How to Get Your Child to Behave in School


When your child is misbehaving at school, it may feel like there's little you can do. While you can't sit by his side and remind him how you want him to act, you can help your child by figuring out the root of his behavior. Once you know why he's acting up, work with the school to turn things around.

Assess the Situation

  • Your child's take on his school behavior may not be entirely reliable, and a few emails from his teacher won't reveal the whole story either. To find out for yourself what's going on, ask his teacher if you can volunteer in the classroom. Schedule a regular shift as a teacher's aide if possible or come in occasionally to read stories or assist with projects.

    Watch the way your child interacts with his teachers and peers. Perhaps you'll notice that he's copying a misbehaving neighbor, suggests pediatrician Dr. William Sears, or you'll conclude that the classroom isn't a good fit for your child. It may be that he needs a teacher who is stricter or would do better in a setting where students are encouraged to move around instead of sitting still. If that's the case, schedule a meeting with the principal or other administrators.

    If you want your child to stay in his classroom, schedule a post-visit meeting with the teacher. You may ask that your child's seat be moved or that he be given more classroom jobs, suggests Dr. Sears, which will keep him busy and earn him praise.

    It may not be possible for you to visit your child in his classroom. If not, reach out to everyone who has contact with your child. Meet with his teacher and talk to his guidance counselor, bus driver and other parents who help out in the classroom to ask what they've noticed about his behavior.

Consider the Cause

  • If your child is acting up outside of school also, or if you're confident that nothing happening inside the classroom is triggering his behavior, look for other causes. Any recent life changes -- such as separation, divorce, a new baby, a recent move or the loss of a family member or friend -- could be to blame.

    Provide your child with lots of consistency, support and attention during a time of change. After a separation or divorce, advises KidsHealth, make it a priority to give the child consistent one-on-one time with each parent if possible. Planning activities for just you and your child can also be helpful if he's acting out because of a new sibling.

    Talk to school staff about any big life changes that affect your child's behavior, advise Anita Gurian, Ph.D. and Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., of NYU's Child Study Center.

Seek Professional Help

  • Talk to your pediatrician about your child's behavior. Physical issues, such as inadequate sleep or vision problems, can affect your child's school experience, as can conditions including ADHD, depression and anxiety.

    Impulsive behavior and inability to listen and follow directions can be signs of a learning disorder. Your pediatrician or a school psychologist can help you get an assessment if you think your child's behavior is linked to such a disorder.


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  • Photo Credit Tanya Constantine/Blend Images/Getty Images
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