Behavior Issues in School

For kids who struggle with their behavior in the classroom, establishing some school-specific behavior management strategies is important.

The first step is often asking the school to provide a functional behavior assessment. The goal of an FBA is to gather more information about when and why your child is acting out in class. This information is then used to come up with a plan for how to help. A school psychologist or behavioral specialist typically leads the FBA, and may speak to you, your child’s teachers and your child as part of the assessment, as well as do some in-class observation.

Determining which specific things that your child struggles with is important. Just like in behavior management at home, it helps to get as much information as possible about the real-life situations that seem to lead to disruptive behavior, paying attention to what happens immediately before, during and after the behavior. Paying attention to when your child isn’t acting out can also be informative.

Once this information has been gathered and analyzed, the school psychologist or behavioral specialist can work on creating a behavior intervention plan (or BIP) with ideas for preventing problem behaviors and rewarding positive behavior. This may include different teaching strategies, different consequences for misbehavior or changes to typical routines. Checking in periodically to monitor the effectiveness of these strategies (and make updates accordingly) is important.

How parents can support school behavior goals at home

Parents can also play a role in helping reinforce good behavior at school. You might tell your child’s teacher that you want to be a partner in helping improve your child’s behavior and select one or two goals at a time to work on, like turning in homework and not calling out in class, for example. Then you can ask the teacher to give you periodic reports on your child’s progress. You don’t want to overwhelm the teacher, but if you get a progress report every few days or every week then you can help reinforce the school’s goals by either rewarding good school behavior at home or setting up appropriate consequences.

For example, if you hear that your child is doing a good job turning in his assignments, you might give him some extra screen time that weekend in recognition of his efforts. If he’s doing a particularly good job then you might give him a bigger reward, like an outing to his favorite restaurant. Conversely, if you get a report that he isn’t doing his homework, you might let him know that he won’t get any screen time for the first two days of the upcoming week because he needs to prioritize homework.

For more information about working with schools on behavior issues, see our recommended reading list in the next section.