The Smart Way to Talk to Teachers


The teacher says: "Your child is acting out in class."

The right response: Find out what she's doing: Is she interrupting? Running around? Making noises? Young kids can't always articulate their feelings, so bad behavior can be a sign that your child is anxious. Ask the teacher whether she's disruptive at the same time every day, which can help you identify the trigger. For example, if your child misbehaves just before gym class, she could be scared kids will make fun of her because she's bad at sports. Another possibility: Maybe she thinks she isn't getting enough attention from the teacher or the other students, and being loud is her way of grabbing the spotlight. Or you may have a high-energy kid -- she can't control herself during circle time or other quiet moments yet.

One worry to cross off the list: ADHD, even though it's tempting to panic and jump to that conclusion. "If your child hasn't had behavior issues in the past, chances are that ADHD isn't the problem," says Michael Reiff, MD, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis.

Creating a plan: If you suspect performance anxiety is the culprit, say, "Your teacher mentioned that she gave you a time-out before gym again. Would it help if you and I practiced jumping rope together?" Reassure her that everyone thinks they're bad at some things, and talk up her best skills.

If your child is just naturally a little too peppy, ask the teacher whether there are ways she could release some energy before quiet times. Maybe she could erase the board or do some other activity before she has to settle down. To handle an attention seeker, remind her that the best way to get noticed is to follow the rules and do well on her work. (You might also ask the teacher for a list of class rules so you can go over them with your child.) Suggest other ways she can get attention, like doing something nice for a classmate.

Following up: Meet with the teacher to make sure your child has settled down; if she's still acting up, see your pediatrician. "If her teachers have said every year that she's disruptive in class and now she's more restless than ever, she should be tested for ADHD," says Dr. Reiff.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment