Back to School Behaviors

What to do when your child is acting out at school?

School has been back in session for a little while now, and you think your child is doing great! But then you get a phone call from the teacher about some troubling behavior, and find out that they’ve been acting out at school - what do you do? Don’t worry, you can help your child succeed in school by being interested and involved in their learning and school life. By working together with your child and their teacher, you can encourage responsible behavior and cooperation!

Some common behavior issues that may concern teachers and be brought to your attention:

  • Distracting others
  • Not following instructions
  • Yelling
  • Not doing/finishing work
  • Getting into fights

So, why do these problems happen at school?

Elementary schools have rules and expectations for how kids should behave. However, young kids are still learning how to manage their emotions and navigate new situations, and this is where issues can arise. Your child might not know or understand the class rules, or may forget them. They might find that they get more attention when acting out in class, or that their behavior causes others to laugh or react in a way they see as positive. 

Challenging behaviors can also be your child's way of coping with new situations or a sign that they’re struggling with school work. If the schoolwork is challenging, they might act out to avoid certain situations, or because they’re lacking the self-confidence to tackle the work. Inversely, if the work is too easy, your child might be bored and disruptive. If either of these seems to be the cause for behaviors, please talk to your child’s teacher about next steps and alternative options. 

How To Respond To School Problems

Discuss the problem with your child

Ask your child about what is happening, and encourage them to give you their point of view. You might learn that the situation feels very different from their point of view. Ask open ended questions and encourage them to share their feelings. You can validate how they feel without condoning the concerning behavior. Avoid lecturing or reprimanding them during this conversation. 

Discuss the problem with the teacher

After you’ve talked with your child, arrange time to speak with their teacher. Ask the teacher to share their views on the issue and what’s behind it. Try to stay calm and understand from their point of view, just as you did with your child. Find out if the teacher has any suggestions, workarounds, or learning supports that can be put in place. 

Get involved with your child’s school

Talk with your child about their day so you know what is going on from their perspective. This is a great way to stay in tune with your child, and also to avoid being blindsided should you get another call from the school about any more behaviors. Show a genuine interest in who they’re playing with and what they’re learning. Be supportive for them both emotionally and educationally. 

Try to maintain consistent communication with their teacher(s). Get to know each other and talk about your child’s achievements as well as any concerns. If you’re able to, consider volunteering at their school occasionally!

Create a plan to respond to persistent problems

You’ve talked to your kid and the teacher, now what? Suggest a plan that supports the behavior you want to see both at home and at school! Have their teacher clearly tell you what is expected of your child, and work from there. You could set up a behavior diary with the teacher, which can be filled out by the teacher for both troubling and positive behaviors, or create a consequences and rewards system based on behavior. Review progress with your child and with their teacher, and praise and reward your child for acting responsibly.

When you talk with your child about their day, point out when they handle a situation appropriately, and help them feel proud of themselves. When they have a good day, celebrate with them! Enjoying time with you is one of the things that is most rewarding for kids.

It’s important to remember that your child is still learning how to navigate situations such as school, and that their feelings and behaviors can be hard for them to manage at times. It isn’t helpful to blame yourself, your child, or the school in these cases. Be positive and encouraging, and make sure your child knows that you want them to be happy and successful in school!

Triple P – Positive Parenting Program

Are you interested in receiving more parenting advice? Triple P Online – Positive Parenting Program could be for you! This online parenting program allows you to take a parenting class in the comfort of your own home!


If you live in Lane County, you can get Triple P Online for free by filling out the form on the Triple P page. A staff person from Parenting Now will send you an access code within 24 hours and you’ll be able to start using the program right away! For more information about the program and to sign up visit the Triple P page.

Scroll to Top