Start off on the Right Foot: Don’t let Behavior Disrupt the School Year

By Danielle Spano

It is back to school time, and for parents of children with a history of behavioral or academic issues, this could be a cause for concern. The Florida Department of Education follows a Multi-Tiered System of Supports that helps to identify students in need of academic or behavioral support. Teachers are to regularly assess students to determine early if a student is falling behind or is having social or behavioral difficulties. This positive behavior support provides instruction and intervention based on each student’s need. As a parent, you may know before the school year even begins that your child needs some assistance to make this year a success, and there are steps you can take to help.

Do not wait for the first day of school to begin your school year routines

A week or two before school starts, make bedtimes and wake up times the same as during the school year to get your child’s internal clock regulated with the school schedule. A 2012 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that sleeping even a half hour more than usual results in a significant improvement in a child’s ability to control their emotions and behavior in school.

Set up a conference with the teacher

If necessary, have a meeting with the teacher alone first to discuss anything sensitive and then have a follow up with your child, as his success depends very heavily on his participation in the solution. “What is really important is to help the teacher and the child learn that we are all on the same team,” Kathryn Kvols, author of “Redirecting Children’s Behavior” and president of the International Network for Children and Families, said. Talk about what he can expect from the class and the teacher and what will be expected of him. Use this opportunity to ask probing questions of your child and to help him identify his needs in the learning environment. He should express his personal needs, such as sitting closer to the front if he typically gets distracted when sitting toward the back. He will be much more forthcoming when given the opportunity to be included in his educational planning. Be sure to discuss his learning style. For example, a kinesthetic learner may need to move around. In this case, the teacher can have him pass things out or find ways to accommodate him without disrupting the class. If unknown, talk to the teacher about different learning styles and see which resonates with your child. Understanding how you learn is the first step to better absorbing information. For instance, linguistic and visual learners, who absorb the information better when seeing the words in writing, may benefit from getting notes from the teacher after a lecture if they do not do well with aural methods. Kvols said that teachers are becoming more accommodating and understand that all students do not learn alike.

Once class is in session, maintain consistency and stay involved

If your peppy pupil is full of energy, have him run around the block or in the backyard to burn some off some excess energy before school in the morning. “Some children have an extraordinary need for power, so they end up getting into power struggles a lot at home and school,” said Kvols, who holds degrees in psychology, social work and education. “If we find appropriate ways for that child to feel powerful, then that need dissipates.” In this instance, you could satisfy your child’s need for power at home by letting him lead discussions and asking his opinion and advice about family decisions. At school, the teacher can let him pass out the pencils or help clean up the room to let him feel empowered.

Everyone has a role in your child’s success this school year: the teacher, the student and you as a parent. It can be a successful year if everyone works together to achieve it!