Last week, one of my close friends, whose 7-year-old son also happens to be one of my daughter's best buddies, called me right after picking up her son at school, knowing my daughter was still a 10-minute bus ride away from home. "So, no big deal, but the kids got white-slip warnings today for talking too much during class," she told me. Her son had fessed up immediately and was beyond devastated by disciplinary action, his first-ever as a student. I told her I'd check in with my chatty gal to get the complete story and get back to her to compare.
My daughter arrived home a few minutes later with a smile on her face and not a care in the world. "Um, honey, is there something in your backpack you need to show me?" I asked. "I don't think so," she sweetly replied. "How about a white-slip warning for talking too much?" Her face crumbled, she started crying, and somehow I ended up apologizing to her that she had gotten into trouble, just to soothe the situation (I know, I know).
Later, when emotions had calmed, we were able to have a real conversation about what had happened, why it wasn't OK but also wasn't the end of the world (7- and 8-year-olds often have a new, higher set of expectations in the classroom, which can lead to both intentional and unintentional misbehavior), and how she could do better in the future. If you're on the receiving end of a note or call from your kid's school in regards to some trouble they've found themselves in, here's how to deal.
- Stay calm and don't escalate. It's only natural to have your own feelings — embarrassment, anger, confusion — about your child's misbehavior, but leading with those emotions won't be productive. Instead, take a few deep breaths and talk to your child in a matter-of-fact manner. At this point, you want to get the facts, not shame or further discipline your kid.
- Get your child's side of the story. Teachers have dozens of children to handle, which gives them limited time to evaluate and handle situations. Now's the time to get your child's side of the story. Maybe they were talking during the lesson because they were confused about an assignment or were responding to another student's question. Be your child's advocate while explaining that you support the school and classroom rules and expect them to follow them to the best of their ability.
- Talk about future expectations. If the situation is likely to pop up again — my talkative daughter isn't likely to change any time soon — talk about how they can prevent themselves from getting into trouble (i.e. waiting until free time to talk to friends, raising their hand to question the teacher directly instead of talking to a classmate). Offer alternatives to replace the behaviors that landed them in hot water. Explain to your child that if they continue to get into trouble, there will eventually have to be consequences at home, but there's probably no need to offer further discipline to first-time offenders. The white slip/trip to the principal's office was probably punishment enough.
- Follow up with the school or teacher. Unless the trouble was super minor, it's probably a good idea to reach out to your child's teacher or principal to make sure you're all on the same page about the situation and how to handle similar issues moving forward. Fill your kid in on these conversations so they know you're in communication with the school; that fact alone is often a deterrent for future bad behavior.