13 Back to School Behavior Tips

It’s that time again.  Time for your kids to head back to school or, for some moms, it’s time for your child to start school.

There are so many things to do before school starts… Mommies tend to prepare for back-to-school time by purchasing new clothes and school materials and by getting information on their children’s classrooms and teachers.

But how much preparation do you put into your child behaviorally in order to prepare for this transition to the school year?

It turns out that many parents don’t put too much thought into getting their kids ready for school behaviorally.  As a result, they are often caught off guard when their kids show that they are having a rough time transitioning.

But it’s important to prepare your child behaviorally and emotionally for heading back to school in order to make the whole situation a lot easier on both of you.  Having been a child therapist before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I can tell you that this is especially important if you have a child who struggles in school or with transitions.

So here are some behavioral back to school tips for ya!  Try to start doing these about 3 weeks before school starts.  This will make for a smoother transition into the school year.  I’ve also included some tips for you to use once the school year begins.

Back to School Tips

  1. You generally want to start establishing some routines or a schedule that somewhat mimics a regular school day. So…
    • Establish a morning routine and start to have your child follow through with it 2-3 weeks before school starts.
    • Establish a bedtime routine and start to have your child follow through with it 2-3 weeks before school starts.
    • Try to have your child eat meals around the same time as he will once the school year starts.
    • Perhaps expect your child to complete his chores or other tasks around the time when he will normally be completing homework.  This will help him get used to doing “work” around that time.
  2. If your child spent a lot of time on electronic devices during the summer, begin to limit access to the devices.  You can learn more about how to curb your child’s screen time usage here.
  3. Try to keep the transition fun and light. Praise and provide reasonable rewards for your child for following through with these new changes and routines.
  4. Have a casual conversation with your child about how he feels about starting the school year soon.  If he expresses any concerns or uncomfortable feelings, see if you can help to address any of these in a supportive way.  Be careful not to force your child to engage in conversation though.
  5. You don’t have to implement all of these tips at the same time, as that could be overwhelming for your child. Therefore, begin to implement them gradually.
  6. Whenever you implement a new parenting strategy, you will likely see some push-back from your child for the first week or so. You may even see an increase in problematic behaviors during this time.  That is why it is better to start making these changes about 3 weeks before school starts.  This way, you are not making all of the changes at the same time that your child is experiencing the stress of the first weeks of school.

 

Here are some back to school tips for when the school year begins:

  1. Avoid overloading your child with demands during the first week or so of school. He will already be facing the sudden demands of school, so try not to add onto the stress of that.
  2. You can gradually increase demands and expectations after the first or second week of school as your child settles into the transition more.
  3. Have casual conversations with your child about his feelings about how school is going.  You can talk about how he likes his classroom, teachers, classmates, etc.  But don’t force him to make conversation.
  4. Establish a school day routine, and continue to expect your child to follow through with a morning and bedtime routine.
    • Post the routine/schedule on paper or a poster board somewhere your child can see it.
    • Be sure to also establish a routine and expectations for days in which your child participates in extracurricular activities.
    • Be sure that the routine provides your child with proper sleep and nutrition.
      • For instance, your child may need a snack and beverage after school.
      • And if your child is getting to bed too late due to excessive amounts of homework despite having a solid routine and expectations, then you may want to address this with the teacher/school.
    • Remember that things won’t always go as planned and you may need to deviate from the schedule at times, and that’s OK.
  5. Set expectations for homework time.
    • What time should your child begin his homework?
    • Will your child be allowed to take breaks, and what are the rules for break time?
    • Does your child need to complete homework first before he is allowed to play?
    • What are the consequences for not completing homework?
  6. Praise your child for completing routines and homework.
  7. If your child regularly struggles with any areas in particular, such as completing homework, consider using a reward system to help improve his skills versus turning to discipline first.
    • For instance, you could use a reward chart and deliver daily rewards, plus a weekly reward, for completing homework without showing problematic behaviors.
Remember…

That it is generally best to think of ways to reward your child for good behaviors, rather than focusing so much on using discipline for “bad” behaviors.  Therefore, try not to get into a cycle in which you are using a lot of discipline around the topic of school, as this will draw a lot of negativity around the topic and could actually make things more difficult for your child.

Do you have any back-to-school behavior tips?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Disclaimer: Although I was a therapist before I became a stay-at-home mom, I am not your therapist or your child’s therapist. Reading this post does not enter you into a client-therapist relationship with me. The content in this post is meant to be used as a general guideline and has not been individually tailored to the needs of you and your child. If you are in need of therapeutic services, please seek the support of a mental health counselor or behavior specialist.

References: My information comes from years of training on Applied Behavior Analysis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other evidence-based techniques. I also like to refer to Russell Barkley and Alan Kazdin.

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