Home And School Behavior: Why Are They So Different?

Your child is an angel at home, but their teachers share they are having difficulties paying attention and are acting out. Or, vice versa, your child’s teacher exclaims they are a quick learner and have a wonderful attitude, and you’re left feeling like your kid saves their bad behavior for you. Regardless of which way the scale tips, it can be difficult to understand why your child’s home behavior differs from their school behavior. However, have no fear. This is not an abnormal phenomenon! 

Home Versus School Behavior

Let’s be honest, acting differently in varied environments is normal. For example, how you act at your grandma’s house will differ from how you act at your friend’s house. However, the problem occurs in children when they start to show defiant, muted, or stubborn behavior. Wake Forest Pediatrics understands it can be puzzling to dissect your child’s two different behaviors. Continue reading to learn a few ways why your child’s home and school behavior is so different. 

Physical Environment Changes

A child’s physical environment may lead them to suppress emotions in certain surroundings. For example, their school behavior might be exemplary because they don’t feel comfortable expressing their emotions. However, when they get home, all those emotions flood out at once. On the other hand, some children may do better at home than at school because those with ADHD or anxiety can have a very low frustration tolerance. In this case, children often act out when faced with overstimulating situations or in scenarios where they must remain patient and still.

Differences In Reinforcement

Reinforcement is great for all school-aged children as it helps to build new skills, increase levels of confidence, and aid in appropriate behaviors. Yet, reinforcement styles are sure to differ when at home versus when at school. These reinforcement differences are ok as long as a child knows which behaviors yield positive reinforcement and which behaviors are not appropriate. For example, getting along with peers at school, being an attentive listener, and working quietly at their desk is equivalent to completing homework assignments, playing nice with siblings, and speaking politely to parents at home.

Peer Influences

Another difference between school behavior and home behavior is the presence of peer influences. The National Center for Education Statistics suggests this influence can be either positive or negative:

  • On the positive side, the influence of peers can be an incentive for children to perform well in school, build confidence and self-compassion, or serve as social motivation.
  • On the negative side, peer influence may lead to discipline problems, delinquent behavior, distractions, or a decrease in academic motivation or achievement.   

Because of this, the values of a child’s surrounding friends can play a significant role in their educational experiences and outcomes alike. As a parent, it is important to keep an eye on what type of friends your child has, their out-of-school interests, and peer-associated patterns. 

Learning Disabilities And Mental Health Disorders

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, students who suffer from learning and attention issues often experience feelings of failure, lack of acceptance, and high levels of bullying. All of these can increase the risk of misbehavior or absenteeism. Some studies suggest that dyslexia— one of the most common learning disabilities— is associated with increased levels of anxiety, depression, and peer rejection. This may cause your child’s school behavior to be withdrawn, engage in disruptive behavior, or in some cases, even result in suspension. 

Understanding your child’s emotions can be difficult, as they are still trying to gain a sense of self. If you have additional questions about home behavior versus school behavior, or you think your child may benefit from a learning disability screening, visit our website to make an appointment. To speak with someone directly, call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059.

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