Bad Behavior at School

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13 year old talking and disruptive in class

April 2013


My son has always talked to much in class. Because he is bright and fun, the teachers have complained but let him get away with it. I thought he would outgrow it/learn to control himself/take school more seriously as he got older - but to no avail. His teachers are writing to me about how disrepectful and disruptive his talking is.I have tried various positive and negative approaches but nothing sticks. He is quickly back to talking in class again. I would like to hear advice from parents that have ACTUALLY dealt with this problem. I see lots of advice on the internet from well meaning parents about forms of discipline but very little specific to this issue and this age. Thanks! frustrated Mom

We had very similar issues with our son who is now a senior in high school. The elementary school teachers generally found his impulsiveness difficult. Starting in middle school things improved a bit because he was so engaged in the classroom with what he was learning. In high school almost every report card comments on this- asking him to hold back and let others talk. This, I believe, is not truly a discipline problem -- but rather a difficulty with sel-monitoring and self control. It has always been very difficult for my son to not speak all of the thoughts that come into his head. He has gradually improved in the classroom. He continued however, to have difficulty with distractibiliity and completing assignments. He had testing last summer that resulted in a dx of ADHD and a medication trial. Even if your son doesn't have ADD You will find many suggestions for improving his self-controli in books about ADD or on line at the CHADD Website, Over the years I have learned a couple of things -- always have him in a classroom where the teacher likes him ( generally these are the teachers who 'get' boy energy); keep his life structured but don't try to fit him into a specific box. em


Smart 1st grader misbehaving at school, not at home

Feb 2006


My 6.5 year old son is having one heck of a hard time in first grade. Oddly enough, he is a complete angel at home and with other family members-always has been. I come home, every single day, to a long letter from his teacher, describing all the poor choices my son made that day. The teacher's consequences range from verbal warnings to making him sit in a chair, alone, at the back of the classroom-or out in the hallway. My son also has conversations with his classmates while the teacher is speaking, cracks jokes when the class is supposed to be concentrating, and frequently rolls around on the floor during a lesson. I have tried time outs, a rewards system-where I basically ignore the negative and make a big deal out of the positive, I've taken away all entertainment priveledges during the week and even the weekend, etc. I am even not allowing him to go to an upcoming birthday party because he is misbehaving too often (all day-every day). I stick to what I say-I am very consistent with him. As I said, he is a complete angel at home, so coming home to these long letters from his teacher puts me in a stressed-out state and I am at my wits end. His teacher is very supportive and I appreciate all the time she takes to work with my son. BTW-His misbehavior does not include hurting other children, and also, his teacher says he is academically gifted. I just don't know what I am doing wrong and the last thing I need at the end of a long day is to have to turn to my otherwise loving and cuddly son, and punish him for his misbehavior at school (only). Do I need to have him tested for ADHD, or have I failed as a parent-because somewhere he got the message that he can be a jerk at school and a sweet heart at home?
Jekyl and Hyde in Lamorinda

Your academically gifted child is bored. That is all there is to it.

I suggest you check out some gifted mailing lists and websites for help with gifted kids and school issues.

Families who have gone through the same things can have a lot of good advice.

Hoagie's Gifted also has articles on the subject.

Here is a classic on giftedness: =283155 susan

If, as the teacher says, he is gifted, then perhaps he is bored, and needs more rigorous stimulation to keep him focussed? Just a thought. anon

I'd advise you to stop punishing your son, and consider the possibility of finding him a different educational environment. If he is ''academically gifted,'' he may simply be bored! I had this same problem when I was in 3rd grade, really acting up in class (but not hurting the other kids). I was moved to a different class with a different teacher (more challenging) and my behavior improved immediately. Reformed Class Clown

First of all, please stop blaming yourself! All of the behaviors you listed are very age-appropriate. I am a first grade teacher, and I see all of those behaviors daily. MOST first graders act differently at home than they do at school. And most of them are very active. They test the same boundaries over and over. These are all developmental characteristics of 6 and 7 year olds.

It sounds like the frequency of the behaviors is the problem. One way for you to try to help your son see this would be to set up a chart where he (or the teacher, or a combination of both) would put a check mark each time he interrupted a lesson. They could do this for a whole day, or just for an hour. The important next step in the process would be to talk to him after school and set a goal for the next day. Make it an easy goal. For example, if he interrupted 25 times in 1 hour, ask if he thinks he can keep it down to 23 times the next day. He will feel motivated by how easy that goal is, and he will probably interrupt even less.

Keep resetting the goal each day until the number is where you want it. This tactic is very philosophically different from on-the-spot rewards and punishments. It empowers the child to make the change with no immediate reinforcement either way. The problem with immediate punishment is that unless it is given every single time he does something against the rules (and no teacher of a class larger than 2 notices everything), it actually perpetuates the behavior.

Another thing you need to consider is if this school is a good match for your son. It sounds like your son has a lot of energy (like most first graders). Does his school have ample time to run and play? Are lessons active, or do they do mostly seatwork? Do you think he is being challenged in the ways you would like?

If you think the school is a good match for him, talk with your son's teacher about what works for you at home when he is not behaving (if that ever happens!). It is important to set up a partnership with the teacher so that you all feel like you're on the same team.

Good luck! First grade energy is a blessing, not a curse!

Two things: 1) your son sounds like a normal, lively little boy, and 2) this is the school's problem, not yours. OK, three things: you're not a failure as a parent. So long as you have made clear to your son what your expectations are about his behavior at school, you've done your duty. The school must apply appropriate consequences for misbehavior at school. Imagine it were the other way around, as is more common: your son is a little angel at school & saves all his worst behavior for his parents, would you expect the school to punish him for misbehavior at home? Of course not. Are you sure this teacher is a good fit for him? What are her theories about his misbehavior? Is he bored? Too full of energy to be quiet & still? A good teacher has techniques for dealing with these things, she shouldn't just be complaining to you & expecting you to do something about it. Obviously punishment isn't working (it rarely does, in my opinion). anon

Hi , I had a simmiler experence with my now 9 year old son when he was in Kindergarten and first grade. My son would act up at school all the time. He would disrupt other students, make loud noises, laugh at the teacher when she was giving instructions. My husband and I have never seen this behavier form him at all at home. His teacher sugested we test him for ADHD. So we did. The testing process reqiures you and his teacher to fill out diffrent questioners on the childs behavier. Then the questioners are scored by the doctor. In are case the scores were to low to even have my son tested. Meaning that my son only acted up at school and not at home. We were back to square one. My sons doctor asked how he was doing accademicly. We told her very well. The Doctor sugested that my son might be bored in school and that is why he is acting up, that maybe he should be givin more of a challenging work load than the other students to see if his behavier will improve. Well it worked.... Now at 9 years old he is in 4th grade with his friends and doing 5th grade math, reading, social studies and science. He is a happy kid. He never disrupts the class at all.

Talk to your sons teacher to find out if he is bored in his school work. Maybe she can give him harder work to keep him busy. sharon

It seems as if your son may be bored at school. Have you talked to his teacher about setting up a folder of more advanced work that he can go work on when he's done with his regular work? That may help with some of the problems.

I would also suggest you look into martial arts. I am from The Academy For Martial Arts in Walnut Creek - (925) 943-3936. We have wonderful teachers, we are right off the freeway (5 minutes from Lamorinda-we have lots of Lamorinda students) and we really focus on listening and behaving at home and at school. In fact, your son's teacher has to sign a form in order for him to belt test. That is a HUGE incentive for him to behave in school. There are several children in the program that have improved their behavior at school tremendously after a little time in our program. Kristi

This is a complex situation. I think you have to sort out several things independently before you will be able to come to any conclusions.

I think the first thing to do is start volunteering in the classroom at least 2 x per week- immediately. You have to get in there and see what is actually going on. Better yet, find out if there is any way you can observe your son without him seeing you. That will give you the most objective data. If you absolutely cannot get in there yourself, hire a psych. or someone to observe him for you, and of course without your son knowing.

Some alarm bells went off for me about the teacher. How does a teacher have time to write a long note every day about all the things a kid does that are wrong? That didn't sound right. My alarm bells also went off questioning her classroom management (eg discipline) skills. If the teacher is the problem, don't hesitate to remove your son from the classroom immediately. He won't be harmed be missing some school, and might benefit greatly from a break from what is undoubtedly a very stressful situation for him.

Next, you have to take a look at your son. He is a young first-grader. His social maturity may not be quite there. This is esp. common for an academically gifted child. He could also just be bored. If he had a learning disability I would say he is displaying avoidance behaviors. Avoidance behaviors are the result of the child who is in the wrong situation, or the wrong learning style is being used, etc. The problem is that those avoidance behaviors, which are really a clue about what is wrong in the classroom, are often used to label the kid as the problem, and the school refuses to look at itself. The other problem is that left unchecked, those avoidance behaviors will become habit and then it WILL become his fault as it becomes his personality. But for now you must not blame him in any way - he is merely giving you clues in the only way he knows how.

In looking at him, you must first determine if there is an organic cause. He should be fully evaluated by a kind loving neuropsychologist or developmental ped like Brad Berman, Carina Grandison or someone they recommend. They will be able to tell you what is going on in that brain and give you some clues about the behavior. In my mind this step is the most important of all the steps I am mentioning.

If there is no organic cause then you need to look at him behaviorally & psychologically. Try getting an appt. with Robert MacKenzie of Davis, who writes about setting limits and effective parenting styles. He also is a specialist in teacher's classroom management techniques. He might be a good source for pinpointing some of the triggers.

And then finally, if that isn't enough, you will need to get look at him psychologically. The neuropsychs and/or your ped can help with that recommendation. I do think all children who see a psych. should only be seen with both parents; it is too easy to blame the kid for his 'problems' when often it is a family problem.

I know I have been blunt. It is a lot to take in. My final advice is do not delay. Early intervention is critical.

Good luck to you. Anon

Two things. One, you need to have a long talk with your child's teacher and explain to her that this behavior is 180 degrees from his behavior at home. She needs to know this. Two, give some thought to whether he may be acting out because he is academically ahead of the class. I myself was tagged a ''gifted'' kid in grade school and can tell you that it pretty much writes your death warrant on the social scene. Of course the other kids don't know what the teacher has said to you about him being ''gifted,'' but they do know (as does he) that he is a/the smart kid in the class. He may well be acting out so that the other kids do not tag him as Teacher's Pet. signed, anonymous former Teaher's Pet (I hated it)

You son sounds purely bored. This sounds like he is a victim here (not of you, of course, you sound like an excellent parent, but of the school system). The teacher seems a bit off--writing a list of the things he did wrong--how on earth does she have time for that? Gifted children are often tired of coperating and rebel to get attention, because otherwise they are ignored for the more needy children. I would reccomend strongly Raising Cain, by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, in my opinion one of the most insightful books about boy behavior ever written. Perhaps you need to get your son in a more challenging educational enviornment that also has more time spent outside getting exercise, which is what a lot of first-grade boys (and girls) need. Maybe a private school; public schools right now are so pressured by the Tests that they are cuting out a lot of playtime and recess time. This situation is unfair to you and your son, so change it. William

My son is a kindergartner, but his behavior is a lot like your son's. I don't believe my son is bored. I think his teacher is right when she says he is just young/immature.

My question is--where is the school counselor in all this? I thought I'd die when the teacher suggested he meet with the counselor, but then realized that this was a positive thing: she was setting him up to succeed by using all the tools available to him and her. She also made up these sheets that have 3 areas he needs to work on, and each day one comes home with him with a smiley or frowny face for each area. (The areas have words but also pictures, so he can readily understand them.) It's been a slow road but there is definite improvement. We've recently had a brief slump, but this past week has been terrific. I wonder if sheets like these would work for your son. The teacher encouraged us to discuss the results at home but not punish him for frowny faces he receives.

The teacher has also made suggestions to implement at home (the latest one being to enforce that cleanup must happen after the first reminder), and those have also worked well.

If your son's teacher doesn't have ideas for curbing his behavior, maybe you can work with her and the school counselor and/or any other school professional for ideas. I agree that making changes at home is unlikely to have an effect at school.

Good luck. Jennie

I could have written your post myself. Unfortunately we are in the same boat. My son is very bright, but very energetic and funny. His teachers do not see his academic aptitude AT ALL because they can't get passed his ''disruptiveness'', too. I have spoken with other parents and found that many parents of boys in this particular first grade class are equally upset. We are all pressuring the administration to make changes immediately so as to not lose our boys this early in the game. Please read Raising Cain! anon

My first grade son had/has a lot of disruptive behavior. He is very smart, funny, sensitive, and physical. One of the most helpful things we and his teachers have done is to incorporate sensory integration exercises into his daily routine and see a physical therapist for annual consultations (Gail Gordon in Orinda). I would highly recommend that you look into sensory integration dysfunction as a possible source of answers about how to help your son. There's a great set of books called ''The Out of Sync Child'' and ''The Out of Sync Child Has Fun'' (exercises you can do with your child to help with sensory integration). mm

I understand your situation. Although I cannot find your original post, I remember the jist of what was written. I am having similar issues with my child and the teachers, same grade as yours. Only, I think my situation is racially motivated. My child is VERY beautiful, and very dark complected. I feel that often, the two first grade teachers make too big of a deal of my child's shortcomings, and not enough attention is given to my child's stregnths, because they have already assigned negative characteristics to him-because of his darkness. I have spoken with other African American parents at the school, and they seem to feel similarly. I am pulling my child out of this school. Maybe you should consider the same. Regardless of the reason, there is NO excuse for teachers responding so negatively to any child, of any race, at any age, for any reason. If the teacher cannot find ways to bring out the best in your son, or in every child they teach for that matter, they should consider a career change. It Can't Be Worse at Public School