Why do children behave differently at home and School?

It’s not uncommon for children to behave ” differently at home and school. It’s sometimes puzzling for my clients when they attend parents evening and hear how great Stephen is when you know he can be really hard work at home. This might create thoughts of getting it wrong or feelings of being upset and puzzled. Let’s try and understand some of the reasons for this:

Reasons why your child may behave differently at home and at school

1.Your child feels safest at home

Most of us including children feel that we can be our ” worst self at home”. Our family will always forgive us. Be reassured that you know your child feels safe and to express themselves fully at home.

2. Your child may behave differently due to Anxiety

If your child is suffering from anxiety, especially social anxiety. The school environment is challenging on many levels. Your child has to navigate multiple interactions, groups, peers, and teachers. This takes a huge amount of energy. I’ve worked with many children who mask their symptoms all day, they tell their friends that they are fine, this normally due to feelings of shame and embarrassment. By the time they return home, they are exhausted, present with meltdowns or may isolate themselves in their rooms. If you want to know more about social anxiety and anxiety, click here >>Anxiety Symptoms, Disorders and Support<<

3.Your child may have Learning Challenges

You may not be aware that your child may have processing difficulties or even dyslexia. Learning issues can be hard to assess andcan be overlooked in the education system. Your child may be working very hard to please the teacher and keep up with their peers. By the time they return home, they look for ways to relieve the tension. They may present with meltdowns that seem to come from a simple request from you. Have you ever noticed this?

4. They may have a disorder such as ADHD, Attachment or another Disorder.

It can work the other way, your child may behave well at home but is really struggling at school. The school environment is structured which can often be helpful and reassuring for most children. However, some children have to work hard to “inhibit” responses. They may struggle to be patient, stay on task. They may be constantly “distracted” and “distracting”. Home may be easier to manage ( it may not be too). It has less structure and places fewer academic demands. For more information on >>Attachment<< and >> ADHD<<

These are just a few ideas of the differences in how your child might behave differently at home and school.

Here are simple ideas on how to help and support you now:

1.Recognise and accept you may not be doing anything wrong, your child may have some underlying difficulty. It’s not your fault or theirs!

2. Start to talk to them about it, use non-threatening language and observations and feeling words. ( Ensure they know a wide range of feeling words) The Anger iceberg below has other feeling words.

When you talk to them use language such as I wonder, could you be, do you think it might be because? Here is an example of what you might say:

I can understand why you might feel sad/angry because school was really hard today.

This does not mean that you should not set limits if they are angry.All feelings are accepted but some behaviors are limited.

3. Allow a “calm moment ” when they return from school to home. Transitions are hard for many children especially ones who may suffer from anxiety. Let your children sit down for half an hour or more to eat a snack and just relax prior to any expectation. This will help their stress system to calm and may prevent a tantrum or meltdown. Of course, following the break, you continue to have expectations that they tcomplete homework etc.

4. Acknowledge that beneath the anger there may be other feelings too. This is highlighted by The Anger Iceberg from the Gottman Institute 

Why do children behave differently at home and school

4. Seek help from a Therapist, Educational Psychologist, GP or school Nurse. Following this, initiate a meeting at the school. Develop a home and school plan. This is called a systemic approach ( this means everyone working together with a consistent approach and plan) Ask questions on how they might manage the “behaviour“? Have they found strategies that work? Do you have strategies that may work in the school?

Good luck, if you are struggling, contact me for a consulation and for more on anxiety, do attend my>> Stop the Worry Cycle Workshop<<  

With Love Catherine, hoping 2019 will be your greatest!