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Is your child acting out in school?

Understand the reasons behind bad behavior

Understand the reasons behind bad behavior

All children grow up in unique family situations, which impact their development differently. In most cases, when a child finds themselves in trouble, they are just navigating their autonomy. There are certain scenarios where teachers and parents will be obligated to investigate further to find out the reasons behind the behavior.

Cultural expectations and parental guidance determine how much misbehavior is normal and acceptable, but there are certain standards that need to be met for teachers and school staff to maintain healthy learning environments for children.

When should teachers step in?

"Misbehavior is always a symptom of something, but sometimes the solutions may be as simple as a student needing eye glasses or needing to sit up front to be less distracted," says M. Melissa Greig who recently retired from Dutchess County BOCES CTI as the early- childhood development educator.   

Greig states, "Clearly a child who presents as anti-social, seemingly showing no interest in friendships and or lacking the skills to join a social group, may require intervention." A child who misbehaves could be on the spectrum or depressed. There also could be something more
serious going on at home.

Greig insists, "Teachers must be aware of the children who over-eat, under-eat, constantly day dream, children who flinch with sudden movements, or children who seem to continually complain of stomach aches." This could all be symptomatic of stress or trauma.

"I think educators have to be very sensitive before they jump to conclusions. Teachers are there to support children and parents. It's not their teachers place to diagnose. Involve parents, ask questions and build trust," Greig continues.

HALT! Learn the cause of bad behavior

Michigan State University explains, "one basic understanding is that children (and adults too) will misbehave when they are hungry, angry, lonely/bored or tired (HALT)."

Derrick Miller is a single father of one son living in Poughkeepsie. He says, "My son Zyre's kindergarten teachers let his mother and I know that he was misbehaving in the class. He was running around and not listening to directions." HALT seems to be a common cause with these types of misbehavior.

"I think children misbehave because they feel restricted by the rules put in place," says Miller. Because this was Zyre's first year in school, he was still learning about the rules and what was expected of him and expectations of the school.

At the same time, Miller goes on to explain, his son has been adjusting to the joint-custody his parents share.  

Varying rules at home, or school make it more difficult for children to understand what is expected of them. "I prefer to take away toys and T.V. time as a way to rectify the bad behavior at home and at school, but it is hard to know what his mother is doing while he is in her care," Miller states.

"I'm happy to report his teachers say he has been behaving better so far this year," Miller says.

Every child is different

Tashai Burke is a married mother of two daughters living in Poughkeepsie who admits, "I've never had any serious behavioral issues with either of my children. My twenty-year-old went through her normal developmental challenges, and my two-year-old is entering the age where she is testing her boundaries."

Burke describes her 20-year old daughter as perfect and says, "She exerted her independence in a respectful manner. My little one is doing normal things like putting everything in her mouth and exploring the house," Burke says.

Greig explains, "Biting is a developmentally appropriate response for many young children, especially for those having trouble expressing themselves. Biting also creates a cause/effect reaction, that young children are encouraged by, similar to tossing a cookie off the high chair, it disappears and then someone picks it up and I have it again." The reality is the behavior will continue until someone else intervenes to stop the cycle. For instance, when the two-year-old throws the cookie, it should not be given back to them.

Causes of tween troubles

Jonese Jennette is a mother of two daughters living in Poughkeepsie. Jennette explains, "My 10-year-old Sanai was getting complaints at the end of last school year saying she was being disruptive in class and her grades were dropping. I truly felt she was copying her other classmates and asked her to please save all of her off-task talking to free time."

Jennette says, "I was surprised when the teacher suggested Sanai could be acting out to rebel against me. Sanai and I had a great conversation to discuss what was bothering her, and how we could make improvements for the future."

Meet expectations or accept the consequences

My children are Hyde Park Central School district students. My youngest daughter Hailey attends Ralph R. Smith Elementary school and the last two years the school has sent home an educational contract listing the expectations for students, parents and teachers. This is a contract that says we will all work together for the greater good of the school and accept the consequences for failing to meet these expectations.

Kristina Lasher is a mother of two daughters and two step-daughters.