This is not a new story. You drag your child out of the house kicking and screaming only to show up at a parent/teacher conference two days later to hear a glowing report. You hear words like, “What a pleasure. Such a leader. A real joy to have in class.”
You almost choke on your coffee. “My child?” you ask. “Are you sure we’re talking about the same person?”
Yes, your child is capable of pulling this off. Nearly all kids are. Most kids act considerably worse at home than they do at school. This is because the stakes are so much higher at school. Before kids go to school they see the world as unconditional. They are unconditionally loved and unconditionally part of a family.
School is the first place kids see the world as conditional. If you are nice, you have friends. If you aren’t, you don’t. If you follow the rules, you get to go to recess. If you don’t, you stay inside. If you get your work done, you can play. If you don’t, you have to sit there until it’s finished. There are no free passes. No “I love you’s” just because. The world is harsh and for the first time, kids feel it. And most of them will change their behavior because of it.
School is also a place of frustrations. Kids rarely get what they want and are triggered much of the day. Instead of wreaking havoc on their school friends, they bottle it up until they get home. This usually starts before they get home. It often happens before you can even pull out of the school parking lot.
Your child is smiling and waving goodbye to her friends and before even shutting the door begins shouting frustrations and demands for the rest of the evening. “Where is my snack? You brought me the wrong one! Can I play on the iPad when I get home? Why not? Can we stop by Target? Why not? I’ve had the worst day ever!”
Before you pull the car over and scream to the top of your lungs, remember a few things that might make this transition from Street Angel to Home Devil a little easier:
1. The best indicator of success is how children act outside the home.
While this might not make your nights go better, you can rest easier knowing your child will be okay in the long run. If your child keeps it together outside the home, you know they are capable of handling difficult things effectively. This means they can keep it together. When they want to.
2. The worst time to talk to your child is during transitions.
On the way home from and on the way to school, your child transitioning from their home self to their school self. On the way to school, they are trying to get themselves together in order to perform. On the way home from school, they are trying to figure out how to let all of their frustrations out now that they’re in a safe environment. Whether on the way to or on the way home from school, talking about their day is not a good choice because they are still in that transition. Instead say, “It’s good to see you,” and move on with the car ride.
3. Nighttime is the best time for talking.
In the evening or at bedtime, talk to your child about his or her day. Use Feeleez cards or something similar to help facilitate a conversation about how things went at school or how they are feeling at home. You can also model how to identify feelings by choosing your own. 3 cards each is a great place to start.
4. Balance empathy with expectations.
Home should always be safe for your child but shouldn’t be without expectations. Your child should have the chance to vent, come apart and let feelings flow but should also know there are boundaries for such things. It shouldn’t be a free-for-all, all of the time. There is a time and place for everything and helping children know there is freedom but that it has to be within a structure allows them to feel safe while also comforted in knowing there is a boundary.
Have a great week everyone and Happy Holidays!