HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

How Should I Handle My Kindergartner's Bad Behavior on the Bus

By Dr. Joseph Gianesin, Behavioral Consultant


My kindergartner and his classmates have been picking up a lot of bad behavior and disgusting physical and verbal expressions from some older kids on the school bus. As parents, we can't expect the driver to discipline them since he has to focus on the road. What can we do?


Welcome to the world of the school bus. Many parents and educators don't know how chaotic, unstructured and sometimes dangerous school buses can be. As a school administrator, I received many discipline write-ups for students' school bus behavior, and the parents could not believe their children could engage in such vulgar language and poor conduct. It got so bad that I had the school bus company install a video camera so when there was a write-up, I could have the parent watch his child in action. This approach solved many problems and disputes on the bus.

The school bus driver sets the tone for the behaviors he is willing to tolerate. The bus driver needs to set firm limits, and can pull the bus to the side of the road and call for assistance if behavior problems become severe. He can also assign students to certain seats on the bus. I suggest that if the older kids are riding with kindergartners, then the older children should be seated in the back of the bus and the younger ones should be up front near the driver. If all else fails, ask for a meeting with the school administrator. Riding the bus does not have to feel unsafe or abusive. Many school districts will assign an adult monitor to ride on the bus when behavior is a problem.

As a parent, you can't protect your child from being exposed to the words, phrases and gestures that are unacceptable for many adults. However, you can explain to your child that the words he hears are offensive and should not be repeated. You can't change the behavior of the other children but you can help your child filter out words and gestures that are offensive. This is a great opportunity to talk about how everyone has to make choices about who to imitate and model behavior after. I'm sure your son wants to make you happy and will abide by your wishes.

Dr. Joseph Gianesin is a professor at Springfield College School of Social Work. He has more than 25 years of experience as a child and family therapist, a school social worker and a school administrator. Along with his academic appointment, Dr. Gianesin is a program and behavioral consultant for public schools in Massachusetts, helping them develop and manage programs for children with significant mental health problems.

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

"my son has ood that is a mental health problem the school test him was to smart for specil ed so he cant ride special ed bus so he ride the big bus and get kick off for not beable to set in his seat and getting into fights he five years old he was kick off last year for the same thing his dr wrote a letter are me to gave to the school they do not a thing can some body help me thanks harold in texas"