Most parents dread phone calls from the principal, but if you've received such a call, take a breath. You might be feeling embarrassment, fear or shame, but try not to worry about what teachers, administrators or even other parents think. Your first concern should be your child and his learning experience. There's always a reason for misbehavior. Identify the problem and you have a better chance of finding the solution. In some cases, you might need to try a few strategies before you find the right one.
Kids with sensory processing issues, spectrum disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder might find the noise, lights and energy in a classroom overwhelming. Those kids might have trouble focusing or completing work. In an effort to regain control, they might touch their friends, talk impulsively or become frustrated. Tears and angry outbursts might signal that the classroom environment is simply too much for your child. Smaller class sizes and thoughtful classroom design can help. Many schools now opt for neutral colors rather than primary shades. Clutter on the walls and in the room is kept to a minimum to create a peaceful setting.
Some children act out in the classroom because they're struggling to keep up academically. A child who lacks reading skills might hide his feelings of shame and anxiety through belligerent behavior. Common problems include poor eyesight, immature fine motor skills, visual or auditory processing difficulties and reading challenges. In most cases, these problems are correctable once identified. Help your child at home with homework. Ask your child to read aloud to you. Talk with teachers about your child's performance or ask the school psychologist for a more formal assessment. Chronic struggles in school can create lifelong negative feelings toward learning.
A child who enjoys learning might act out if he's not challenged. Teachers struggle to meet the widely varying needs of their students and find it difficult to differentiate instruction. Additionally, many kids learn best through a hands-on approach, while most classrooms use a desk and textbook approach. Talk with your child about his interests. Read books together at home or take classes on more advanced topics, including robotics, computer science or math. Talk with the teacher and school administrators about offering some accelerated classes at school. Children who are actively engaged in learning are much less likely to have behavioral problems at school, according to Jennifer Little, a teacher and educational consultant in Pittsburgh.
Sometimes, children act out in school because they feel a lack of connection with peers and teacher. Children who feel loved and appreciated might not be perfect, but they're more likely to try. Spend a few days observing in the classroom. Watch the interactions between your child and her teacher. Does the teacher show genuine interest and care for your child? Watch how your child interacts with other children. Perhaps your child is shy or lacking in social skills. Try inviting one or two children to your home to play. Model for your child how to ask questions, make conversation and treat others kindly.
In addition to identifying potential causes of misbehavior, parental involvement can go a long way to reducing behavior problems at school, Little says. Children need to know that education is a priority and that parents are paying attention. Enforce natural and logical consequences for poor behavior and communicate at least weekly with your child's teacher.