The classroom behaviour — or rather, misbehaviour — of students in many countries often hits the headlines. And of course, rowdy school classrooms can be a huge barrier to learning.
Some teachers have to deal with angry parents as well as disruptive students. Even though they're in the minority, aggressive parents can make life unpleasant for teachers and other school staff. Whether or not this is simply because of lack of appropriate guidance in their own upbringing, mental health problems, or perhaps a combination, we have to ask whether these parents are able to provide a calm, consistent and appropriate environment for their own children.
Even parents who aren't arguing with teachers may feel they could use some support, whether it's to deal with a child's behaviour issues, to help their child do their best at school, or a bit of both.
So how can parents and schools work better together?
THE GOOD OLD DAYS WEREN’T
Some would say we should go back to the old days of caning and corporal punishment. But let’s remember that corporal punishment was abandoned with good reason. Apart from anything else, we now know it’s very often counter-productive. Therefore, it’s important that parents have effective alternatives and strategies. Otherwise, it’s too easy for parents to throw up their hands and say “well I can’t smack them, so what else can I do?”
SOLUTIONS ALREADY EXIST
There’s no need for parents to abandon the idea of guiding children to develop more pro-social behaviour.
The question is, how do we:
- Build our children’s (and our own, if we need help) skills in managing emotions, behaving appropriately and developing resilience?
- Give children more support to deal with challenging situations, including things like parents’ separating or divorcing, and improve family functioning?
- Create better links between schools and families (rather than creating more tension as each side blames the other)?
It would come as no surprise that, based on more than three decades of research and clinical experience, I believe the answer is effective, evidence-based programs.
WHY ARE SCHOOL AND PARENTING PARTNERSHIPS IMPORTANT?
Early child development staff and teachers are often the first to notice problems with speech and language, social skills, behaviour, attention-deficit, emotional self-control, and family functioning.
Ideally, any potential issues are found and support given before problems become entrenched or reach crisis point. And it’s got to happen without finger-pointing and tsk-tsking, but rather genuine teamwork and care.
There’s already a wealth of research about the benefits of Triple P:
- It improves school readiness and school attendance and performance, as well as reducing bullying and improving peer relationships at school.
- It also improves emotional regulation in both children and parents.
- There are also better outcomes and opportunities for children with developmental disabilities, including children with intellectual, cognitive, neurological, sensory and physical impairments.
Reduced behaviour problems in the classroom means a better learning environment and enhanced potential outcomes for all children. But even before children start school, Triple P also supports parents to provide a positive and stimulating learning environment at home, as children are actively encouraged to explore their surroundings and develop their language and communication skills.
Teachers and early learning centre workers can also do Triple P for themselves, too. The benefits reported by research include higher levels of confidence in managing problem student behaviour, and lower levels of work-related stress as a result.
Already, we’re seeing new partnerships being created in here in Queensland, in Canada, and in the UK, as part of research projects and government-funded initiatives. Early learning centres, schools, and school parent associations are teaming up to let more parents know about what’s available as part of the Triple P - Positive Parenting Program and offer a whole range of Triple P support programs. (You can contact your local school or early childhood centre, or see what’s on near you elsewhere on this website, under Find Help.)
It’s this kind of partnership we’d like to see more of, because the potential for positive change is immense. And when we start to tackle problems early rather than waiting until high school, we’ll make it easier on everyone.