Is Your Child Acting out in School?

Have you been asked to speak to your child's teacher on more than one occasion about the fact that he's acting out at school? Does he frequently start fights and talk back to the teacher?

When your child acts out in school, it can be worrisome, frustrating and embarrassing. On top of the actual misbehavior, you fear that he'll make a bad name for himself-that his reputation as a troublemaker will follow him from grade to grade. You may also feel judged-and blamed-by teachers and other parents for what your child does at school.

Some kids act out when they're feeling left out or left behind. Make sure that your child is capable of doing the class work he is being asked to do, for example. Being behind (or ahead of) the class can create boredom, frustration, and anxiety-which may lead some kids to act out verbally or physically.

I want to stress that for the most part, you should not give consequences for school misbehavior at home, unless your child is damaging school property or hurting others physically. Leave discipline for acting out at school to school officials-don't punish your child twice. Understand that in this case, giving consequences is far less important than figuring out what your child needs to do differently the next time he wants to act out. In other words, if you say, "You have to stay in your room because you acted out in school today," you're not addressing the behavior and it will not help your child because you're not teaching him anything-except how to do time. Sometimes parents assume that their kids will figure out things on their own, but if you're dealing with a chronic issue, you have to face facts: your child has not figured it out by himself and he is not likely to do so. You need to help him. So talk to the teacher-that's your best first step. Take it from there. You need a sense of why he's acting out and what's happening in order to know how you can help your child change.

And pay close attention to what your child is saying at home; he should know that all experiences are okay to share. A word of caution: One important lesson James Lehman teaches us is to support the school authorities in front of your child. If your child hears your criticism of school officials and his teachers, he is likely to be disrespectful to them in class-and also to you, later on down the line.

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Carole Banks, MSW holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of New England. She has been with Legacy Publishing Company for four years working on the Parental Support Line and writing for Empowering Parents. Carole has worked as a family and individual therapist for over 10 years, and is the mother of 3 grown children and the grandmother of six.