My Son Copies His 'Cool' Disruptive Classmate
By Dr. Joseph Gianesin, Behavioral Consultant
My son is in awe of another boy in his kindergarten class. He constantly talks about how "cool" he is and tells me things he does that are "awesome." The problem is the things this boy is doing are constantly disrupting the class - burping, using bathroom words, making faces, etc. The teachers handle these disruptions as well as they can, but my son has started copying this boy both in the classroom and at home. How can I get my son to see that what this boy is doing is not acceptable behavior in a classroom?
Your son is like many children entering kindergarten. They are being exposed to a new and diverse population of kids who may exhibit behavior and attitudes toward authority that many parents would find disrespectful. Fortunately, the type of disruptions your child admires are not extremely serious. You and your child have a great opportunity here to begin the process of making good decisions regarding peer influence that he will face throughout his school career and life.
It also gives you a great chance to work collaboratively with the teacher by shaping and managing your own son's behavior. The first thing you need to do is let your child know that good manners and being respectful of the teacher and other adults is an expected part of being in your family. This not only means that you will correct him when he says or does something disrespectful, but that you will also reward him when he does exhibit the behaviors and attitude you are hoping for.
The collaboration with the teacher involves setting up a reward system that gives you feedback regarding his day at school and whether he was respectful to her. A reward that targets specific behavior works the best. I often use a 3 X 5 card with the days of the week on it. Stickers work great at this age. If he accumulates a set number of stickers, then he earns the reward.
The type of behavior you describe is attention-getting behavior. Instead of giving him lots of attention for acting negatively, it is important to praise him for eliciting the type of behaviors you expect from him. Your son will eventually see that his "awesome" friend doesn't get the positives he is getting and will gravitate toward new friends, and this friend won't seem quite so awesome anymore.
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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.