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When your child struggles in school

What do you do if your child is getting into chronic trouble at school? Here is some advice, courtesy the National PTA from family therapist Carole Banks.

Parents inevitably must approach their child’s teacher or principal when trouble arises at school, be it for a disciplinary one or concern about falling grades. These are both very challenging situations – for kids and parents.

Banks says that being behind (or ahead of) the class can create boredom or anxiety—which may lead some kids to act out verbally or physically. For the most part, Banks encourages parents not to give consequences at home for misbehavior at school – unless your child is damaging school property or hurting others physically.

She suggests leaving discipline for acting out at school to school officials. It’s not a good idea to “punish your child twice,” she says.

The more important thing is figuring out what your child needs to do differently the next time he wants to act out. If you say, “You have to stay in your room because you acted out in school today,” you’re not addressing the behavior. And you’re not teaching him anything—except how to do time.

Sometimes parents assume their kids will figure out things on their own, but if you’re dealing with a chronic issue, you have to face facts: your child has not figured it out by himself, and he is not likely to do so. You need to help him. Talk to the teacher to get a sense of why he’s acting out so you can help your child change.

Do support the school authorities in front of your child. If your child hears your criticism of school officials and his teachers, he is likely to be disrespectful to them in class—and also to you later on.

Dropping grades

If your child’s grades are dropping, become an investigator. Is he having problems at home or with other kids at school? Is he having a tough time adjusting to middle school or high school? Are his study habits poor? The main thing is to find out the “why” and come up with a plan to help your child.

Here are steps you can take immediately.

  • Meet with your child’s teacher. Tell the teacher what you are seeing at home and then ask what she has observed in the classroom. Ask her for any ideas she might have.
  • Set up more structure at home. A common problem for many kids is a lack of structure in their afterschool schedule. Make sure sports or other clubs do not come first, with homework being fit in at the end of the day. This gives them the wrong message—that play comes before work and is therefore more important than work.
  • Be realistic in your goals: When you structure your child’s study time to help him bring his grades back to an acceptable level, be realistic in your goals. Remember, it took time for your child to get behind, so you need to allow time for him to catch up. Get actively involved in your child’s homework by reviewing it and helping with study strategies. I also recommend that you try to be present during study time.

“Problems at School? How to Handle the Top 4 Issues” was reprinted from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit Carole Banks, MS, writes for Parental Support Line and Empowering Parents, an online newsletter for parents.

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