Even well-behaved children sometimes act up in class. Be prepared for a note or a call before you get one.

kid throwing paper airplane
Credit: iStockphoto

Trouble at school often catches moms and dads off guard, says Parents advisor Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of No More Misbehavin'. "At ages 7 and 8, children are exposed to a lot of new situations, and misbehavior becomes more common, even among kids who have never had discipline problems before," she says. This smart advice from experts can help you prepare for misbehavior – and let you know how to stop it from happening in the first place.

1. Find out what happened.

You may feel embarrassed or angry if you get a call from your child’s teacher, but at this point, just gather the facts. Don’t defend your child or throw him under the bus. Simply say, “Now that I know of the concerns, let’s find a time to talk.”

2. Get the other side of the story.

You’ll want your child to weigh in, but don’t start by showing how upset you are. Say something like, “Mrs. Rodriguez called and said you’ve been acting out in class. Can you explain what’s going on?” Encourage her to tell the story as if she were watching it in a TV show. This will give you a better idea of what led up to the problem.

3. Make a plan.

Once you have the whole story, talk with your child about how he can prevent the problem from happening again. If he yelled because he was mad, for instance, you can discuss better reactions such as confiding in a teacher or walking away. If the soccer coach says he was fooling around with a friend at practice, talk about why it’s important to pay attention and how he was disruptive. Don’t punish him, but let him know there will be consequences if the behavior continues.

4. Follow up with the school.

Tell your child you’re going to fill in her teacher or coach on what you discussed. Once she realizes everyone is on board, she’ll be less likely to repeat the behavior because she knows she won’t get away with it. Also ask the teacher for any suggestions. If your child is prone to talking in class, the teacher might place her next to a quieter classmate.

Sources: Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of No More Misbehavin’; Brad Sachs, Ph.D., a family psychologist in Columbia, Maryland.

Parents Magazine