Help! The Teacher Says My Child Is Misbehaving

Staying calm and asking questions may be the key to the best outcomes.

Posted Feb 08, 2017

You arrive home from a busy and stressful day at work ready to relax and unwind. The phone rings, you answer, and it is your child’s teacher. The teacher begins to describe your child’s behavior as noncompliant, disengaged, and misbehaving. Worse, the teacher indicates that your child’s grades are falling. Your first reaction is probably one of disdain for the teacher or even anger at your child. After hanging up the phone, you wonder, “How can I help my child and keep good rapport with a teacher my child must be around the entire year?” Following are some tips to help you and your child manage these problems.

Before making any responses, it is important to clear your head and talk to your child. Knee jerk comments or reactions are usually not productive when we are stressed. I know of many parents who expressed anger toward the teacher or even their child in that stressful moment and regretted it later. Go for a walk, meditate, or do something for a few minutes to relieve your stress before responding.

Next, write down questions you have regarding your child’s behavior and/or grades. Try not to dwell on your emotions but, rather, focus on things that can be changed. For example, questions might be, “What are my child’s grades on each assignment? What can he or she improve on? What specific things can I or my child do to improve his/her behavior? What can I, as a parent, do to improve this problem?” Remember that past failures cannot be changed. You must focus on future improvement.

After you have a list of questions, calmly speak with your child. Ask your child to explain what is going on from their perspective. Write down your child’s responses to read later. Be sure to ask questions of your child to determine how he/she feels they can improve.  Again, take a few minutes to calm down then re-read your child’s responses to determine their perspective.

Once you have a good understanding of your child’s “story,” make an appointment with the teacher to discuss your child’s progress in person. During this meeting, take notes, ask your questions, and listen. Just as you did with your child, take time to clear your head before responding to any of the accusations.

If the meeting with the teacher was not productive, make an appointment to see the school counselor. The school counselor can see all sides of the situation from a neutral standpoint and become an invaluable ally to parents. Describe the situation to the school counselor and let them know what you and your child have done to improve the situation (i.e. what has worked, what has not worked) and what the ideal goal looks like. The school counselor can speak with your child, uncover the real issue, and suggest interventions to help all involved parties. Often, counselors uncover issues beyond those known by the teacher or parents (e.g. the child is being bullied, feels ostracized, the child is being abused by a neighbor, the child has a learning disability, the teacher and child simply do not get along, etc.) and can offer professional referrals and strategies to help.

If all of the above steps have been followed and the problem has not improved, consider meeting with a school administrator. Often meetings involving the administrator, counselor, teacher, and child are very productive. Remember to focus on improving the present and future. As a last resort, you can always ask that your child be moved to a new class. This should be a last resort in this particular situation, however; since not addressing the real issues can mean simply moving unaddressed problems to a new environment.

Janet Hicks
Source: Janet Hicks