Behavior at school

Question: My 6 yr. old son seems to be a very sweet, aware, sensitive and intelligent boy. But yet he is having behavior problems at school. He talks and makes distracting noises. He has a very nice and helpful teacher. We have come up with a conduct log that she fills out to let me know how his behavior was for that day. I have come up with a “Behavior Contract” which my son and I have discussed in detail. These items work sometimes but then most of the time they don’t. He has rewards for good days and he has punishments for disruptive behavior, such as, no video games, no tv, early bed time… He always gets his work done and is always getting good academic grades, but the conduct grades are below average. Is this normal for his age? Is this a stage that he is going through? I’m really perplexed because he really is a good boy… any suggestions?
– Susan
Answer: One of the hardest facts about parenting is you can do all the right things and children still misbehave. It sounds to me like you have a good plan in place and are communicating and cooperating with his teacher to implement the plan. Stick with the plan. You are giving your son a clear and consistent message of what kinds of behavior are acceptable in school and what kinds of behavior are not.

– If your son is acting out for attention, he will eventually learn that there is no ‘payoff” to the disruptions.

– If your son is acting out because he is in a testing “stage”, he will learn the boundaries of acceptable behavior and predictable consequences.

– If your son is talking and being disruptive because he lacks the patience and self-control to do otherwise, he will settle in with time and maturity.

You are teaching him through your words and your actions the two-fold importance of school: academic work and the ability to follow the rules. He may not get the message today. But, many years from now, he will remember you had a long-term commitment to building character.

Continue to monitor the situation with on-going feedback from the teacher. It sounds like the “problem” is mostly isolated to his school day. It is noteworthy that he has good grades and is completing his work. If the problem starts to spill over into other areas or if it starts to escalate to other situations, you and the teacher could begin more in-depth problem solving.

It isn’t easy to be a six year old boy these days. Academic expectations are high. Classroom behavior standards are less flexible than a decade ago. After-school schedules are busier than ever. My final recommendation is to evaluate the amount of unstructured time your son has every day. He does need time to be loud, silly, goofy, a little gross (when you’re not listening), and very physical. Be sure to balance high expectations with a healthy dose of childhood!

Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.

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