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#35: Dealing with daily ADHD behavior problems at school

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Getting daily reports about your child with ADHD’s constant behavioral problems at school can be frustrating for many parents. These persistent reports of ADHD behavior problems often make us defensive and contribute to feelings of frustration and failure. We may feel that the teachers “have it out for our kid” and that they are being mistreated. 

If you are dealing with a situation where you’re receiving constant feedback from your child’s teacher, especially if that feedback is mostly negative, we recommend doing the following things to help you and your child’s teacher improve communication and find success. 

First, remain calm and take a step back. Remember that email can mask the true meaning of what someone is trying to say as it can’t convey body language or emotion. It can be easy to misinterpret what your child’s teaching is trying to say, and that can inflame the situation or add to your stress level. Keeping calm will allow you to begin addressing what’s happening positively. Understand that your child may exhibit different behavior problems at school than they do at home and that your child’s behavior may make it difficult for them to do their job.

Second, determine what information you need from your child’s teacher and how often. For some parents receiving a daily report may be too much, and a weekly report would be better. Other parents having a daily report is beneficial. In addition to determining how frequently you need the report, figure out how detailed you need the information to be. Do you need a summary of every negative behavior or would a checklist of frequency be enough? 

Third, set up a face-to-face meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss expectations for daily reports. Your child’s teachers may think that you want detailed reports. We HIGHLY recommend that you do the meeting face-to-face as it allows you to improve communication and come up with solutions that are focused on helping your child.

Fourth, establish a behavior treatment plan. Getting all this information isn’t help if there isn’t a plan to address it. Determine consequences and rewards for specific behaviors. Discuss what you’re doing at home with behavior skills and invite them to learn the behavior skills on Smarter Parenting so that you’re both working together. 

Fifth, ask for positive information. When children are continually acting up, it can be hard to remember to find the good. All children need praise and encouragement that they are doing things well. Praising positive behavior is one of the quickest ways to reduce negative behaviors and increase good behavior. Ask your child’s teacher to include x number of positive things that your child did in the reports. Doing so will help them better see the good things your child does do! Learn more about how to use praise to improve behavior on SmarterParenting.com.

Remember, the goal is to find a way for you and your child’s teacher to work together to help your child find success with their behavior problems at school.

Episode Transcript

This is episode 35. Let’s get started.

Smarter Parenting welcomes you to our podcast series, The Parenting Coach for ADHD. Here to heal and elevate lives is your parenting coach, Siope Kinikini.

How is everyone? I hope everybody’s doing well. I am doing fantastic. I had to take the dogs out for a bath, and that is always an experience. I have one dog who loves it. Henry does not like baths at all, but then I have Bear who loves baths, and so it’s an enjoyable experience. Anyways, being able to get that done. I’m checked off. I’m moving on, and now I’m recording this podcast. Which I am super excited about because I think it’s a topic that will help a lot of parents in their communication with teachers, specifically with teachers and also with teachers and parents.

This is a topic specific for ADHD because it happens so much during the school year. Where sometimes teachers will send out a ton of notices to parents. And I’ve seen notices from teachers to parents about the behavior of their children during the school day where they are just super long. I’m like, “How do you have time to even teach if you’re typing up this email super long about my one child, right?” I find it humorous, and I feel that it may be cathartic for some teachers to type it out and just get it documented and sent to the parent.

So yeah, that can do a couple of things. For some parents, it’s great to have the information, but a lot of times it just makes parents frustrated. It makes some really kind of like, “Okay, you’re telling me this, but you’re not including what you did in order to fix it. Or any intervention techniques that you’re trying to work out with your child.” 

So this conversation, this podcast, is about what do you do with information that you’re receiving from a teacher of your child who struggles with ADHD when it’s just a huge laundry list of behaviors, right? I don’t know if this has happened to you, but it happens to a lot of parents. So just be aware that you may be getting them.

Remain calm

So first off, when parents receive this, and I worked with a family where a mother received a notification like every day, and we had to go through a process of helping her calm herself down because she just got super frustrated. First, she was anxious because she knew an email was coming, the email would come, she’d become angry and then she’d become frustrated because she’s like, “Why are you giving me all of this?” 

And there’s something to be said about email because email is just not, you don’t get an inflection in voices, or you don’t get to tell how the person’s communicating so you can read it any way you want. So we had to take step back. I taught her how to deep breath and calm down and anticipate what was going to happen and how she was going to respond to it.

Determine what information you need

And then, we started to break it apart and decide how she was going to approach it. So the first thing I asked her is she needs to ask herself, “Is the information that the teacher is providing, is it helpful? Is it helpful information for me?” Then I had her ask, “Do I need all of these details? Do I need all these details?” Then we had to figure out exactly is it better to get a daily report or is it better to get a weekly report? 

Now for this mom, she was getting daily reports. And what we realized it was better for her to get weekly reports and she needed to communicate that with the teacher. And the reason that the weekly report was better for her is because it was a daily issue. Where she’s getting these reports, and the reports were very detailed in the negative behavior but didn’t really communicate anything other than that, which wasn’t helpful.

One thing that we did do while we were looking through these daily reports was, “Did the report include any praise for any positive things her child was doing?” Now, it’s easy to focus on the negative, super easy, but were there any positive things that the teacher noticed. And by evaluating that we could talk to the teacher about her ability to notice the good things that were happening as well. And so yeah, that was a focus in the communication. We also talked about whether or not the list was too long. If it needed to be that long and that descriptive. What we learned in the whole process of doing this together is that we needed to communicate with the teacher. Like really have a great conversation with the teacher about expectations and about expectations between each other and about how to proceed with helping the child behave in school.

Meet face-to-face with the teacher

So, we set up a plan to talk to the teacher, and this was a face-to-face meeting. I highly recommend face-to-face because you can get so much information face-to-face that you cannot get when you’re just sending emails back and forth. So much can be lost in interpretation when you’re just reading an email. Because you’re putting your own spin on the words that you’re reading and if you’re in a negative space, you may read it as a negative reflection on what the person is saying when, in fact, he can be very positive. So body language, voice inflection, eye contact, all those things communicate trust and also the meaning behind the words.

So we scheduled a time to meet with the teacher and we started to talk about the issues that were happening in the school. And we talked about getting a weekly report rather than a daily report. And that the weekly report in order to make it easier for the teacher, would list the behaviors where she could just check it off and if she wanted to go in detail she could, but she didn’t have to. Now the teacher was a new teacher, but this was super helpful for the teacher because it didn’t require her typing up long emails. She’s spending a ton of time typing up these very specific emails. She said she was doing it for documentation, but this way of documenting actually did the same thing. So he was disruptive in class on Monday. He bothered another student, check. Rather than okay, he bothered Billy and Billy did this and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. It saved teacher some time, which was helpful for her.

The other part is we didn’t need all the details. We just needed to know he was disruptive and how he was disruptive. And from that, we drew what was helpful. So we could get the information okay what was helpful? In her approach in helping the child, what the mom was doing at home to help out the child, and how they could integrate that so it’s consistent both at home and at school. Now, we also talked with the teacher about, she was sending this information, but what should the mom do with it? Because it didn’t come up with a resolution, a solution, or anything else. And so everything now as far as the communication goes between the teacher and this mother is focused on, “What do we do with this information that we’re collecting? That we’re gathering?”

Teach Effective Praise

The hardest part for the teacher was to include praise in what the child was doing. So she could focus on the negative behaviors, but to focus on something well that he was doing in the classroom was super difficult. We had to work on that over time and increase those. We wanted the teacher to be able to give us three or four positive things that the child was doing in the classroom, in addition to the behaviors that need to be addressed and fixed. And then we actually focused in on one behavior at a time, rather than a whole group of behaviors. So the first one was him being able to not bother other students that were sitting by him. We focused on specifically during the course of getting these reports back and forth.

Now this whole process, it took some time to do, and it was a lot of work upfront, but after we were able to resolve these upfront, everything calmed down. And they were able to work together in addressing some of these behaviors. My recommendation is for parents who are receiving a lot of information from teachers about behaviors that children are having. You need to ask yourself, “Okay, is this helpful?” And then you need to communicate with the teacher, “Is this helpful? Is all this information needed? Do we need all these details? Is it better to get daily reports or weekly reports?” Sometimes daily is good and in fact, daily may be helpful to curb some very specific behaviors over a short period of time and then come up with a plan. “What do we do with this information? What are you going to do, teacher with the information you’re giving me? What am I going to do, and how do we coordinate those so we can be a benefit to the child?”

Also, address if praise is being involved for the positive things your child is doing. We want to integrate that because that helps build a relationship. You can find the skill of Effective Praise on the Smarter Parenting website. So you can learn how to do it, and you can also send the video to the teacher and say, this is how I’m doing it. Here’s something that you can try to help with my child in the classroom and with the other students that will help increase their positive behaviors. And if we’re both doing it, then we’re synergy, we’re really helping this child behave better. And then during this whole process, focus on one behavior at a time. And improve that behavior and then move onto the next one. Don’t try and fix all the problems at once because that is just really, really difficult to do.

Now I do want to give a shout out to teachers because they are under so much pressure to perform. Their goal is to teach a classroom of children and to get through the lesson plan. And when they’re dealing with behaviors that actually takes away from the instruction, it can become super frustrating. They have a goal. They have an agenda to teach. And when something comes up that disrupts that, it makes it super difficult for them to accomplish their ultimate goal. The EAB, it’s called the Education Advisory Board, and I wanted to share this, was founded in 2007, and it’s a best practices firm that uses research, technology, and consulting to address challenges within the education industry. It’s headquartered in Washington, DC and it’s a nonprofit.

So they actually did a study, and I think this is important, they surveyed 1900 elementary school teachers, administrators, and staff from 41 public schools across the country. And they found that teachers lose about 144 minutes of instructional time a day because they’re dealing with behavioral issues with children who are misbehaving in the classroom. That equals to roughly around 14 and a half days a month or 14 and a half days of instruction per school year. Excuse me. So that equals to a 14.5 days of instruction per school year that they are dealing with behavioral issues. Think about that. That is because we only go to school five days a week, a month is 30 days. That’s over half a month that they’re dealing with behavioral issues. And that’s on average. Some classes may spend more time than that. Some classes may be a little less than that. So yeah, that is a lot of instructional time that your children is not getting an education.

So I’m giving this shout out to teachers for the incredible work that they do in trying to teach and fulfill their goal of helping kids become educated and also managing behavioral issues that may arise in the classroom. They have a tough job. Just like parents have a tough job. So be patient with each other. Communicate. Find ways to work together in order to make this happen. I think it’s super, super important. 

So my takeaway is use Effective Praise as a tool that you use at home, but also send over to the school and have the teacher watch so they know how you’re doing it so you can synergize your work. But also if you’re receiving these consistent messages about behaviors at school, go through that checklist.

Ask, “Is this helpful?” Meet with the teacher. Do you need all those details? Are weekly reports better than daily reports? Can you make it easier by having a checklist rather than having them type everything out? What information do you want to do? You’re getting a ton of information, but what do you want to do with it? What does the teacher want to do with it? Are they just venting, or is there a plan behind it? And then be sure that you praise for the positive things that your child is doing. 

That is it from me and jump over to the Smarter Parenting website for more parenting skills that will help you and your child. Feel free to give us a five-star rating on wherever you’re listening to this podcast. We would sure appreciate it, and I will talk to you again later. All right. Bye.

Resources discussed in this episode

Smarter Parenting behavior skills

Behavior skill: Effective Communication

Behavior skill: Effective Praise

Helping ADHD kid in school

Episode #32: ADHD and different learning styles

How to talk to your child’s teacher

Podcast Transcript

The transcript text is below. You can also download the PDF file of the transcript here.