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Talking to the parent(s) or teacher(s) of a “badly” behaved child.

Image: Arvind Balaraman /

Helping us to help ourselves.

I am going to give a bit of a mish mash mix up here I suspect.   A conversation on Twitter last week showed that parents of children who are not disabled find it hard to start-up a conversation with the parents of a child who might have some problems.  Not all disabilities are easily seen, and many are completely hidden, so how do you tell if a badly behaved child is disabled.   The short answer is simply that you don’t.

What you do have to remember is that consistently bad behaviour is a SYMPTOM of SOMETHING going wrong.

The “what” of the something going on could include:

  • hidden disability
  • stress
  • hormones
  • social problems at school
  • difficulty with schoolwork
  • problems at home
  • being the bully, or being bullied
  • no boundaries to follow
  • no good example to follow

I have written about this before, but in a different way.  Lets take it from the angle of the parent of a child who is struggling because of the actions or behaviour of someone else’s child.   If this continues, the reaction from parents is usually to go on high dudgeon and possibly send the offending child, their parents, and their siblings to Coventry for the duration of their natural-born lives.

I am not posting about the rights and wrongs for this one, but more to help the parents of any other children who are possibly losing out at school because the “badly” behaved one gets more attention, or focus, and extra help with schoolwork, or simply disrupts the lessons so that none of the children get the schooling they should have had.

Imaginary Case Study

Lets pretend we have an 8-year-old boy who I will call Z,  He  is causing problems in class by refusing to do work, and screaming when he is asked to do lessons.  Budget cuts have meant that the classroom assistants that used to help in class have  to leave the school as there is no longer any money for individual child support.  The teacher is struggling with 30 pupils and cannot give individual attention to them all.

Z screaming means that other children are not getting the support and learning that they should be receiving.  Z gets frustrated and hits / shouts at other children when he is upset, angry, unsupported and frustrated.

The parents of the other children in class stand outside whispering to each other as Z comes out of school and talk about how badly behaved he is.   They plan to go individually, or together to complain to school about how Z is affecting their children and how their children are suffering.  They talk about it a lot, but never really do much about it unless their child is hit, whereby they will hot foot it to school shouting at the Headteacher about how it is not good enough, and that something has to be done (usually wanting child excluded).

If you really feel that it has gone on too long and you need to do something about it, perhaps consider how you are going to approach it.

Possible Actions

Where on earth do you go when emotions run this high?  Parents will instinctively protect their own, but in the above scenario, NOBODY considers the child who is behaving badly.  Sadly, it seems to be a very common scenario.  Now lets look at possible routes that parents could take to make this situation better.

1 – Soft Approach

  • Approach the parent to see how receptive they are to talking about Z.  Be aware, they may have had complaints or been shouted at in the past, so they may be very suspicious at first.
  • If the parent is willing to talk to you, explain how concerned you are about Z in class, and that you are aware of how much he is struggling.
  • Ask if there is anything you can do to help, ie possibly mention to school about how much you see Z struggling, and you are concerned.

From this approach, you might or might not manage to engage the parents in conversation.  If you do, you may gain a bit of an in-sight into what is going on.   Parents are often struggling to get help for their children, and there are teachers who struggle to comprehend the issues and disabilities can affect behaviour.  Quite often, their answer is to punish the behaviour instead of getting to the root of the problem to make it go away.

If it is not going to work, then you may need to move on to another approach.

2 – Direct Approach

For this approach, you could have tried to talk to the parents and been cold shouldered or shouted at.  Perhaps you are not confident enough to talk to them yourself.

What could you do?

  • Try approaching the school directly, but not with accusations or threats over bad behaviour.
  • Arrange an appointment and explain that you have concerns about Z.
  • Emphasise that the “behaviours” are having an impact on the class, not Z.  Suggest that the whole class needs more help to cope with it.
  • Stay out of discussions which are based on increasing the prejudice about Z and his family.


If your child is in a class with a disruptor, it can be hard for all the children to deal with it.  What I am sure of, is that they certainly will not manage to cope with it themselves.

Expecting classmates to cope is naive and silly, yet that is what our children are being expected to cope with on a regular basis these days.

Many children were taken out of special schools and protected bases on the basis that they would have extra helpers in mainstream settings to allow them to be included.  Sadly, those helpers are now being eroded by budget cuts and the issues of the “badly” behaved children will only increase.

It is in all our best interests to learn how to cope with these children.