July 02, 2015

Q: Our 7-year-old son is a great student. He listens and cooperates in school.  At home, when we tell him to get dressed, eat breakfast, pick up toys, etc., he has temper tantrums and immediately acts up. It is exhausting. We've tried charts, taking away toys, rewards -- it works for awhile, but then it's back to the same behavior. Any advice?

A: It's not unusual for parents to get reports of school behavior that contrast with home behavior. In this case, your 7-year-old son is having a different response to his teachers as authority figures than to his parents as authority figures. At its very root, this is an issue of communication. Better communication requires a change in your approach at home, beginning with a heart-to-heart discussion.

Explain that you, his parents, are his best friends in the world, but you're also his home teachers. Just as students and teachers make up a team at school, kids and parents make up a team at home.  It's your job, just like it's the teachers' job at school, to make rules, give assignments, and assess his achievements. Each team member has chores and responsibilities that benefit the whole team with food, shelter, clothes, toys, etc.  Tell him he must treat you with the same respect he gives his teachers.

Remember to tell him frequently how much he is loved and show him the benefits of being a good teammate and best friend.  Take part in special activities, fun dinners, and new projects together.  However, these should not be given as rewards following good behavior or withheld as punishment following bad behavior. Instead, make it clear that his home life is great because of the partnership and friendship that come from a loving environment.

Answered by Dr. Harley A. Rotbart


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