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Defiant Behavior in School, What is a Parent to do?

Boy Sticking Out His Tongue

Do you routinely get calls from the principal saying that your child is not cooperating in school?  Are they refusing to do their school work?  Do they routinely misbehave and bother others?  Do they have trouble focusing and can’t sit still?  Do they argue with the teachers?

Oftentimes kids who misbehave in school have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, mild Autism, Oppositional Defiance Disorder or they are Gifted and Talented.  Regardless of the diagnosis, it can be a pain for parents to endure repeated phone calls from the school requesting assistance to try and help “solve” your child’s behavior problems.

The best advice is to keep the lines of communication open with the school and work with each individual teacher to educate them on your child.  Typically when a child misbehaves in school, there is a reason for it.  The reason could be due to environmental triggers such as lighting, noise, distractions, location of materials or seating arrangement.  Ask the teacher to try a different seating arrangement and work with the child to see what is bothering them.  Ask the school to bring in an occupational specialist to evaluate your child’s environment to see if changes could be made to help them.

Encourage the teacher to set clear expectations of the child and maintain predictability.  Children that have difficulty focusing in school often need structure and a predictable routine.  Have the teacher offer the child increased choices.  When a child feels they are being included in the decision making, they will be more inclined to cooperate.  If there is going to be an upcoming change in the classroom, such as a substitute teacher or a new topic in class, forewarn the child.  Children with behavior problems often struggle with transitions.  Anytime you can prepare the child for an upcoming change, the transition will be smoother.

The teacher should reward positive behavior and offer an incentive program to child.  This will help build the child’s self-confidence and lessen the defiant the behavior.  If the child becomes stressed, encourage the teacher to speak them with a calm, matter-of-fact voice.  The child may need sensory breaks if they are overwhelmed.  Offer them a quiet place to calm down.  When the child is calm, then approach them again to engage in schoolwork.  The teacher should discuss any behavior problems with the child so they are aware of their behavior and know what the classrooms expectations are.

These tips will help the teacher to establish an effective relationship with your child and build trust.  Just remember when your child acts out, there is likely a reason.  It is your job as a parent to advocate for your child and try to discover the root of the problem.



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  (425) 483-1353

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