The Behavior Battle

I love when my kids turn 5 and head off to school. Not just because they’re getting an awesome education at Drayton Hall Elementary School (DHES), the only school in South Carolina to be recognized as an Apple Distinguished School (insert shameless plug here: Go Bobcats!), but also because it gives me a break from the fighting, whining, begging, back talk … Heck, let’s just call it what it is: The Crazy!

Before you start thinking that I’m unleashing a miniature-sized herd of unruly kids on a group of sweet, unsuspecting teachers, the truth is their behavior is wonderful at school. Strange, but true. And I’m not the first mom to notice this bizarre phenomenon. For years, I have wondered why my children are so willing not to just break the rules at home, but shatter them; meanwhile, they wouldn’t dream of getting out of line with their teachers.

In about one month, my break will be coming to a screeching halt, and I will be facing what I like to call the “Summertime Smack Down.”

This year, in an effort to avoid a summer vacation filled with chaos and disorder, I decided to implement a behavior system that would closely resemble the classroom setting. After all, it’s working for the teachers.

I bought two new dry erase boards: one for a behavior chart, one for chores. I started working on a clear list of rules, consequences and rewards. I even began a family newsletter. Surprisingly, the kids were really into it. They were thrilled at the idea of the home environment matching the one at school.

DHES kindergarten teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator Kristi Meeuwse says there are real “benefits of setting clear expectations and consequences” as children “like a clear understanding of what they are to do.”

It doesn’t just end there. Knowing what’s expected of them is only half the battle. According to Meeuwse, the keys to well-behaved children, both at home and school, are consistency and follow-through.

“Unless parents are consistent and follow through on those rules and consequences,” she says, “it doesn’t matter how many rules you have. Kids will know they are meaningless.”

Meeuwse also suggests allowing the kids to play an active role in “the creation of family rules and expectations.” Encouraging their involvement fosters teamwork and shows you value their input. As a result, “they are more likely to buy into the concept,” she explains.

One method she uses and recommends for families is a “Code of Cooperation.” She and her class decide together what elements are most important for a peaceful learning environment. They design a poster including four easy-to-remember rules and each child signs it.

Based on Meeuwse’s advice, I think I’m on the right track. The kids have been enthusiastically offering suggestions for rewards and are eager to share how things are done in their classrooms. And I have stopped issuing idle threats. You know the ones—“Don’t make me pull this van over!” Or, “If you don’t clean this room, I’m going to throw every toy on the floor in the garbage!”

If we keep this up, I may not receive a Summertime Smack Down, after all.


Donloyn Gadson is a wife and mother of eight. She is also owner of Creole Magnolia Creations, a floral design and ladies’ boutique.

Donloyn Gadson

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