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7 Tips for Helping a Child with Behavior Problems At School

May 31, 2023
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    When children experience disruptive behavior problems, it can be a major source of stress and worry for parents. Your child's teacher or school might be in touch frequently, but you may feel at a loss when it comes to finding solutions or taking steps toward helping your child exhibit better behavior in class.

    Kids can experience a range of different problem behaviors at school. Your child may talk out of turn, act impulsively, show disdain toward other children, experience regular emotional outbursts, or something else. Parents can help kids with challenging behaviors get to a better place and move through their school years more easily. Although it takes time and work, it's more than possible.

    In this article, we'll discuss how parents can improve their child's behavior at school through tips and strategies like establishing a routine, creating a positive environment, and getting extra help when needed.

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    How Parents Can Help Kids Overcome Behavioral Concerns in School

    The first step to helping students with problem behaviors is to create a game plan for addressing them. During this process, parents should work with their child's teacher closely. That way, teachers can monitor children, and you can share ideas or information with one another as you work toward your child's behavior goals. 

    Paying attention to when a child acts out and whether there are any specific triggers can help you make sense of what's going on, so it's important to look out for anything that could be noteworthy along the way.

    With that in mind, the following seven strategies can empower parents to help their kids succeed and overcome disruptive behavior problems in school. 

    Establish A Routine

    Routines mean that kids will know what to expect on any given day, and they aid in habit formation. While it can be tough to implement new routines for kids with behavioral challenges, once the routines are set in place, they make life much easier. Create consistent routines, explain them to the child, and stay focused on getting through the steps until it feels more natural. Here are some examples of the routines and activities that could help:

    • Morning routines: Taking medication, eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, getting dressed for school, ensuring one has all of their school supplies, and getting in the car or catching the bus at a certain time.
    • Bedtime routines: Bathing, preparing school supplies and setting out clothes for the next day, putting technology away, brushing their teeth, and reading together before bed.
    • Afterschool/homework routines: An afternoon snack, afterschool activities or play/free time, manageable chunks of homework or study time with breaks included, and eating dinner.
    • Classroom routines: Getting to class at a certain time, planned breaks that parents decide on with the teacher (may include extra breaks), lunch, and specific, predictable classroom activities or assignments.

    Building a routine with Joon

    Joon is designed uniquely for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related disorders ages 6-12+. Using Joon is an excellent way to encourage positive behavior in kids, help kids stick to their schedule, and support your parent-child relationship. Here's how it works:

    To start, parents install the Joon Parent App and customize a to-do list for their children. You can add as many routines, habits, or tasks as you want. For example, finishing their homework or meeting a specific behavioral goal at school. Children connect with a separate app called Joon Pet Game. Upon finishing tasks assigned by their parent(s), kids get rewards in the Joon Pet Game that allow them to move forward in the game and take care of a virtual pet called a Doter.

    90% of kids who use Joon finish all their tasks, and many users say that the app has improved their parent-child relationship. 

    Click here to claim your free trial.

    Create A Positive Environment

    If a child's environment is designed to set them up for success, it is more likely that they'll succeed. While this is by no means an extensive list, here are some examples of what might be helpful:

    • Seek accommodations and support. Kids with ADHD, learning disabilities, and many other concerns may benefit from a 504 plan or IEP. Working with a child's teacher and school to build a plan can be valuable for kids with behavior problems. They may be able to help you develop a game plan to reduce problematic behavior in class.
    • Get an evaluation from a school psychologist. An evaluation from a school psychologist can be incredibly helpful and may give you new ideas for how to help your child.
    • Do not label the child. Most children will pick up on it if they're labeled as a "bad" kid or a child who acts out often. This can make things worse and often leads a child to see this as a fundamental trait about themselves, which isn't the case. Maintaining positive regard is critical.


    Many children with ADHD exhibit what looks like defiant behavior, but in reality, it's not purposeful. If a child's behavior (e.g., frequent interruptions, trouble staying seated, blurting things out, or distractibility) could be due to ADHD, it's critical to show patience and use strategies to modify behavior without shame.

    Listen to your child attentively and validate their feelings (e.g., "I know you were frustrated. Let's think about what you can do next time you feel that way at school"), but communicate that the behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Explain the impact of certain actions so that kids understand in depth why they aren't okay.

    Often, it's helpful when children who display challenging behaviors know what to do instead. Discuss the specific behavior and alternatives for it. This might look like apologizing for accidental interruptions, excusing oneself instead of using physical aggression, and so on.

    Provide Positive Reinforcement

    Rewarding positive behavior is a critical part of reducing or managing problem behavior. Again, a child must experience positive regard. This will lead a child to see themselves in a more positive light, and they'll grow to see that their efforts are appreciated.

    Verbal praise

    Verbal praise is an excellent form of reinforcement for positive behavior. When you can talk to the child privately, give them verbal praise for things like being kind to other students, raising their hand to ask a question, or asking to excuse themselves when they're having a hard time and need to take a break.

    Reward systems

    Reward systems are incredibly beneficial for many kids. Ideas for rewards include but aren't limited to sticker charts, a token system, experiences, or spending time together.

    Read our article on free and low-cost rewards for more ideas.

    Give Clear Rules

    Rules and consequences must be crystal clear to ensure that a parent and child are on the same page. Clear rules and guidelines mean that a child will know exactly what they can and can't do; there won't be confusion or room for interpretation.

    For example, "Be good" or "Be nice to other kids" are not specific requests. They don't give kids the direction they need to succeed. On the other hand, "Push your chair in" is a clear request that is easy to understand.

    When you set consequences, such as taking away screen time, communicate the consequence as a direct result of the child's action and make sure you follow through. Children must know that they can trust what you say and that there are legitimate ramifications to certain problem behaviors.

    Model Good Behavior

    Modeling good behavior can have a major influence on your child's actions. Because children tend to copy their caregivers and other adults in their lives, it's vital to model the behavior you want to see. There's more than one-way parents can model good behavior for a child. For example:

    • Roleplaying. In some cases, such as when your child is not interacting with other kids appropriately or disrupts learning for the rest of the class, it could be helpful to act out specific scenarios together. For example, how to ask another child to play politely or how to raise their hand and ask for a bathroom pass. 
    • Work on specific skills together at home. Let's say that a child has trouble waiting for their turn or expresses frustration through yelling, name-calling, or another unfavorable behavior. Set boundaries in these areas at home and follow through with disciplinary action or redirection. You can also use activities (such as playing board games together) to teach skills like taking turns. Give your child compliments when they act appropriately and continue expressing the impact of behaviors.
    • Engaging in habits organically. Whether you want children to interact with others kindly, refrain from raising their voices, or communicate their feelings and problem-solve healthily, parents can set an example in their daily life.

    Get Help

    It's critical to know when to seek extra help. If a child's disruptive behavior causes ongoing problems at school (in other words, if behavior problems are continuous and don't seem to stop), it is time to focus on obtaining more support for your child. This may include:

    • Creating a "school team." Working with school administrators, teachers, school psychologists, and other adults can help parents find the best approach for their unique child.
    • Behavior intervention plans. A behavior intervention plan is often ideal for kids who experience frequent challenging behavior. The process starts with a functional behavior assessment, which will inform the contents of your child's behavior intervention plan. Then, they'll get a personalized written improvement plan that rewards good behavior and reduces negative behavior in class.
    • Proper diagnosis. Some kids may have a disorder such as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, depression, or another behavioral or mental health concern that plays a role in their behavior. If you suspect that this might be a factor, or if something else (e.g., stress, trauma) could play a role, getting a diagnosis and building a support system can be helpful.
    • Therapy. Therapy can help kids work on the underlying cause of behavior, find healthy ways to cope with and express feelings, and modify problem behavior.


    While you may not be in the classroom with your child, parents tend to be the most powerful force when it comes to helping kids with behavior problems at school. Using strategies such as routines, rewards, clear rules, and seeking help from other adults can all help your student overcome behavioral challenges and have the best possible experience throughout their education.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.