Often parents will ask me: “Should I let my child’s teacher know that he can be a little difficult? Or will that poison the teacher’s mind against him? Should I just tell him to be good this year and hope for the best?”
No! Do not just hope for the best! You should absolutely talk to the teacher about your child’s behavior issues, and have this talk as soon as you can. Because your relationship with your child’s teacher is going to make or break the year.
Here’s what you need to say:
1. Ask about the teacher’s discipline style. “Can you talk to me about how discipline works in your classroom?” “What is your classroom-management style?” “Can you give me some examples of how you’ve handled challenging kids in the past?”
2. Describe your child’s patterns. “I want to let you know that Taylor has had some challenges with not getting up during lessons and not talking to the other kids when he’s supposed to be listening. He seems to have the most trouble when there’s less space between him and another kid. For example, it’s harder for him to pay attention when he’s standing in line, but it’s easier when he’s working at his desk.” Don’t get into a long explanation in Step 2 – just tell the teacher what the problems are.
3. Provide the teacher with YOUR solution! This is the whole point of your being proactive with this teacher. The whole point is to shift the dynamic so that your child is not simply disruptive – instead, you are aware of it, and you and your family are taking the lead in managing it. So let the teacher know: “Here’s what worked last year…” And then ask: Is that something you could see working in your classroom? And then, just to get more information and to show respect for the teacher’s perspective, ask how she has dealt with the problem in other kids.
OK, now let’s back up a minute.
Do you feel like you don’t have a solution to your child’s disruptive classroom behavior? Well, how did you manage the problem last year? And if you really don’t think you and your child have the tools to manage his behavior, call me now – before the school year starts. Schedule a phone assessment – it’s free – and don’t wait! Your being proactive and taking the lead will go a long way toward easing your child’s – and your – school experience.
4. Once you’ve let the teacher know what works with your child, let her know that you will be monitoring the problem. Ask: “What’s the best way to communicate with you? Because we’re going to be checking in regularly.” Let the teacher know that you’ll be asking for updates throughout the year, and in the beginning of the year, you’ll be asking for them on a weekly basis.
Now, I know that no one wants to be “that parent.” You don’t want your teacher to see you as high-maintenance and annoying. Well, you should be that parent to some extent. You are taking the lead, so you do need to assess things regularly. But you don’t have to criticize, confront, or be defensive. Instead, ask questions and invite feedback.
And when you ask those questions, be specific. This is not “How’s she doing?” Instead, it’s “Is she listening when you tell her to do something,” or “Has she been able to ask for help instead of hitting?” And also prompt the teacher for the good news: “What did you appreciate about her behavior this week? I want to give her that feedback – that will encourage her.”
Bottom line: Be Proactive
If your child’s behavior can be challenging for teachers, it’s really important and really helpful to show up as someone who is taking the lead in managing this problem. When parents ask for my help with disruptive school behavior I reach out to the teacher immediately, and this puts the family in a strong position. It’s as if the family is saying, “Here’s our treatment team. Would you be able to join us?” This proactive approach tends to alleviate the teacher’s frustration and it also provides a preferred alternative to the less desirable solutions (for example, expulsion; medication) that are the go-to for some schools.
Do you have a child with disruptive school behavior? If you’d like help, give me a call. Again, this phone assessment is free – but don’t wait! Get started now, before the school year begins.