Q&A: Talking excessively in school

Q: My child is constantly getting in trouble for talking in class and generally being unruly. How can I help him understand that the talking is excessive and that it is important to be self-controlled?

A: It’s rare for a child who is compliant and well-behaved at home to become defiant and uncooperative in other settings. There may be a number of factors and issues contributing to your son’s behaviour. You didn’t go into detail, but is it possible he has the same problem with disruptive behaviour at home that he does at school?

If so, it’s possible that he’s picking up a pattern at home of others giving in to his demands and allowing him to have his way when he resists your authority. Once he’s at school, he finds himself in a situation where this mode of operation no longer works for him—where he’s expected to obey adults and follow the rules. Children used to having few limits at home usually don’t like having limits set on their behaviour elsewhere.

On the other hand, if your son is well-behaved at home, it’s possible you’ve been too strict with him. His compliance at home may simply be for the sake of avoiding harsh punishment. Under this scenario, your son may not have internalized the character traits you’ve been attempting to teach. Once outside the home, in a less rigid environment, he may be “letting loose” and misbehaving in ways he couldn’t at home.

There are other possibilities and factors to consider: the negative influence of a classmate, possible ADHD, and so on. You alone are in a position to decide which of these hypothetical situations applies. But as a first step, we’d encourage you to take the time to carefully self-examine your parenting practices. Whatever your style, it’s important to provide a healthy balance between love and limits. Are you affirming and rewarding your child for good behaviour as well as punishing him for negative behaviour? Are you helping him to develop compassion and understanding for others rather than simply adhering to a strict set of rules and regulations? A thoughtful assessment of your parenting approach may do wonders.

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