HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

My Child's Class Is Out of Control

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My son is in a kindergarten classroom where the students are out of control most of the time. There are a few students in class who the teacher can not get control. It seems she spends more time dealing with misbehaving kids than teaching. Because of this my son is losing interest in school. What should I do?


This is a very sensitive topic that is of concern to many parents. Not every teacher's strength is classroom management. And while some teachers may be very good at it, sometimes the level of a child's disturbance may be beyond either the teacher's skill set. Examples would include a child with severe emotional difficulties, or a school placement that is inappropriate. Not everyone's "needs" and "rights" are being adequately served in these complex situations.

In your case, without fully understanding the circumstances around the "misbehaving kids," it might be good to start by exploring with your son about how he feels about school. Find out what he is doing during the disruptive incidents. What is his relationship with the teacher? Does she answer his questions, call on him, and interact with him? Does he feel safe in the classroom? Is he learning what is required of him? Reinforce your pleasure in his ability to "make good choices" even when there are distractions.

With the details you have gathered from your son, you can start a conversation with the teacher about what your child says about his school experience and how you think your child is being affected. Because of the young age of your child, volunteering or visiting the classroom may also help you understand what your son is experiencing. Knowing specifics can help you have a more productive conversation with the teacher.

If you don't feel that the teacher is receptive or equipped to handle some of her students, go to your principal. The principal might be able to offer the teacher more guidance and support, which in turn will result in a better learning environment for your son and his classmates.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"It clearly states to begin talking with the teacher first and if that doesn't help then go to the principal.d"
"I do not agree that the parent should go directly to the principal. I believe the first step should be to talk to the teacher. Find out her perpective. I have a five-year-old, and I taught kindergarten for 5 years. If the parent is getting her information from the child, it may not be entirely true. The amount of misbehavior and the amount of time the teacher is dealing with this cannot be adequatley determined by a 5-year-old. Also, in any profession, the best approach is to talk to the one in which you have an issue, not go over someone's head to his/her supervisor."