How to Handle Your Class Troublemaker

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Parent’s question

My son, a first-grader, is a saint at home, but he behaves terribly at school. I get an email from his teacher almost every day about his constant talking, making funny noises and getting out of his seat. The teacher has tried sending him to the principal, eliminating recess and putting him in the hall. I have taken away privileges, from TV time to play dates with friends. What can be done to change his behavior? The teacher says he appears to be gifted academically.

Our answer

What your son is doing in the classroom is not unusual behavior for a first-grader. It would be best handled in the classroom. Since the teacher doesn’t seem to know how to handle the child, she should ask for help. One or more experienced teachers could visit the classroom and make suggestions.

You are too removed from your son’s behavior to be punishing him after he has misbehaved. Instead, do tell him that you expect him to behave well in the classroom. Also, it would be wise for you to visit the classroom and observe what he is doing.

You might come up with some good suggestions for the teacher based on your knowledge of what type of discipline works with your child. For example, a behavior chart is helpful for some children. Your son might check each time he talks to classmates. Then the goal would be to reduce this number each day until it is at an appropriate level. Also, seating him in the back of the room could make his behavior less noticeable.

There is always the possibility that your bright child is misbehaving out of boredom. Perhaps he could be assigned more challenging work after he has completed routine assignments. This might turn things around. Also, he may need work on his social maturity in order to handle being in the classroom environment.

This teacher is spending an inordinate amount of time emailing you about your son. She also may not have good classroom-management skills. While it is rarely possible to change teachers, a different teacher might be a better fit for him.

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