My child’s behavior at school always mystified me. I’d get glowing reports of how great a kid they were, and wanted to laugh and say, “Are we talking about the same person?” That same sweet, agreeable child at school was often quite the opposite at home.
Do you ever ask yourself that same question? Why is my child’s behavior not the same at home as it is at school?
It is not unusual for a child’s behavior to be different in various environments. That dichotomy is especially evident between home and school. Some children show positive behavior at school where they are basically forced to focus on following directions, playing with classmates and following academic instructions. They are basically “holding it together” until they get home. Their teachers may give them good reports, but once they arrive home they tend to let loose and can be very uncooperative.
If this is a struggle you are having in your home, it’s helpful to consider the reasons why.
Your child feels “safe” at home and knows they will always be loved no matter how they behave. This is a good thing, of course, but it is no excuse for uncooperative actions and attitudes.
Another reason may be that the boundaries and structure are very clear at school and your child knows what the consequences are for misbehavior. Maybe things are not so clear at home.
Or perhaps your child just needs a release from the built-up tension of trying to “color within the lines” all day at school. That release is coming home and letting loose.
Another difference between behavior at home and school is their peers. The influence of peers can motivate kids to do well in school. They don’t want to look “dumb” or be seen as “lazy” in front of their classmates.
If your child’s behavior at home versus their behavior at school is a problem, then consider these solutions:
- Add more routine and structure at home. Sometimes just knowing what to expect can help your child adapt.
- Allow for a snack and downtime after school. Maybe your child just needs a sort of “reprogramming” from the busy school environment.
- Provide opportunities for your child to blow off some steam after school: sports or a trip to the playground will give them a chance to release some of the tension of sitting and listening all day.
- Be sure you’ve provided clear boundaries and communicated the consequences of crossing those boundaries. At school, your child knows what will happen if they don’t do their homework or if they hit a classmate. That same clarity of boundaries and consequences needs to be present in your home as well. Teachers don’t have time for dawdling: If your child doesn’t follow a direction on the first or second request, there will most likely be an immediate consequence. But at home, parents tend to allow their child to not respond or delay their cooperation because they are all talk and little action.
The best way to lessen the gap between home and school behaviors is to start by seeking to understand why your child is doing what they are doing. There is always a “why” behind the “what” and it will take some listening and asking to figure it out.