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Attitude Problem in School

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I just received an email from my daughter's fourth-grade teacher stating that she has had difficulty with my child's attitude. The teacher says my daughter has been disrespectful, raised her voice, and has argued excessively. I'm not quite sure how to deal with this to find out if there is an underlying reason for the behavior. The only recent "event" at home was a pretty stern discussion about an unacceptable test grade. My daughter is a solid A/B student and brought home an F on a science test. We seem to have trouble with "punishment," since there are not many things she values. Any ideas?

A: Call or email the teacher immediately to arrange a time to discuss your daughter's behavior. The teacher obviously thinks the problem is serious, or she would not have contacted you. And your child's behavior is not likely to change without some close cooperation between you and the teacher. Find out exactly how your child has misbehaved: Ask: What has she said to the teacher? What has she argued about? Then find out how the teacher responded. Did she ask for help from a school counselor or psychologist?

Once you have all the facts, it's time for a conference at school. If your daughter has other teachers, you might invite them to explain how she behaves in their classes. This way you'll have a more complete picture of your child's behavior at school. In situations like this, the more heads the better.

The purpose of the conference will be to define how your daughter should behave in the classroom and to decide on the consequences that misbehaving will set in motion both at school and at home. You will also have to decide how any further misbehaviors will be communicated to you. Email sounds like a good idea.

At the end of the conference, the behavior plan should be presented to your daughter in front of the group by one of the participants. She needs to know exactly how she is expected to behave in the classroom and what will happen if she misbehaves.

You cannot excuse your daughter's behavior. You must make it perfectly clear to her that it is unacceptable for her to be rude to her teacher and that there will be consequences every time that she is. If she misbehaves at school, you could have her stay in her room after school or watch no TV that day. Be patient and expect some backsliding as your daughter learns to behave appropriately.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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