Help please - what can I do about my 6 year old's behaviour at school?(23 Posts)
My 6 year old boy is constantly in trouble at school. Usually the teacher says it's 'silly' behaviour, or not listening, not doing what he's told, making growling noises if something happens he doesn't like, stamping his feet etc.
At least once a week I am told that he has hurt somebody at school. Sometimes this is by hitting or pushing, but has also been by swinging them round by their coat until they fell over, by stabbing them with a pencil, or nipping/pinching them.
I am also often told that he doesn't do much work. This week he actually threw his book that he was meant to be doing work in across the classroom.
Every morning I, and my husband if he is doing the school run with me, will say to him be good, do what you're told, be kind to the other children, get on with your work, etc. He promises he will, we have a kiss and cuddle and he goes in quite happily. Then at home time the teacher wants to speak to me about his behaviour.
I am getting to the end of my tether - I just don't know what to try. This week he had a tantrum at the end of the day because he'd left his hat in the classroom and the teacher wouldn't let him go back in to get it, so the other parents are seeing his behaviour and I'm sure he has already got the label of the 'naughty boy' in the class.
We have tried rewarding him for getting a good report from the teacher. A few weeks ago we promised a trip to a local attraction if he was good all week and he did more or less manage it (teacher knew we had promised that so was less harsh in her reports but there were still some things going on like him not getting his work done), but this week, on Monday, I promised a swimming trip on Friday if we got a good report all week and on Tuesday he got a terrible report about his behaviour. On Wednesday I bought him and his brother a sweet for after school if they were good that day and he wasn't. I reminded him this morning that the sweet was still in my pocket for after school if he was good, and today we got the worst report of the week!
We have also tried punishing him for bad behaviour. On Tuesday he sat in the car with my husband for half an hour while I took his brother to the park, but that made little difference to Wednesday's behaviour. We speak to him every night about his behaviour and he promises that the next day he will be good but very rarely is! Today I asked him why he had hurt people a school and he just couldn't give an answer - I think that sometimes, like when he stabs them with a pencil, he just does it for the hell of it!
So I would really appreciate some tips on turning this behaviour around! At home he's quite willful, but nothing like what he seems to be at school. He and his brother rarely hurt each other, yet at school he just can't seem to stop himself!
He does have a problem with listening and doing what he's told. Yesterday he and I were walking to go and collect his brother from a club and he picked up a stone. 'Put the stone down' I said. He pulled his arm back with the stone in so I said 'put the stone down, don't throw it' and he threw it - narrowly missing a car bumper. I made him hold my hand the rest of the way after that, but that kind of little thing just happens constantly, it's like a power struggle for him - he wants his own way all the time and won't listen!
Reading this back it makes him sound awful, but he can be a lovely little boy, and when we're out and about I often get complimented on his behaviour and manners! Basically, when he's doing what he wants he's absolutely fine, but anywhere where he can't be 'the boss' is when problems start!
Do you think he has any undiagnosed issues anywhere? With hearing or vision, which would affect his ability to work, or any behavioural things like ADHD?
It might be key that you find his behaviour manageable at home but they have constant issues at school. Did he have issues in reception or preschool or at clubs or activities? Could be school is a triggering environment for him or you are very appeasing at home.
How much and how well does he sleep?
I probably should have mentioned that he is my foster child, so I'm sure his early life experiences are at the root of everything - though he was loved by his parents, they just couldn't cope with having children. He and his brother have been with me for nearly a year.
The problems have been there since we got him. He would throw horrendous tantrums at home when he first arrived if he didn't get his own way but these stopped within a couple of months. These days he does scream/shout/growl if something happens he doesn't like, but at home he gets over it very quickly.
Part of the problem is he doesn't like doing work and does find it hard. Last year more of the problems were with his brother as in Reception there was a lot of play, so he just played. This year, and more so as he nears the end of it, he has to do more work which he doesn't like! The teacher says that unless someone is sat with him he doesn't get much done. She has 20 odd more children, and no TA, in her class so can't sit with him all the time.
He is fairly low ability within the class (level 2 on ORT though I think he could cope on level 3) but a lot of his problem is he doesn't like trying. Tonight after school I got him to write some sorry notes to children he had hurt and at first he moaned that he couldn't but when I told him he had to try he just got on and did it. Not perfect spelling, but phonetically plausible.
He went to an after school sports club that I withdrew him from due to bad reports of his behaviour - he wasn't listening to the instructor and was running around the hall doing what he liked.
His hearing and vision were checked last summer and both were fine. I don't think it's ADHD as he can behave very well when he wants to. He sleeps well. Bedtime is 7, lights out at 8ish and he's pretty much always asleep by half 8. He wakes between 7 and 8 naturally, though occasionally I have to wake him for school.
I would suggest referring back to SS for some sort of counselling /play therapy.
Have you tried talking to him about how he could handle things differently.
The fact he gets on with his brother suggests he has some anger that may come from his past or his current situation
I would ask for a meeting in school with the class teacher and senco to put a plan into place. It's interesting that you find him ok at home I guess he's been through a lot - was he taken into care from school/ nursery?
Watching with interest - this sounds so similar to our 6yo (cane to me from foster care at 8 months).
Sometimes I think his teacher is unrealistic in her expectations of a 6 yr old boy, other times I think it's a behavioural wiring glitch. I see the end of my tether quite often!
Insecurity combined with frustration would easily bring out that kind of behaviour.
I do think a lot of it is insecurity. At the moment he doesn't know what is happening to him in the future. We have applied to keep them long term, which he knows (though there were a few months when he didn't) but it's not definite yet. Hopefully once it is a lot of this behaviour will stop.
But what can I do in the meantime? Should I be stricter after school if he's been in trouble that day? Currently I tell him in front of his teacher that I'm very sad/disappointed/cross to hear about his behaviour then we have a chat about it at home then it's over and done with except he's not allowed sweets after tea. Sometimes, if we had been planning to go to the park or somewhere we don't go, or I take his brother and leave him with my husband. What else could I be doing to try and break this cycle of poor behaviour?
I don't know what people do whose kids rarely misbehave at school, I'm not one of those parents.
It does seem like some parents only have to put on a bit of a death stare & any bad behaviour stops everywhere else their child ever goes. I know that even if I went daily in to the classroom & watched mine like a hawk, 1 on 1, he would still misbehave.
My gut feeling is that punishment for school stuff happens at school & in school unless school asks me to do something at home. Listening to their worries & grievances seems to be the only thing that helps, talking thru what they can do for themselves and all the reasons why they don't want to get in trouble so they can make good decisions for selves.
Is he been punished at school? if so I suggest no further punishment at home.
I think focus on rewarding positive behaviour at home. I would talk about stratergies within school.
I agree behaviour in school should be dealt with at school and I would not punish further at home. The teacher will want to share information with you but I don't think you need to tell DS off again in front of her. I would just say "Thanks for telling me. I will talk to DS about it". Then deal with it later primarily by listening to DS's concerns and comments. Talk separately with the teacher about possible strategies to improve his behaviour. My DS was sat on his own for a bit which sounds awful but it really helped him learn not to be so distracted from his work by the other children. The seating in his class seems to be changed regularly to try and get the best working environment. He has also made amazing improvement with a quieter, calmer teacher this year. Can you do reading etc at home with him to try and make the "work" stuff more fun (and help him get his ability level up)? (eg I do a lot of reading with my DS and do not give rewards for it - because I think reading should be a pleasure - I just persuade and persuade and in the end make it so much fun that he really enjoys it - much easier to do in a home environment than at school - and to show that it can be done in a more lighthearted way than at school). And invite children round so he can practice socialising outside a school/structured setting? Have you read "How to talk so kids will listen..."? Really made me think how children must feel being told what to do all the time - I would be pretty wilful in that scenario - so I try to use the techniques in that book at home plus star chart for behaviour I want to encourage. You have done an amazing thing by fostering.
My DS now 8 has struggled with behaviour at school, at home he is fine. He is getting better I think he is very slow to mature. Agree about book above listening to children, would also recommend the book raising boys. Also we use computer time as his treat for having a good day at school, might not be best but works for us. I worry about my DS being the bad boy but teacher has hinted that he's not the only one. I know from DD that there are always a few that misbehave in her class. It's not easy but sounds like you're doing a great job.
Also my DS has some strategies put in place by senco but has no underlying issues. The senco should be able to offer help.
You need to ask for a PEP meeting- if the teacher is speaking to you every day, then the situation warrants an additional PEP meeting, even if his PEP is up to date.
The Designated teacher for Looked After Children should be driving this, but speak to your FDS's Social Worker too, as different authorities have different arrangements in place for convening PEPs.
Without knowing your FDS and his early life experiences, it is impossible to comment on what it is that he is finding difficult, or whether or not he has any SN, but I would echo the very good advice from previous posters not to punish at home. It sounds like something at home is working well, and it is not worth risking this security in order to carry out the school's agenda. The school clearly need to investigate alternative strategies to use with children who have experienced trauma and/or have attachment difficulties, and they need to access the support available to them from the Virtual Head and Social Worker.
I would recommend reading Inside I'm Hurting And What About Me? by Louise Bomber for some helpful insight into some of the problems children with difficult early lives can experience in the classroom.
Sorry, just read this:
"But what can I do in the meantime? Should I be stricter after school if he's been in trouble that day? Currently I tell him in front of his teacher that I'm very sad/disappointed/cross to hear about his behaviour then we have a chat about it at home then it's over and done with except he's not allowed sweets after tea. Sometimes, if we had been planning to go to the park or somewhere we don't go, or I take his brother and leave him with my husband. What else could I be doing to try and break this cycle of poor behaviour?"
Please, please do not exclude him from any more positive family activities. Aside from the feelings of rejection and alienation which doing this may compound, it doesn't seem to be having a positive effect on his behaviour at school. Keep doing the good stuff you are doing at home- please don't jeapordise that in order to punish behaviour happening at school which he may not even be in control of.
Ask the teacher to stop discussing behaviour in front of him at the end of the day. Can she tell you something positive every day instead, so you can praise him for it? Maybe a sad/smiley face token every day to let you know overall, with a reward from you for a smiley face? If he gets a sad face, you can ask him to talk to you about it when he's ready/feels secure enough (maybe at home). A weekly phone call from school to let you know how his week has been? This has all become a very negative cycle. He's already had a row at school, give him a quick reminder of expectations and then move on. He's struggling, he needs time to feel happy/secure, and for it not to all be about behaviour.
The thing that jumps out at me is attachment issues which, (peer reviewed!) evidence strongly demonstrates, is linked to the development of empathy. My advice would be to contact whatever fostering support you can access in order to work out the best way to help him with his attachment problems. I can't imagine it will be easy, poor little chap.
I would say a 6 year old should be asleep well before 8.30. Could you try bringing bed time earlier so you still have for stories and cuddles. Perhaps try it for a few days and see if there is any improvement at school.
Thanks for all of your replies. Friday was a much better day. He came out beaming, and shouted across the playground 'I've been really good today!' His teacher also confirmed this. He was so proud of himself, and talked about it all the way home, then checked with our cats that they were 'really impressed' with his behaviour! The cats of course confirmed that they were!
He also said that being good was 'easy' so hopefully he'll remember that this week!
I will definitely look up those books that have been mentioned.
I do try to focus on the positives that I am told about at school, but I honestly don't think he'd care if he was in trouble at school but then we did nothing about it at home. A few times he's come out of school quite happily, saying he's been good, I've thought no more about it etc. Then a few days later the teacher will speak to me and say that his behaviour has actually been worsening all week. If I'm not told about it he doesn't seem to care about being in trouble at school. So I do think it's important that I'm very clear that his behaviour is unacceptable. But I do understand it's important to get the balance right, and I don't want to push him away from me.
This weekend we were at a function and a few people commented on how good and polite he was, as he was a real sweetie. A friend's high ability 6 year old had a bit of a sulky tantrum when some little thing didn't go his way, so it was nice to see that other 6 year olds can also be a bit stroppy!
With regard to sleep, we go up to bed at 7pm pretty much on the dot (apart from Beavers night and another night when we have to collect his brother from a club - those nights it's 7.30). We brush teeth, he gets into bed, I read him a story then he lies in bed and looks at books while I read his brother a story (they share a room). Then they look at books quietly and listen to a music CD while I go downstairs. I come back up at 8 to turn the music and light off. Some nights he's already asleep by then, but if not he always is by 8.30 when I check again. This works better than when I asked them to go straight to sleep after stories, as being allowed to look at books seems to calm him as he used to start getting silly, making his soft toys fight etc instead of going to sleep. In the mornings, on school days he doesn't need to wake up until 7.30 so that's at least 11 hours of sleep he's getting. He usually is awake by then. I really don't think I can bring bedtime forward any further though I might try an extra half hour if possible. He can't really tell the time so might not realise he's going up at 6.30!
Sounds very much like my 7 year old. He is 7 and can be really well behaved but has always struggled with behaviour at school - he can't be good consistently at all. He is adopted and while attachment issues haven't been diagnosed it's obvious they effect him. He also has ADHD - it's wrong to think ADHD kids are badly behaved all the time, it's just not true.
I really think what happens at school stays at school. I wouldn't punnish twice has long term it really impacts on self esteem. Praise the good, however small and focus on relationship building as that is key to attachment.
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