Son acting up in school - what do I do?

Momma_Bird_OHApril 25, 2002

My DS is in 1st grade and his teacher asked me to come in tommorow to discuss his "inappropriate behavior". She said it's started in the last 2 months or so, and didn't give me any details on just what he is doing.

I am so torn up over this. First, I don't know what to expect tommorow, and just don't know what to say to her. I have talked to him, and he said he "gets in trouble" at school but couldn't give me any specific examples. He has a mild disability that affects his language - both receptive and expressive - and it's hard for him to put thoughts into words, so I didn't really expect much information from him. Second, I am not physically there at school, so how am I supposed to be able to do anything about it? I'm not saying I expect the teacher to make him behave, but how can I do that if I'm not there? I just don't know what to do, he's never been a behavior problem in preschool or so far in school.

To complicate things, his father (my DH) has been unemployed for 4 months. Even though we don't burden the kids with such things, I know it is affecting them. DS no longer goes to daycare after school, but rides the bus home to Dad. We've had to cut out a lot of activities and outings, and have had to explain that we can't afford to buy lots of things right now. I've also had to go back to work full time, after working part time since he was born. I think all of this may have something to do with his behavior problems - they started during this time of financial stress.

I just need some insight on what to say to the teacher, and how to "make" my son behave at school. Thanks for listening!

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The teacher probably already suspects that something has changed in your son's home life. I think that would be the common assumption when a teacher sees a sudden difference in behavior. It would help all the way around for the teacher to have some understanding of what is going on at home. Not that you have to go into detail, just let her know what stresses your son is experiencing at home. Not that it should excuse behavior problems, but it will put them in perspective. Being honest with the teacher will encourage her to be honest with you and communication will be better all the way around. Besides, if she isn't told the real story, she might jump to incorrect conclusions.

So for the conferrence I would start out by asking her to explain the incidents that have been a problem and what discipline measures she took. Then I would tell her about your DH's job loss and changes in the family schedule and any changes in behavior you've seen at home.

For solving the problem, I would consider a very simple sort of cotract between you and DH as the parents, your son, and his teacher. Have your son present when the deal is made. Write out the behavior that has to change, how you will be informed of good or bad choices he makes, and what the consequences will be. And what the reward will be if he hold up his end of the deal. Not something big, just a little celebration that he controlled his own behavior properly. I bet your son knows he has made some bad choices lately and wants to do better, but is in sort of a rut and doesn't know how to change things back. Maybe reading a book to him about a child you makes some mistakes and has to correct them can help get him started talking about it. If you put these things in the 3rd person, instead of making kids talk about themselves first, it can lead into the child's own life.

One that comes to mind is "Elbert's Bad Word" by Audrey Woods. Maybe bad language has nothing to do with this situation, but it's a story of boy who makes a mistake with his behavior and has to learn to fix it. And it is HILARIOUS! It will have you rolling on the floor it is so cute!

I think that is the sort of involvement the teacher is looking for. She knows parents can't come in and control their kids. She is looking for your help in identifying why your son's behavior has taken this turn for worse. She wants you involvement in drawing the problem to your son's attention and helping him learn to control his own actions. It's not about criticizing or blaming, it's about helping him learn a lesson in life that all children have to learn.

How's that sound?

My own oldest son is 8 and in 3rd grade. I'm finding 8 to be very hard. :o( Our recent move and him having to find his place among a whole new peer group has made him a challenge lately. It's such an inbetween age. Not big enough for what he wants (PG13 movies, certain freedoms) but not a little kid anymore, either. He wants to be treated older, but hasn't learned to take older responsibilities yet. I think it started soon after 6. I try to be sympthetic and remember that it was just as hard to be 8 as it is to raise 8.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 11:14AM
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We also found that whenever DD goes thru a phase of misbehaving in school (which seems to happen in periodic spells), I sit down with the teacher, and we agree on fitting punishment for the misbehavior. This way, Teacher and Mom are in sync and using the same method to attack the same problem.

I found that usually, some form of the school misbehavior was also happening at home, but I was using a different tactic than teacher was.

DD seemed to be fine once we were using the same punishment for that particular behavior.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 11:56AM
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wise advice from stephanie as always.

Another thought: think of this as a fact-finding mission.

I'm like you, I keep thinking, "what am i supposed to do/ I'm not there!"

But I also think of myself as my kids' life coach. I help them develop strategies they can use without me. I try to explain the things they aren't getting (maybe the teacher focuses on just behaving, so I explain WHY it's so important to be quiet, etc., even if you think you're helping by telling the other kids to be quiet; stuff like that--you know, a translator!)

So look for info you can use. And you're right, he can't explain why or how or what he does to get in trouble (and most of it's bcs he's in first grade). The teacher will be your source for that, and this meeting is a great way to get that info from her.

Also, you might be prepared to ask her, "Exactly what do you want me to do? I'm not there; I can't tell him tos it down, be quiet, stop fidgeting, etc. What is it you expect a parent to do?" If she's a good teacher w/ realistic knowledge of life, you might genuinely want the tips and suggestions she has to offer. If she's unrealistic and seems to expect you to just magically solve everything, this might get her to specify and codify her unrealistic expectations, so you can point out the limitations the situation has, and steer you to be concrete yourself about exactly what it is you can do.

As for what to do...I sometimes have gotten my child to state a goal, and then I provide the accountability--I check in each night, "how did you do in school on that issue? What happened that was good, or bad? When was it hard to stay on task?" and provide praise, chiding, encouragement, whatever.

Stephanie, you're scaring me. Mine is going to be 8 this summer; 5 and 6 were SO hard for the two of us (her and me). I hope 8 isn't as bad! Maybe she's beyond it, w/ that "girls mature faster than boys" stereotype. Can I hope?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 11:56AM
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I had a similar problem with my K'er. He would misbehave in school. The first thing I would ask the teacher is "What is the specific offending behavior?" Like you, I was sick thinking about my child being a PIA in school. However, it turned out that the offending behavior was inappropriate, but not quite as bad as I had imagined. He was rolling on the carpet during circle time and getting out of his seat without asking during other times. So-the behavior might not be as bad as you fear. It still needs to be dealt with, but might not be as disruptive as you fear.

I disagree with Talley Sue that most 1st graders can't articulate WHY they are misbehaving. However, this is clearly an issue with YOUR child so you will need to deal with it. Perhaps it would be best to ask him some direct questions that he can answer yes or no to. After a few yes or no questions he might offer up some information. I also find that boys often want to talk during some activity. So maybe you can find some time to play with him and engage in conversation at the same time.

Another good suggestion is to work with the teacher. It is not entirely effective to punish a child 5 hours after the offense but there should be some consequence for his actions. Ask the teacher what she will be trying in class and how you can support her at home. Then she knows you are trying to help. You don't want the teacher to get the idea that you are uncooperative. Besides she has probably seen hundreds of 1st graders, you only have yours.

If you have had to make some changes in your life maybe you need to explain them to your son in language he can understand. I understand that you don't want to burden him, but you can explain some things to him. I think when things are changing around them most people (not just children) cope with the changes better if they have some idea of what to expect, and why the changes are necessary.

BTW-I am also finding 8 to be challenging. Same reasons as Stephanie. He wants to be big, and in some ways he is, but he can't do everything he wants.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 12:51PM
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The teacher might be motivated more by wanting to help YOU - to know that something has started going on with your son's behavior in school, right when it starts, will enable you to address it now and not let it turn into a chronic problem.

Some teachers wouldn't bother telling you unless your son was in danger of failing - some wouldn't even tell you then.

So don't worry too much. She might just be being conscientious, trying to help you and your son, more than actually needing a lot of help from you in dealing with his behavior in the classroom.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 1:40PM
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You have all made me feel a lot better. I plan to just keep my mouth shut and listen to what the teacher has to say. She is aware of DH being unemployed & my working FT because I used to volunteer each week in her class, and can't do it now because of working FT - but she may not make the correlation that the whole situation affects DS. The teacher has been teaching for years, but does not have children of her own - she hasn't seen first hand how family changes can affect kids, only second-hand when she has the kids in school.

I feel less nervous now - and also a little MORE scared over what you all said about 8!

Have you ever read the books "Your One Year Old" "Your Two Year Old" etc by the Giselle (sp?) Insititute? Their theory is that the 2nd 6 months of the year for each age is the hardest, when most problems occur. DS is in the 2nd half of his 7th year - and I did notice a BIG change starting at 7 1/2!!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 1:47PM
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I am glad I came up in another generation. We did have problems and and I did misbehave, but things seem so simple then in solving a ploblem but maybe I was on the other end of the problem. I remember when I was teaching in public school a question would arise such as "Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution".
I find you are looking for a correct solution and this is good. Communication is a important key to your solution.
Find out what has happen and work to correct the situation. It is like a ball team. Everyone has a part to do and when all are working toward that common goal, pleasing results are usually accomplished.
Parents have such great responsibility but when you meet up to those responsibilities great rewards are yours.
May you have a good meeting and I hope everything works out to your satisfaction.
I respect the suggestions that have been presented. You have gotten some good advice IMO.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 2:05PM
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The 'end of the year' thing seems to be when my dd gets difficult.

I think that many kids may get bored with the current curriculum and are ready for new challenges, but are too young to express it in a more constructive way.

Now that i think about it, toward the end of last school year in April, she was still in the 2's, but was almost 3 and a half. So she started acting up. I asked the teacher to give her a bit more challenging art work and assignments. And then she got a little better. Once she got promoted to the 3's and was more in her age group with curriculum, the problems stopped.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2002 at 2:13PM
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A good teacher thinks of the parents as her partners in helping educate their child. She wants you to know what is going on so that you can reinforce her message and her lessons at home. The kids need to see that their parents and teachers are on the same page, which talks turkey to them. When they know all of the adults are serious, that all the adults give them the same message, but maybe in different ways, then the students/children understand that time has come for them to change their ways.

Your teacher is helping you, is partnering with you. Do not be intimidated by her request for a consultaion.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2002 at 5:55PM
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Just wanted to let you know - the teacher just wanted to keep me informed, not expect me to make him behave at school. The things he's doing are all minor, but he does misbehave at least once daily - clowning around, not listening, whining, bumping into things, etc. I did get frustrated with the "bumping into things" - he has a mild pervasive disability that affects his balance, coordination, depth perception, language ability, and auditory processing - sensory integration dysfunction. I've kept the teacher informed of his progress in occupational therapy and tried to educate her on SID. I thought she would be a bit understanding of his lack of coordination. Other than that, it was a good meeting, she did have positive things to say about DS not just all negative. She also said she'd speak to the 2nd grade teacher about his limitations so that she would not be so hard on him at the beginning next year. We agreed that we would both continue to gently correct him and encourage good behavior. DH and I don't let DS's disability be an excuse for bad behavior, but we do take his limitations into account when evaluating his performance.

Anyway, I got all worried about it for no reason. First kid, I guess I just need to be "broken in" to the educaitonal system. He went to kindergarten at his preschool, so it was a very small atmosphere with lots of parent contact with the teacher. Public school is so different - the parent/teacher connection is just not there and communication with the teacher is so much more formal.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2002 at 8:49AM
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"Public school is so different - the parent/teacher connection is just not there and communication with the teacher is so much more formal. "

I know what you mean, Momma Bird! I find this frustrating (esp. since my daughter was in an on-site company day-care center for 3 years--talk about being spoiled!). It's one of the things that makes me understand the urge to home school.

Also, the bumping-into-things thing: I know he has this disability, but perhaps the teacher sees it as something else. My son does this from time to time because he's goofing around, or it's a "make my mark" kind of thing in a subtle way. So it's not that weird that she might interpret this as a physical manifestation of goofing off---some kids do it. Keep your eyes open for this possibility at home, and of course now that you've probably reminded the teacher that this particular aspect could be disability-related, she can watch too, to see if it' s 'deliberately being careless and goofy" thing, or a true "losing his balance / not perceiving the space" kind of thing. Two sides to the picture, and two sets of eyes, and eventually you'll have a truer picture.

Sounds like you have a great teacher! And a lot more communication (even if it IS formal) than a lot of us have!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2002 at 2:57PM
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i have a 6 year old son,since he has been back at school from the christmas holidays he has been misbehaving at school,pushing other kids over messing around in the classroom and the dinner line the other day he pushed some1 over and made them have a nose bleed.every day i go to thschool my son has done something wrong,i have tryed ro punish him by taking his favourite toys and games away.he is playing war games in school with his friends.i dont no what to do anymore ive tryed my best but nothing seems to work... help any1

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 5:01AM
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I also suggest you to speak with the teacher and explain him all the changes that have taken place recently.Ask the teacher that some time to adjust.Change your kid by telling him small moral stories daily.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 2:40AM
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