How To Handle Your Teen Misbehaving At School

If you are having behavioral problems with your child at home, it will come as no surprise when your child also gets in trouble at school. But what about a child, or teen, who is well-behaved at home, but starts to misbehave in the classroom? When your child’s school calls to report a problem, there are other ways to go about the scenario to get your teen to the right place such as gathering a complete understanding of the situation and developing a plan to address the issues involved.

Hear the Teacher Out

Listen calmly to the full account of your child’s misbehavior. It’s difficult to hear that your child has done something wrong, especially when they are generally well-behaved at home. But before you jump in with questions and doubts, listen to the whole story. Teachers and administrators are reaching out to you so that you can help them do what’s best for your child. Get all the facts, so you can assess the situation fairly.

Often parents take it personally when teachers report a child’s misbehavior. They get defensive or feel that teachers are judging their parenting skills or picking on their child. Keep in mind that a teacher has a room full of 20-30 students, and they have to consider the safety and well-being of everyone in the class. Disruptions in the classroom prevent other students from getting their education. Try to understand and respect the teacher’s point of view. This is a time for both of you to work together to help your child and help the other children in the class.

Get Your Child’s Side of the Story

If this is the first time your child has been in trouble at school, you may suspect that some exceptional situation has led to your child’s misbehavior, because their actions are so out of character. It’s ok to ask the teacher if you can call them back, or return an email later after you have talked to your child. Make it clear that you don’t think the teacher is misrepresenting the facts, just that you would like to hear both sides. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances. Maybe your child just had a bad day. Let your child know that you are willing to listen to their side of the story.

Try to Find the Motivation

As you talk with your child’s teacher and with your child, try to unearth the real reason your child acted out. Children get frustrated when they can’t handle the classroom environment or the educational demands required of them. They act out to show their frustration. When kids say, “The teacher just doesn’t like me” or “Math is stupid”, these may be signs that your child is struggling with a particular subject and doesn’t want to admit it. They may not understand why they need to cooperate with teachers and follow school rules.

A younger child may have sensory issues, which means that they are overstimulated by all the sights, sounds, and commotion that goes on in school. They may behave well at home, where it’s calm and quiet, but they go on overload with all the people and activities in a classroom. Some students have trouble staying focused or sitting still in class and are easily distracted. Some have difficulties with reading or trouble learning in certain ways.

If your child seems to be having these kinds of problems, and it continues, the teacher may recommend that you meet with a school counselor and possibly have your child tested. There is no shame in acknowledging that your child has a learning, sensory, or behavior issue. Once students have been assessed, they can receive extra help and classroom accommodations to make school a better experience for them, rather than continuing to struggle. Testing allows teachers to develop the best way to help your child learn and to feel comfortable in class.

Consider Peer Influence

Ask the teacher about how your child seems to be fitting in with their classmates. Find out if your younger child has friends in class, or if they seem to be afraid and intimidated by their classmates. Students may misbehave to show off in front of their peers, or they may want to be removed from class in order to get away from classmates that frighten them. Teens often act out in class to get a laugh, or to appear cool to their classmates.

Often students are embarrassed when they don’t understand the educational material, and they become defiant as a way to get out of doing the work. Or they may be bored and looking for entertainment. Getting sent out of the classroom and to the principal’s office lets them avoid whatever it is they don’t like. Knowing the reason can help you to find out if your child would benefit from extra help or tutoring in that subject, or if they need some advanced material to challenge them intellectually.

Violence and destruction of property indicate issues with managing emotions, especially anger. There may also be peer pressure or bullying involved in violent confrontations. Work with the school personnel to find out what is influencing your child to become violent or destructive. While there should always be severe consequences to stop future violent behavior, your child may also need therapy to learn how to handle emotions in non-violent ways. A teen may need to be removed from an environment where they are being pressured by peers to act violently or where they are being bullied. Parents need to be aware that violent behavior can also be a sign of gang involvement or drug use.

Ask How You Can Help

When your child’s teacher or principal calls to discuss your child’s misbehavior, ask what you can do to help the situation. They may just be calling to inform you that your child has broken a rule and will be disciplined – no action needed on your part. It is their duty to let you know, and it may not be necessary to get involved, especially the first time. Of course, you should discuss the incident with your child, and express your disapproval of their actions.

Does the school also suggest that you take other action? With younger children, they may recommend that you reinforce or practice some of the classroom rules at home. Remind your child each morning before school that they should behave in a certain way. Praise the child after school, if they behaved well all day. Prepare your child for a long day at school by making sure they get enough sleep and eat a good breakfast. Kids often melt down when they’re overtired or hungry.

If the misbehavior was really serious, especially in cases of violence, destruction of property, or belligerence and disrespect to school staff, you should definitely enforce some consequence at home. The consequence would depend upon the age of your child. You can revoke privileges, such as time with friends, or screen time (TV or video games). You can require them to help with extra chores, or deny them activities they enjoy. For teens, you can take away the car, the phone, or the computer (except when they need it for homework).

Remember when you discuss the misbehavior and consequences with your child, stay calm, and keep it brief. You misbehaved at school. This is the consequence. No excuses. No arguments. If you don’t like the consequence, don’t repeat the behavior.

Support at Home

If you have a young child who seems to be struggling with the rules of the classroom, try to use some of those rules at home, so the rules begin to feel familiar. Practice waiting to take a turn, or showing anger without hitting or yelling. If they’re struggling with learning the educational material, help with homework or get a tutor. Ask your child’s teacher what you can work on at home to reinforce the lessons taught in class.

If you have a teen who acts out in school, discuss rules and why they exist. Teens often feel like rules are established just to make their lives difficult. Explain the teacher’s point of view – that they need to manage a classroom to ensure the safety and education of all students. Talk about rules we all have to follow in life, such as rules of the road, which keep us safe when we drive or waiting in line at the store, or safety rules at the workplace. This is how society cooperates so that we can live safely and peacefully together. Teens may think school rules are stupid and unnecessary, but the reality is that they still have to follow those rules.

Model Respect and Cooperation

While you want to give love and support to your child, it's also important to make it clear that your child’s teacher and their school have your full support. If you have issues with the teacher or the school, bring your grievances to the school personnel - don’t express them to your child. Talk to your child’s teacher, or send an email. Meet with the principal or counselor. Keep it between the adults. Your child needs to see that you are being respectful and cooperative, as a role model for how they should behave.

Get Professional Help

When a child has continued problems with school, and the efforts of parents, teachers, and school counselors have not made a difference, it becomes necessary to get professional help. Your child may benefit from therapy. Sometimes the environment or peer influences at a school are so negative, it is best to transfer them to another school. Teens are especially influenced by their peers. You may consider a different school, an alternative school, or even enrolling them in an online learning program.

If your teen has psychological, emotional, or behavioral issues or problems with drug or alcohol addictions, consider residential treatment programs or therapeutic boarding schools. These facilities provide your teen a safe place, away from negative peer influences, where they receive help with psychological, emotional, or behavioral problems, participate in group and family therapy sessions, and earn credits toward graduation. There are many programs and options, and it’s hard to know which one is right for your teen and their particular problems. Liahona Treatment Center is a Therapeutic Boarding School that can assist you in sorting through all the different options and finding the right program for your child. You will need to consider treatment plans, academic programs, extracurricular activities, as well as location, and financial considerations. The staff at Liahona Treatment Center has the knowledge and experience to guide you in making the best placement decision for your troubled teen.

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