Are you a parent yourself and get ‘that call’ or are you a teacher trying to manage difficult behavior alongside their parents? Sue Atkins has some top tips.
Every parent dreads receiving a call from their child’s school in the middle of the day.
The call is not usually to congratulate you about something good or to extend an invitation to an upcoming event to celebrate your child’s achievements – those calls usually wait until after school or you receive them through an email or a friendly chat at the school pick up point.
Instead, ‘The Call’ is likely related to the undesirable behavior of your child that has disrupted the class. If this is happening far too regularly, the behavior needs to be addressed.
The following tips can help.
The first thing to do after finding out your child is being disruptive in class is to arrange a meeting with your child’s teacher or Head of Year. It’s really important not to get defensive during this meeting. Instead, allow the teacher to explain exactly what your child is doing and what they think maybe the underlying cause to it.
You may have had a change in your family circumstances from a divorce to a bereavement, from a new partner moving in with you, to a new baby or a pet dying. Change can be unsettling to a child regardless of their age.
Try to be adopt a Sherlock Holmes approach & what I call a ‘Detective Attitude’ to try & get to the root of the problem and to the bottom of the behavior.
Discuss whether the issue is occurring at the same time every day. Look for a pattern. If your child is suffering from dyslexia, for instance, they may get disruptive right before writing stories. If they are bored in a certain lesson, they may need more extension activities.
There are many things you can do to pinpoint what’s causing your child’s behavior but starting with parent-teacher conversation is always the right first step in a more positive direction.
Research has shown that children whose parents engage with the school in a collaborative approach – improve achievement, break down barriers to learning & behavior & reduce absenteeism.
Work together with the school.
Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker and businessman, famously said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
I add “CHOOSE WISELY.”
What this means for your children is that their environment (specifically the people in it) have a huge impact on who they become.
We all become like the people we associate & hang out with.
Children, and teens in particular, pick up on little things that people do without even realizing it and it shapes and changes how they think, act, behave and who they become. If they hang out with kids who drink alcohol or take drugs, then they will very likely do the same. We are all influenced greatly by the people in our inner circle.
So, it’s a good idea to ‘Talk & Teach’ your children about that from their middle school years.
We have to try & guide our children to be intentional with the people they choose to associate with.
Get them thinking about:
After speaking to your child’s teacher, you may notice that another child is always getting into trouble along with yours. You might also notice that this behavior is spilling into their social habits and into the community where you live. If this is the case, it’s time to reassess how much time your child spends with that friend.
Children crave your attention and they crave feeling connected to you, your family, and their brothers and sisters. Invest TIME in them. Not nagging, not scolding, not damaging their self-esteem – building them up, not tearing them down.
Invest in their self-esteem, their confidence, and listen to their dreams and help them build some goals into their lives – short term, long term and ones that frighten them as they are so bold!
Encourage aspiration & inspiration.
Believe in your kids and look for reasons behind their disruptive behavior.
If your child gets in trouble for small misdemeanors like forgetting their PE Kit or being late for class, it’s probably best to just let the school handle the consequences. But when behavior becomes disruptive for other students, though, it’s time to create at-home consequences.
Did your child get sent home for fighting, answering back, swearing? Then they have to learn that their CHOICES (as they are making choices) aren’t great ones. Be confident enough to take away their mobile phone or their ability to go online for a certain time as a consequence. If they have been rude to their teacher, make them apologies sincerely and do additional tasks for the teacher directly to make up for their rudeness. Whatever the case may be, you must let your children see your values – i.e. that this sort of disruptive behavior won’t be tolerated and has consequences in and out of school.
Don’t forget it’s also important to acknowledge good behavior when you see it too. Acknowledging the behavior, you do want to encourage is important as it gives your child positive reinforcement, significance and motivation to change their behavior. It gives them a better compass to follow, as a consistently dispirited child loses hope & becomes disheartened.
When trying to correct disruptive behavior in your kids, it’s important to remember that they may be reacting to issues at home. If you are working all of the time, your child may feel insignificant and crave the need for some attention, and unfortunately, they’ll sometimes seek this attention in disruptive ways.
Just ‘Pause to Ponder’ what’s going on at home and if you see something that might need changing, change it.
Speaking with your child’s teacher and ensuring appropriate consequences are simple positive steps for working towards eliminating your child’s disruptive behavior, but it’s also a good idea to talk to them – not at them!
Ask your child why they are acting up or getting into trouble. Ask whether something is bothering them, making them anxious or worrying them. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason – really take the time to listen – don’t rush in to rescue. Think how you can empower your child to make better choices going forward.
Do they feel like they’re not getting enough attention? Then go on a regular bike rides on Saturdays, get home 30 minutes earlier on Wednesdays, read them a bedtime story on Tuesdays and play Scrabble on Fridays – make time!
There could be an underlying problem you’ve not even considered. If you think you’ve figured it out, make a plan with your child to help alleviate the underlying cause. Support and nurture – don’t immediately blame.
Take the time to notify their teacher as well. Regardless of how supportive you may be, sometimes children won’t reveal problems until they are speaking to a professional. Consider scheduling a session with the school counsellor if your child doesn’t open up at home.
Regardless of the many parenting books there are on the shelves at Waterstones or in the Amazon app, kids don’t come with a handbook. It can be really upsetting to find out that your child is “that kid” in class but remember that there’s always something you can do to help them.
With a little bit of information and attention, you may discover it’s not your child’s fault at all. They may be on the spectrum, have ADHD, Dyslexia or Dyscalculia, and if the behavior continues despite all your parenting interventions, it may be related to a developmental issue that needs the help of a professional.