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Promoting positive behaviour

When you’re told that your child’s behaviour at school isn’t up to scratch, it can be difficult to know how to react. You might feel angry (with the school or even your child), frustrated, embarrassed or perhaps judged by teachers and other parents – after all no-one wants their child to be the labelled the ‘troublemaker’.

There are lots of reasons for difficult or challenging behaviour, so it’s important to put aside your emotions, do some fact finding, and work together with your child and their teachers to get the best outcome.

Listen to your child without judgement

Have open conversations with your child and listen closely to what they tell you. Let them talk freely about what it’s like at school, ask what goes well as well as what doesn’t. Older children will be able to tell you in more detail, but try and encourage your child to focus on facts rather than emotions and opinions.

Wait until your child has finished before moving on to discuss what might make things better for them. Try to avoid saying anything that might (unintentionally) re-inforce or make worse any negative feelings they have about themselves or school, like "you shouldn’t feel that way" or "your teacher shouldn't do that".

Find out what the school expects

Once you’ve got a handle on your child’s view of the situation, make an appointment to speak to their teacher. Prepare for the meeting by reading the school behaviour policy, so you’ll have a good understanding of what’s expected and how the school promotes positive behaviour for learning.

The relationship you have with your child’s teacher and school will certainly affect how you feel about going in for this kind of meeting. If you’re at all worried about it, read our tips for communicating with the school.

Talking to your child’s teacher

Just as you had an open, non-judgemental conversation with your child, try and do the same with their teacher. Listen to what they tell you before asking questions or talking about solutions.

Take with you some notes from the conversations you’ve had with your child, and a list of questions you’d like to ask. If you’re not clear on what the school’s behaviour policy is, or why they manage behaviour in the way they do, ask your child’s teacher to explain their reasons.

There’s lots of information that will be useful for you to share too, like a list of the things you do at home that support positive behaviour for learning, and some examples of any challenges you’ve faced in the past (or now), including what has, or hasn’t worked.

Discuss any concerns you have about how school affects your child, for example if they’re struggling with homework, reluctant to go to school, or showing any signs of anxiety or stress.

And if there’s something going on at home that could be affecting their behaviour at school, like a sick relative or a house move, it’s really helpful for teachers to know about it - any personal information you share will be treated with confidence.

In a nutshell, the more open the communication is between home and school, the easier it will be to work together to make school life happier for your child.

Promoting positive behaviour at home

Learning starts at home, so the plans you agree with the school will be more effective when they’re supported by some simple strategies for promoting positive behaviour at home:

Recognise the good stuff. When your child does something great, like working hard on a project (not necessarily school related), showing kindness to friends or family, or being persistent at something – let them know you’ve noticed their efforts by telling them so, and remind them they should be proud of themselves too.

Be a good role model.We can all have our off days, but don’t underestimate the power of being a good role model for your kids. If you want them to be respectful, kind (online as well as in the ‘real’ world), and feel positive about school, then make sure they see you behaving that way too. If you have rules in place, like doing homework before TV, or no phones at the dinner table, the whole family needs to stick to them.

Support their learning. Talk positively about school and let your child know you’re there to support them with homework, read together, talk about their day, support them at exam time, attend parents' evenings, and (as much as you can) go along to other school events.

Seek expert help if you’re worried

If you’re worried that your child’s behaviour isn’t improving, or they’re struggling to cope, make an appointment to speak to the staff member responsible for pastoral care at your child’s school. If you’re concerned there could be an underlying condition affecting their behaviour, contact your GP or other family health professional.

Related articles: Where to find parenting advice

Reviewed: February 2019

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