Many a parent has come to pick their child up from preschool to encounter their child’s teacher with news that their little one had some negative behavior at school. Parents can be confused what to do with this information as they could feel obligated to punish their child at home. According to Liz Costaldo, Early Childhood Developmental Specialist, at Early Childhood Partners “don’t rob yourself or your children of precious family time as a result of your toddler or preschoolers behavior at school.” Here are some reasons why it is beneficial for your child to have discipline kept where the behavior happens:
1. Children don’t understand delayed consequences. A child lives in the moment and does not consider the past or future. When a parent is speaking of what happened early in the day, their child has no way of associating that action with him or herself. Because the child’s brain is still very underdeveloped, he or she does not have the ability to self-reflect on his or her actions. This is why when we say, “Go to your room and think about what you did wrong,” it has no way of working. Self-reflection skills become apparent between 8 and 9 years old.
2. Children don’t learn anything new about their behavior at home. Strategies that help children learn new behaviors such as redirection and learning replacement skills are most effective when taught immediately. Parents too often rely on punishing their child for their negative school behavior and according to many research studies and Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting, it is ineffective. If your child is developmentally mature enough to understand what happened earlier, it can be helpful to discuss what took place at school in positive productive ways.
3. Children may less likely to want to go back to school. If children hear at home about what went wrong during the day, they may show more resistance to return to that environment. Because they don’t remember what happened earlier, children may solely focus on the negative of the school day because of what is being said to them at home about their behavior there.
4. Social-Emotional skill building works best. “Find out what strategies your children’s school is using to support their social emotional development and consider reinforcing the activities at home” says Costaldo. There are a wide variety of social emotional books aimed at teaching children new behaviors that can be helpful, as well as role playing and playing “what if” games with your children to reinforce alternatives to challenging behavior. When reading books or playing games with your children to support their social emotional development, avoid referencing the challenging behavior at school, rather, teach and reinforce new behaviors with fun, non-threatening games and books. Follow the link for an excellent selection of social emotional books categorized by topic and age appropriateness, compliments of the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, CSEFEL, http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/documents/booklist.pdf.
Children will be attending school for a long time so it is important that they enjoy it. As they get older, if they fear punishment after a difficult day, they may stop telling you what happened while at school. Remember that behavior is improved when children have good relationships with the adults in their lives. Let the teachers in school teach behavior while your child in is their care and you do the same during your time with them.