Why Is My Angel At Home Being A Nightmare At School?

It is far more common for children to be quite difficult at home and to be angels at school. Those are the kids that when parents go to Parent Teacher Conferences and the teacher gives a glowing report, the parents rub their foreheads and wonder if the teacher is talking about the same child.
However, sometimes it happens that parents report that their child is very well-behaved at home but the school is telling a totally different story.
Why might that be?
There are many possibilities. In the next blog series, I’ll address different reasons and strategies in each blog post.
Scenario One:
Parents can tolerate a lot more misbehavior than a teacher of a large classroom. For example, parents are usually ok with a child interrupting repeatedly, and they view it as normal child behavior. But a teacher cannot teach if one, two, or several children keep interrupting the lesson. Similarly, parents excuse tantrums as part of normal child development even in elementary age children. But classroom tantrums are not the norm in students above preschool level.
Also, when a child in a family is misbehaving, the parents have to balance their time and attention with 2, 4, or 7 other children in the family, not a family of 25. When a student misbehaves and disrupts the flow of the classroom, the teacher now has 25 students to manage at the same time!
If parents get a report that certain behaviors are problematic at school, despite that the parents feel that those same behaviors are tolerable at home, they should address them at home as well. Why? Children typically view expectations at home as a template for how to behave in other areas of life, including school. (Some kids are savvy enough to want to make a good impression at school, and therefore refrain from misbehaviors they regularly do at home. But not all kids are like that.)
For example, if I can touch my siblings’ belongings without repercussions at home, then I can touch my classmates’ belongings at school, too. Except that schoolmates are less forgiving… A child who does this at school will create enemies. Parents should teach and enforce the green behavior of respecting “property/belonging boundaries.”
Similarly, if a 7-year-old child throws tantrums at home and the parent distracts the child or gives in, the child might come to believe that the school staff should do the same. Except that school staff won’t and shouldn’t. A child who throws tantrums at school is exhibiting emotional dysregulation and should be working on the red and green emotion regulation behaviors both at home and at school.
Stay tuned for more possibilities and strategies!
Have an awesome week!
Dr. Devora