How to Influence Your Child's Behavior at School
Which parent has not been surprised by the report of a child’s behavior that was far different from the parent’s expectation? Despite the training they receive, children misbehave away from home—particularly at school. The list of reasons cited by Amy Morin, Discipline Expert on About Parenting can be summarized as follows. They misbehave because:
- They are unable to verbalize what they feel.
- They decide to imitate their friends.
- They try to test the authority figure in the room.
- They expect their misbehavior to get them something they want.
- They have mental health issues (for example, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
No matter the reason, parents can take measures to influence the child toward acceptable, responsible behavior at school. The following six suggestions can be implemented with the parent’s creativity according to the child's age.
(1) Establish a Daily Send-off Ritual
The stay-at-home parent may engage in the ritual just before the child leaves the house. The working parent may perform his routine before leaving for work. It may take just one minute, but it will influence the child’s behavior throughout the day, and eventually for a lifetime.
Include some form of touch—a hug, a squeeze, a hi-five and declare your approval (blessing) for him or her to excel that day in good conduct and good work. Assure the child that while you are separated, you will be thinking of him, praying for him, working toward a better life for him. Remind him that you will have time later to talk about the happenings of the day.
Often that sense of connectedness is the only stabilizer the child needs to prevent a negative outburst, knowing that he will have the opportunity to talk through his difficulties with a loving, caring parent.
(2) Become Acquainted with the Teacher
Sometime during the first week of school, send a note to the homeroom teacher commending her for choosing to help build character in the lives of young citizens. Let her know that she can count on your support, especially with reference to the education of your child. Include your contact information and give her permission to share it with any other teacher. Encourage her to reach out to you whenever she thinks it necessary.
The fact that there is open communication between you and the teacher will influence your child to be on his best behavior. He will think twice before imitating an unruly friend or trying to test his limits with the teacher. Your note will also put you in a good light when you introduce yourself at the parent-teacher meeting and the teacher greets you like an old friend.
(3) Discuss before You Fuss
In primary school, my son was always dropping things on the floor and pushing his desk back and forth, which his teacher thought was for the sole purpose of making noise. She was right. He was an auditory learner, quite comfortable with sounds which might distract the visual learner. Besides, she was frustrated that he never seemed to look at her when she spoke.
His report card showed poor conduct even though his grades were perfect. Clearly, that bad conduct mark was reason to fuss; it was uncharacteristic of a child with good grades. So should I fuss with the teacher or with the child? How would fussing with either one influence my child’s behavior?
It was an opportunity for me to explain my child’s learning style to the teacher, and to every teacher, every year throughout primary and middle school. It was also an opportunity for me to teach my child about respect, responsibility and cooperation in the classroom.
(4) Show Interest in the Friends
Throughout your child’s school life, friends will influence his behavior. Don’t you wish that you could influence theirs? Unfortunately, that is not your responsibility; instead, focus on influencing your child’s judgement on his choice of friends. Here are a few questions which will show that you are interested:
- Do the friends play well together, or do they fight?
- Do the friends cooperate with the teacher, or do they often get in trouble?
- Is your child able to refuse participation in an activity he does not like, without being threatened or bullied?
- Has the teacher ever warned anyone to stay away from any of his friends?
- Do they encourage each other to do the right thing?
Your child will interpret your interest in his friends as interest in his welfare. Hopefully, he will realize that pleasing you brings better dividends than pleasing his friends; so that if there is a clash between the way his friends behave and the way you want him to behave, he will do what pleases you. This is ideal and your child may not always make the right choice, but your continual interest may eventually influence his judgment positively.
(5) Moderate Media Messages
Join the child sometimes and watch television episodes together. No matter the story line, there will be opportunity for teaching moments. Even the news reports carry stories worthy of opinions. For one minute during the commercial, recall illustrations of good versus bad behavior; respect versus disrespect; wisdom versus foolishness. These incidental lessons come back to mind powerfully when the child has to make decisions—even in the classroom.
Discuss tweets, texts and website information and images as much as the child would allow during daily conversations. If you make the effort to introduce these topics subtly and show interest in these activities, the child may surprise you with how much he has to say. Make short, sweet statements which could influence his behavior when you are separated from each other.
If a parent can only implement one of these suggestions, which one do you think it should be?
(6) Reward Good Character
Children (and adults) have been known to put on good behavior for other than good reasons. They may be kind to one individual in an effort to spite another; or they may fake good behavior until they receive the promised reward. For this reason, be sure to emphasize good character principles when you reward good actions.
- Emphasize diligence in the reward for good grades.
- Emphasize obedience, cooperation, or whatever is the appropriate motivation in the reward for good behavior.
The child will soon learn that actions which are rewarded this year, may not receive the same recognition next year. However, the motives and character principles in those actions are transferable and are important in every classroom, every school year.
Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments for influencing the child's behavior at school. Thanks for your cooperation.
© 2015 Dora Weithers