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Dear ADDitude: How Can We Stop the Hair Pulling and Pestering?

“My son is getting in trouble for pestering other kids in line, shoving classmates in gym class, and noisily disrupting music class. He’s well behaved at home, so I wonder if he’s reacting to his teacher’s discipline tactics. What can I do?”

ADDitude Answers

You are dealing with a tale of two sons. While it can be frustrating, children act differently in different environments, for any number of reasons. If your son is struggling with schoolwork, it may be that he feels inferior or out of place at school. Does he have friends at school? He could be feeling left out and alone. Acting up might be his way of dealing with these feelings.

I suggest talking to the teacher. Discuss the methods that work for you at home. While his teacher spends time with him each day, you have information to share. Have a balanced discussion, without making accusations. You want to know what is going on and you want to share what you know about your son.

You can also request an evaluation from the school. You can ask for the evaluation to include a functional behavioral analysis, which will show the triggers for your son’s outbursts. Once you recognize the triggers, you can work with the school to create a behavioral plan.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

It could very well be the environment. Imagine being a child who can’t meet expectations; who is easily overwhelmed by sound and lots of people; who feels the need to move all the time but is expected to be still; who cannot meet expectations; who is made to feel stupid, different, bad… It would make any of us want to freak out and hide under our desk (my son did that in 1st grade).

Your son needs an educational environment and plan tailored to his disabilities.

Here’s a sample letter to use to request a school evaluation for services: Sample Letter to Request Accommodations for ADHD Students.

Once you’ve done that, read all you can about 504 Plans, IEPs, and your child’s rights and the process: 12 Steps to Smarter School Accommodations

It is hard to get educators to understand how overwhelming and stressful the school environment is to kids with invisible special needs. Keep fighting for him.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

School is a difficult environment because there are “triggers” everywhere. As a parent, you need to advocate, support, and more. As long as the strategies are applied consistently at home and in school – with super close collaboration with teachers – I hope you will, as we did with our eight-year-old, see huge changes first at home, then in school.

Posted by eso

A Reader Answers

Behavior modification won’t be helpful unless you can also figure out what is triggering the behaviors and focus specifically on that. I would suggest reading The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. The book details how the school needs to resolve the underlying issues causing the behaviors and gives some very clear strategies for ways they can go about doing that.

Posted by SBW1220

A Reader Answers

You should have a joint meeting with the RTI coordinator, teacher, school counselor, and assistant principal. Together you should work on establishing, or revising, a plan to deal with your child’s behavior.

When my son (now 8) was 5, we created a plan to address his behavior that involved removing him from the classroom and giving him a time out to calm down. We eventually moved him out of the class entirely and placed him in a calmer setting. The combination of this calmer environment, more structured classroom, and his medication was able to help my child with his behavioral issues.

Posted by Meme2013