behave while they’re in the classroom. For most kids, even those that have gone to pre-k, moving into a traditional school environment is a significant change, and they may act out while they get used to it.
2. Make It a Life Lesson
We all end up dealing with people that we don’t like at some point in our lives. If your child doesn’t like their teacher, take the opportunity to turn it into a life lesson. Let them know that this is just helping to prepare them for life where they’ll be stuck with bosses and coworkers that they’d prefer instead to toss into traffic.
Well, maybe don’t use that exact metaphor but you get the idea.
Anything can turn into a lesson, even bad behavior.
3. Demand Recess
Public schools have given up on recess in favor of a fully packed schedule of academics. Upwards of 40 percent of school districts have reduced recess time. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get your elementary-school-aged student to sit still for six hours straight, but it’s nigh on impossible. If your school has gotten rid of recess, free play or just some time on the playground, go to the school and demand it.
Recess doesn’t just help your kids burn off energy so they can focus on their lessons. It also helps them to learn leadership skills, teaches creativity and encourages inclusivity.
4. Reinforce School Punishments
If your little ones are misbehaving at school, they’ll likely receive punishment. It’s up to you as a parent to reinforce those punishments once they come home for the day. Just make sure the punishment fits the crime. You don’t have to ground them for a month for a minor indiscretion. Revoke their screen time for the night, or ground them from playing with their friends.
5. Reward Good Behavior
On the other side of the coin, make sure you reward good behavior. Most teachers have a behavior chart they use for each student — they may indicate the behavior for the day by color, symbol or number, but they have some way to keep track of how well or how badly each child behaves.
When your child comes home with a good behavior rating, make sure you use positive reinforcement to reward them. Give them an extra 10 minutes of screentime, or make their favorite dessert, or whatever else comes to mind. Just make sure you reward them for a job well done, especially if they had some behavior problems in the past.
6. Let Them Fail
It’s tempting to save our children from all of their failures, but that won’t help them learn. Kids need to make their own mistakes and grow from them.
If your kids are always fighting your attempts to help them change their behavior, take a step back and let them face the consequences of their actions. If you’re still saving them from failure, they’ll continue to make the same mistakes.
7. Look For Outside Influences
If nothing else works, and your child continues to disrupt class, it might be time to look to see if any outside influences affect your child’s behavior. It could be as simple as they’ve befriended the class clown and are learning their disruptive behaviors from them. Or it could be something else, such as an ADHD diagnosis that makes it difficult for your child to focus unless they’re doing something they enjoy.
Don’t jump to any conclusions, but be prepared for whatever you might find. Talking to your child’s teacher — that whole team thing that I mentioned earlier — may also give you some insight into what affects your little one’s behavior.
Be Patient — They’re Only Children
When it comes down to it, does it matter why your child is acting out? It’s important to be patient with them — they’re only children after all. Everything is new to them, and it takes time to learn how to interact with the world properly. Love them, and teach them as best you can to help prepare them for a world that won’t.