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How Strict Is Too Strict?

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My son is five years old and just started kindergarten. At my first parent-teacher conference I found out he has become the class clown. He openly defies his teacher, cannot be trusted to go to the restroom, and will not look at his teacher when she is talking to him. He is a smart child, and his teacher has said that he should excel academically. He loves school and is very excited about homework. He has a great attitude about school and his teacher -- it's just his behavior when he is there. Since the conference I've laid out such strict rules that I feel like a drill sergeant.

A: Your son sounds like a terrific little guy -- even with the problems he still has a great attitude about school and his teacher.

Although you feel like a drill sergeant, the teacher needs your help with this. Being the class clown is one thing, but openly defying the teacher is another. For basic safety reasons, children must listen to the teacher and do what he or she says.

Talk with the teacher and try to work out a positive discipline plan. Ask her to send you a daily note letting you know what your son's behavior was during that day. The note could be as simple as a "smiley" face or check mark. For young children the day can be broken into several segments (morning work, center time, special classes, lunch, etc.). When your son has three (or whatever works) smiley faces, he earns an extra bedtime story, a walk around the block with you, or having a friend over to play.

Ask the school counselor for help with this as well. He or she may be able to give your son some individual time or involve him in a small group on good behavior.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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