What You May Be Experiencing

School is your child's second home now, a place where she spends more waking hours than she does at home. Any behavior problems that aren't pointed out to you by a teacher are almost certainly noticed by her, and the teacher can be an ally for you — and your child — if you treat her with respect and attention to the classroom as a whole.

Problems at School

If your child's teacher has indicated your child has a behavior problem, take it seriously. If you haven't had one yet, ask for a private conference and gather as much information as you can. This can be scary for you; you may be surprised to find it can be scary for the teacher, too. If you would like your child's teacher to help you and your child, forge a respectful relationship by empathizing with his difficult task — teaching a large number of children within a strict curriculum guideline while budget cuts make each day more difficult than the last — and listening calmly. Don't be defensive or rationalize your child's behavior. No matter what the teacher says or how wrong you think he is, thank him for taking the time to speak to you, and ask if he has any specific suggestions for remedying the problem at hand. Next, take the information home, discuss it with your partner, and either implement the solution or ask the teacher and administration for more information, resources, or feedback.

Learning disabilities are another problem at school, for two reasons. First, if the problem hasn't been diagnosed, your child could be struggling for no apparent reason and growing extremely frustrated and angry while watching other children “get” lessons with ease; in fact, mistaking a learning disability for defiance could infuriate the child even more. If you suspect this is the case, talk with the teacher and ask for academic testing. Second, if the problem has been diagnosed, the child could be embarrassed about special, yet helpful treatment, and could be longing to be “normal.” If you suspect this is the case, you might help your child by explaining that nobody is “normal,” and that each person has a separate journey in life, always with “bumps” in the road. Watching movies and reading true-life accounts of people who have overcome disability can help.

Extracurricular Activities

Many children this age are involved in one or several extracurricular activities, from Girl Scouts to karate or soccer, to piano or language lessons. Since schools have so little money for extracurricular programs, most parents have to schedule and pay for them outside of the school day, so evenings and weekends are full of games, recitals, practices, and programs that either continue steadily or change up with every holiday, vacation, and change in seasons. While this sounds crazy, and it definitely can be, parents and kids sign up for it because it's valuable education, and it's socially important.

If your child is having a behavior problem during an extracurricular activity, listen empathetically with the instructor or coach, and observe a class or lesson. Instructors and coaches may not have as much training as a schoolteacher, but they probably still have a good reason for reaching out to you. If you can't remedy the behavior simply, you can end the extracurricular activity. Your child may not like it, and you may have to consider other childcare options, but your child may actually benefit more from the downtime — if it is replaced with activities other than screen time — than she may from the extracurricular activity.

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  4. What You May Be Experiencing
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