What Can I Do If My Kid Behaves at Home but Misbehaves at School

My 5-year-old delights in misbehaving in school and shows little respect for the teacher’s authority, leaving me to wonder, what to do if my kid behaves at home but misbehaves at school? She is repeatedly sent to the dean’s office and placed in time-out, but she either doesn’t care or finds it amusing. She enjoys finding “bad” classmates with whom she can rebel.

She has drawn on children’s tights and torn other children’s drawings. She is not this way at home, so I am seeking guidance on addressing this issue. She spends equal time with her co-parenting parents, who reside in separate residences. In fact, she has a new sibling with her father. This is uncharted territory for both of us, as her parents were the sort of students who were never taken to the principal’s office. Help!

Kindergarten Disaster

Typically, I hear from parents that their child demonstrates angelic behavior at school but devilish behavior at home. Your daughter appears to have taken the other way! Although it’s fantastic that she doesn’t behave this way at home, I share your concern about these behaviors at school, particularly if they are not handled promptly. As there is rarely a single cause for a child’s behavioral issues, we can consider several potential causes and determine what to do next.

Communicate Their Rebellion

When it is not my child, I respect the rebellious spirit of a natural outcast. As a rule-follower myself, I like the attitude of norm defiance, which is not necessarily a negative trait. Consider how many legendary personalities changed the course of history in this way. In addition, if this behavior is not corrected sooner rather than later, it will inevitably lead to more issues as the child matures.

The magic will result from preserving the rebellious spirit by directing it in a manner that keeps them out of actual trouble. Encourage, for instance, questioning rules and norms, but model how to do so respectfully and with inquisitiveness instead of denigrating authoritative figures. Like other children their age, they will learn through structure and limitations. Strive for a strategy that is both kind and tough, establishing norms with warmth through nurturing connections and natural consequences.

By taking this balanced approach to their defiance, it is essential to determine the motivation behind their actions. Find out when, when and why they are behaving inappropriately. Once you comprehend the circumstances and how your child thinks and feels throughout these moments, you can effectively lead their growth, development, and behavior toward positive outcomes.

Think About School Fit

It may appear paradoxical, yet the most intelligent children occasionally act out due to boredom. If the classroom setting is not stimulating, students will find other ways to learn. Alternatively, if the information is too difficult for them and they feel overwhelmed, this may also manifest in their conduct. However, all of these options put adult focus in the incorrect way, toward behavior modification, rather than adapting education better to match a child’s academic ability and social-emotional development.

Assess whether your child requires additional support during the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Perhaps they are resisting the additional structure that often accompanies this transformation. Traditional solutions to misbehavior, including time-outs and visits to the principal’s office, are ineffective with many children in modifying their conduct.

It may be beneficial to discuss with the instructor and administration how to reframe discipline in order to emphasize positive conduct rather than punishment. Typically, punishment exacerbates undesirable behaviors rather than resolving underlying issues. Before meaningful development can be made, however, it is necessary to comprehend these underlying issues.

Consider Peer Relations

It sounds like your youngster has discovered a group of rebellious peers who are likely reinforcing their defiance. If they feel loved and accepted by their friends when they act out, this misguided sense of belonging is alluring. The issue, however, is that some of these behaviors simultaneously alienate other peers by displaying confrontational interactions that might lead to exclusion and rejection over time.

If I were to visit with your family in my office, I would want to determine what may be motivating your child’s antisocial behavior. Most likely, the causes are emotional in nature.

Recognize Family Factors

Changes in the family, such as the addition of a new sibling, may affect your child’s emotions and behavior in ways that their 5-year-old brain cannot comprehend. Young children adjusting to blended households may show their emotions in various perplexing and difficult ways. It would not be unusual for children to have strong thoughts about sharing their father’s attention yet refrain from acting out at home in order to avoid being rejected.

If they suppress their emotions at home, they will express them at school, where they have less to lose. Currently, kids may require more one-on-one time with each parent and permission to express various feelings that they fear are “bad” (e.g., jealousy, anger). If you can teach kids to recognize and discuss these emotions, their classroom misbehavior may diminish with time.

When to Seek Expert Assistance

If the issues remain, a professional review may not only shed light on what is happening but also provide solutions. A comprehensive psychological evaluation would involve IQ and academic testing to see where there may be discrepancies between a student’s skills and their academic performance, including if the work is too difficult or not difficult enough. This evaluation will compare your child’s behavior to those of youngsters of the same age.

Substantial discrepancies may signal the need for a diagnosis and/or treatment. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is believed to affect between 5 and 8 percent of youngsters. This sort of brain wiring may contribute to impulsive and aggressive behavior, difficulty focusing when bored, and difficulty regulating emotions. Sensory processing impairment, learning problems, or autism spectrum disorder may also influence the conduct of a child.

Typically, these issues would also be detected at home, but if the home setting is a very good fit (for example, the child receives a lot of adult attention and stimulation), they may not be. These potential diagnoses illustrate how a professional examination could guide attempts to replace existing school penalties with reactions that effectively alter students’ behavior.


We want every child to learn how to engage with the world in ways that encourage positive growth and development. At this young age, their misbehavior in the classroom could be an expression of their difficulty transitioning to kindergarten, a new sibling, or both. Perhaps something else completely.

They may also indicate underlying concerns that will only be resolved if discovered and addressed immediately. Your child’s strong spirit is good to have two families dedicated to solving this behavior problem and who do not see a “bad” child but rather a young youngster in need of additional assistance.

Meaningful articles you might like: How to Deal with a Class Troublemaker, Fun Mom’s Guide to Positive Discipline, Discipline Tips Every Parents Need To Know