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How do I teach my Reception-age child to follow the rules at school?

(11 Posts)
HumpheadWrasse Tue 10-Feb-15 04:19:40

My youngest DD (nearly 5) has always been strong-willed, likes to do her own thing and can sometimes be hard to manage.

She's recently moved to a new school. At her old school she was in her element, lots of friends, learning well. The school had a lot of 'choosing time' and learning through play and she was thriving. The new school is much more structured, with English class, Science class, Maths class etc which is new to her, and she has been getting into a lot of trouble with bad behaviour, refusing to do what the teacher says, throwing tantrums, crying and asking for me and generally disrupting the other children. She is very miserable, cries and says she hates school, doesn't know the rules and doesn't have any friends.

The headteacher called me in to his office this morning and is putting her on a formal behaviour plan. I am mortified at her poor behaviour but also my heart is breaking for her because she seems so miserable and she's changed so much so quickly. Moving back to her old school isn't an option - we've moved continents and all the schools around here are more formal in their teaching methods. How do I teach her to buckle down, listen to the teacher and do what she says?

Mehitabel6 Tue 10-Feb-15 09:34:20

She seems a bit young for it. Does she legally have to be there yet? Any chance of taking her out for a while until she is more ready?
If your only choice is to go with it then I would work with the behaviour plan and try to explain that she won't make friends if she has tantrums. Meanwhile invite children home and foster friendships.

MaudeLebowski Tue 10-Feb-15 09:41:02

Is there a language barrier that she is struggling with now?

I think you have to support the school in anyway you can on this one.

Agree with the above poster very much.

WhispersOfWickedness Tue 10-Feb-15 09:44:17

She doesn't sound naughty, she just sounds like she's too young for such a structured way of schooling sad
Would it be an option to take her out until she's more ready?

tomandizzymum Tue 10-Feb-15 09:51:25

I was in your boat, moved continents and my reception child was thrown into a new environment. It sounds like she's just adjusting, does she speak the language? Is it possible for you to go in with her? Adjusting will throw them all over the place for a while, some days I just sobbed my heart out for my sons sake. But it's ok, ok to be like that.
My sons school did two things, firstly I was allowed in with him, to guide him and help him learn things like, when the teacher speaks she's directing the work so look at her etc. The other thing is once I left the TA took over. It took a while and it wasn't easy. We've come through it and now he's starting to love learning and reading in both languages. I will say though that although they were more formal than the UK with learning, our country is very laid back. Which helps. It sounds like you might have more of a struggle in that area. Not impossible but just wanted to offer some encouragement.

IDontWantToBuildASnowman Tue 10-Feb-15 11:00:53

It sounds like her personality is clashing with the schools expectations. I also have a strong willed child and she becomes very difficult to manage and genuinely upset when she feels she has no control or choices. She was in trouble several times in reception year (really just boundary pushing) and so far in YR1 has had the odd moment, but is slowly understanding that there are expectations. To be honest some of the things she has been in trouble for I don't think she realised were "naughty", she just got it in her head that she wanted to do something and acted on it, or was in a world of her own when supposed to be doing what the rest of the class was.

Her reception teacher even admitted at one parents evening that her personality traits would undoubtedly set her up well in the future, as she is very bright and strong willed and does not really care what others think so much (she won't do something just because all her friends are!) so the teacher said she is less likely to be negatively impacted by peer pressure, but that at 4 years old (she is August baby) she needs to be gently taught that life does sometimes come with rules.

It's not easy parenting a strong willed child so you have my sympathy and I know how upsetting it is to see your child be unhappy and in trouble at school. If moving schools is not an option then I would be inclined to have a chat with the school to explain that they have your backing 100% in terms of improving her behaviour, but explain that improving her happiness and enjoyment for school is an equal priority for you and you would like to hope for them too (especially as this will no doubt lead to improved behaviour) so that any measures need to be done with empathy and understanding that she is only 5 years old, and if you feel she is being unfairly punished then you will not support them.

With my daughter heavy focus on the positive and heaping on OTT praise by the teachers is what has always helped and creates a positive feedback cycle where she is super keen to get the praise so works really hard to do so, but going down the punishment route just makes her more and more unhappy and almost makes her more determined to prove how naughty she is.

Good luck and big hugs xx

HumpheadWrasse Wed 11-Feb-15 04:04:00

A real thanks for everyone who's posted on the thread. You can't know how much it's helped to have some advice and support when I was in such a worried state yesterday, it's nearly made me want to cry!

To answer some questions - thank goodness, there isn't much of a language barrier - it's an English medium school and a fair minority of the kids speak English as a first language (we're in India). From what I can work out, technically she doesn't have to be in school until she's older but taking a nearly five year old out of school would be very, very unusual. In fact there is a class below hers, of 3/4 year olds, which also seems to be quite structured. There's a real academic focus here. I would also worry about her opportunities to make friends outside of school, there aren't really any English speaking kids who live near us. I feel quite isolated and I wouldn't like DD to feel the same! But I do think taking her out of school is our back up if all else fails.

I think our plan for now is to make sure school know how difficult she is finding it, and really hope that we can work together on this. I think we need to get a balance, because I understand how much her behaviour is driven by being young, new environment - but also I can see that that is leading to behaviour that really isn't acceptable and that she does know isn't OK.

mipmop Wed 11-Feb-15 05:26:03

This article isn't specifically about school, but may be useful:

It sounds like a cultural issue with the school, maybe their preference is for compliant children who don't question the rules. I hope you can encourage the staff to engage with her and work with you on this- I expect she has huge potential and can focus well when she is motivated and understands the task. Do you think that some part of the issue could be that she is overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of everything? New rules and expectations that others seem to understand implicitly, she has to be told explicitly, which can be difficult for strong-willed children (better to do this privately or quietly rather than drawing attention to it in front of the class?) Whether she doesn't understand the general rules, the task, or it's something else (like unfamiliar accents / different vocabulary used) is she confident there's someone she can ask? Maybe her confidence has been knocked and needs built up gently.

HumpheadWrasse Wed 11-Feb-15 06:47:03

Thanks mipmop, that's a genuinely useful article - it sounds as if it was written with my DD specifically in mind! I might ask the teacher for a copy of the school timetable and work through it with her ... so, when the teacher says that Math class is over and it's reading time, that's when the rule is that you put your maths book back in your book bag and go and sit on the mat ... etc.

tomandizzymum Wed 11-Feb-15 09:39:41

Everything will come out alright, moving to a new country throws everyone. India will be more structured, I guess that's just how they roll. If she's strong willed, she'll always be. Structured school won't knock it out of her. Also, from my experience of my older children who moved counties and then back again, in the long run, adapting to different cultures outweighs all the struggles. Good luck.

Strictlyison Wed 11-Feb-15 15:08:03

Play school at home, she can be the teacher, make a structured day with her, go through the day (maybe the school can provide you with a schedule) so that she knows what to expect, go through the routine with her in play at home.

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