Why does my child act out?
Many children act out at school and are often punished for their behavior. Here are some tips to understand the reasons and learn how to help them.
What is the real cause?
The first step is to explore the reasons. Why is your child really acting out? Many children who are frustrated by learning challenges react with what’s seen as bad behavior.
It could be any of these common triggers:
- stressed in school
- struggling with learning
- uncomfortable in social situations
- self-conscious about physical abilities
You don’t know until you ask and explore. Sometimes it could be as simple as needing more sleep or more frequent snacks throughout the day. Look at the big picture: what may be making them unhappy?
Note: If your child is not interested or engaged, or does not participate in school activities, this is also a red flag.
How to find out:
- Ask the teacher when these behaviors happen. Is it during certain kinds of activities or times of day? Look for patterns that can give you a clue.
- Talk to your child if possible. Ask about their emotional state: are they uncomfortable, frustrated or stressed about anything?
- Check with the doctor to rule out medical causes. It could be that they need glasses or have trouble hearing.
- See if they may have trouble with certain academic skills. They may have a learning disability or developmental disability.
- See if they struggle with physical skills like holding a pencil or catching a ball.
- If they are already getting special education services or accommodations, make sure these are being done consistently. Or maybe you need a team meeting to adjust the services and interventions.
- The school can do an assessment. See below.
What can the school do to help?
- Assess your child’s needs for different learning strategies.
- Put in place some different teaching strategies or interventions.
- Change some aspects of the classroom setting or schedule (accommodations)
- Have your child work with the school counselor
- Do a formal assessment called an FBA: Functional Behavior Assessment. See below.
- Create a formal Behavior Plan, based on the results of the FBA
If your child has an IEP:
- Add behavior-related goals
- Talk to the IEP team.
- You can still do an FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment) and make a Behavior Plan
- Talk to Your child's teacher. Ask to meet with the School Psychologist.
What can you do to help?
- Explore educational services and supports
- Monitor and make sure the supports are happening
- Assure your child that it is not their fault.
- Keep track of your child’s emotional health
- See this page: Emotional Support (It will open in a new tab.)
- Blog: Is it behavior or is it a learning challenge?
- Bog, written by an autistic adult who advises parents: Anxiety Looks like Anger.
- More on IEP goals, FBAs, and behavior plans (See next pages. You can also find them in the menu!)