Behavior at School vs. Behavior at Home: What’s Normal?

Many parents witness a transformation of some form when their children begin to go to school. For many children, school is the first place outside of the home and they really begin to learn how to act when their parents are not around. Children learn that certain behaviors are expected in different environments. Some kids have difficulty adjusting whereas other kids transition seamlessly. Regardless, it is important that parents pay attention to their child’s behavior in order to see whether it is healthy or whether there is a concern that needs addressing.

An Angel at School but Acting Out at Home

Misbehaving at Home

As frustrating as it can be for some parents, hearing that your child is well-behaved at school despite acting out at home is actually good news. Some parents may be surprised and wonder why there is a difference in their child’s behavior between these two spaces. For many kids, school is an unfamiliar environment. This applies to children who are just starting school, but it also applies to children who are older as well – every year they are placed in a new classroom, with new classmates and a new teacher. School follows a schedule and has structure, and teachers and faculty are unfamiliar adults that they are told should be listened to. If you are a parent of a child who acts well at school but acts out at home, you may wonder whether this means that your children does not like or respect you – but this is absolutely not the case.

Since kids are in an unfamiliar environment, they are more likely to follow the rules and do as they are told. They are learning how to operate in the world as individuals so their time at school becomes a learning process. At home, children are comfortable and they already know that they are loved and appreciated by you, their parents. When kids act out at home, they are learning as well. Since kids are more comfortable at home, they feel more at ease when it comes to testing limits and pushing boundaries, which is actually a very good sign (really??? you say!!) in terms of their personal development.  However, setting boundaries at home is very important because children can get out of control in the home setting.  Rewarding them for good behavior and reprimanding for bad behavior (in love) is crucial when setting house rules.

Misbehaving at School

Acting Out at School but Agreeable at Home
It is usually when the tables are turned that parents need to do some investigating. For some children, their school or classroom may simply not be a good fit for them. Some parents have been told by teachers that their children cannot or will not sit still, but for many kids this sort of restlessness, especially after extended periods of time, is extremely normal for their age group. Some behavioral issues have simple fixes and finding alternatives can provide you with the solution that you need.

In other cases, however, children who act out severely at school are advised to seek therapy along with their parents as it may be the sign of another issue. A specialist can help you get to the bottom of the problem and teach you how to address it in a healthy way that benefits you and your child.

One thing to always remember is that if there are any issues with the child seeking help early in the process is always beneficial, and most behaviors are temporary and kids will get over it and so will you.  It’s just going through the process that makes this difficult, but this too shall pass.

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