Ashly F.'s five-year-old was suspended from the school bus because he does not listen: "He has never acted this bad before in preschool, nor has he ever acted this bad at home or done any of the things he is doing at school at home. I am so lost as to what to do," laments this Circle of Moms member.
Schenequa N.’s six-year-old was suspended for bringing his toy Nerf gun to school. "I don’t think that’s fair [be]cause he is only six years old [and] in the first grade and doesn’t know the difference. All he knows is that it’s a toy. Any suggestions on what I am to do?" she asks the Circle of Moms community.
As these two moms share, it’s very hard to get a phone call from the school principal informing you that you child is suspended. School suspensions are generally handed down for serious infractions: violent or disruptive behavior, or bringing weapons or drugs to school, and you may become fearful that you have a problem child. But when a suspension happens during the grade school years, more often than not the offensive action that caused the suspension is somewhat tame when compared to issues posed by older children.
So how should you react? Circle of Moms suggest preceding calmly. Here are four tips to guide you.
1. Get to the Root of the Problem
When your child is suspended from school, the school will notify you of the reason for and length of the suspension. Circle of Moms members recommend seeing it as a flag that you need to delve a little deeper into whatever is going on with your child. "First off, get to the bottom of what is causing the problem behavior, and if it is truly problem behavior in the first place," suggests Amanda R. Bad behavior in the grade school years typically stems from another problem, and is not usually because the child is intentionally trying to be heinous, and Amanda cites numerous news reports of elementary school children being suspended for accidentally bringing a dangerous object to school, or for taking legitimate medication on school grounds.
"Typically when children act out, they are seeking attention of some sort. Whether it be more affection, one-on-one time, or even negative attention (like the kind they receive when they are naughty). Something is definitely going on with your child that you need to address," agrees a mom named Leah J., adding that parents might try getting down on the child's level and asking him "why he is acting naughty."
There might be a very good reason, she says. For example, some children lash out when they're angry or being picked on at school. "Is he getting the same treatment at school? Does he possibly have a learning disability? Sometimes children that aren't on the same academic level as other students in the class will act out and get in trouble because then it takes the focus away from the real issue. I would explore those things and see if any of them bring you a conclusion."
Heather W. suggests another line of questioning: "Ask him what he had fun doing at school. Try to bring out the positive things he did and see who he is playing with. This should help you figure out what is causing the problem."
If your child is suspended for bringing a weapon-like object or toy to school, consider it a teachable moment, suggests Erin J. In Shenequa’s case, for example, the period of suspension “is a great opportunity" to explain why bringing toy guns to school is a bad idea.
2. Visit the School
When your child is suspended, it’s important to make a personal visit to the school to find out first-hand what caused the suspension and also to observe the environment. “Arrange a meeting with the teacher to talk about the issues,” recommends Sarah C.
“There's almost certainly something going on under the surface that you need to understand before you can help your [child] change her behavior for the better,” Sylvia H. says.
Even if you agree with the suspension, it helps to bring these issues to light with the administrative staff, moms say.
And if you believe the suspension is unwarranted, then the in-person visit is a good time to make your case. "If your son has never caused any trouble and is a good kid, they should realize it was an innocent thing that happened," Emilie B. tells Shenequa. A mom named Sarah mentions other common underlying issues that you should bring to the attention of the teacher or principal: your child is reacting to bullying or to a teacher who is taking a negative approach with him. "One thing [you should] not tolerate is hearing only one side of a story," adds Rita D., and Sherri C. points out that a parent needs to be her child's advocate.
3. Seek Expert Advice
If there are legitimate behavioral problems that led to the suspension, then the school staff or your pediatrician may be able to recommend an expert to turn to for advice. In responding to fellow Circle of Moms member Jaimie A.’s concern about her 7-year-old’s suspension for behavioral issues, AnnMarie suggests seeking out psycho-educational testing. “It is a wonderful tool, and can lead to the development of a solid behavioral plan targeted to helping your child overcome his specific issues.”
Kim, another member, endorses the value of a professional opinion. When her 9-year-old was acting out at school she had him tested at a pediatric clinic for ADHD and discovered that his behavioral problems were a result of Asperger’s Syndrome.
An outside expert may be able to provide parents with a “solid road map” to help address overall behavioral problems. Otherwise, says AnnMarie, addressing isolated behaviors or incidents will wind up being a bit haphazard.
4. Don’t Dole Out Additional Punishment
Finally, Circle of Moms recommend that given that your child has already been suspended, it’s not necessary to dole out additional punishments.
"I personally don’t think you should punish [your child] at home when she has already been punished in school," Sarah C. says. "This will only lead to her being secretive about what has happened at school, when you really need to be keeping the lines of communication open."
Remember, adds JuLeah W., your goal is to teach your child, not punish him: "I knew a boy who would act out everyday almost ... the teacher did the same dumb thing; sent him to the office. Well, turns out, the kid didn't understand the math and was too embarrassed to admit he needed help. He acted out each day before math, was sent to the office for the math lesson and avoided what he didn't want to deal with — of course getting further and further behind in math in the process," she says.
Consequently, she adds, when your child acts out, "[keep in mind she] is attempting to tell you something very important with the only language she has: her behavior. You have to learn how to listen to her.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.