If a classroom discipline situation calls for a student behavior contract, of course parents must be involved. But be very cautious about including tasks for the parents to do at home. And if you do...don't expect such tasks to actually change behavior in your classroom.
How can I get parents to follow through on student behavior contracts?
We have a great plan for dealing with inappropriate school behavior problems, but there is no support or consistency at home. The parents will say at the IEP or behavior meetings that they will support homework completion and take away privileges when there are behavioral issues at school.
But then the student comes to class the day after a rough school day and says "My parents bought me a new video game last night" or "My mom said all I have to do is come to school and she'll buy me McDonald's."
And this is after we send e-mails or leave messages about the classroom discipline struggles that day!
Do you have any suggestions for how I can get the parents on board with what we are trying to do regarding school behavior problems?
~ Trinity, Omaha, Nebraska
Number one: Get used to the idea that a teacher will never fundamentally change the way anyone parents their kids.
Yes, I know that your suggestions for intervention at home are based on the reality of what you see in the classroom. Yes, I know that what you suggest is nothing unusual in the realm of parenting.
But face it: It's not going to happen....even if the parents agreed to it.
Remember, first of all, that behavior contracts are not really "contracts"...meaning that there are no legal enforcement mechanisms. All they are is a formalized way of outlining a school's plan for addressing school behavior problems so the student and the parents know that you are serious.
At best, they are "psychological contracts."
Secondly, never include anything in a behavior contract that is not under the direct control of a specific person at school. I go into this in greater detail in my classroom discipline section.
Any contract that does not follow this guideline is simply a wish list that uses the "hope method" (as in, "I hope this works.") A simple piece of paper is not going to change a parent-child interaction pattern that has been developing for years.
Parents are partners...not adversaries.
It's all about the child.
Your solution? When creating a behavior contract, focus on those specific behaviors that you can influence at school. To the extent that parents are to be involved, this should be in the form of:
"If Michael steals any item, he'll be asked to stay in the office until his parents come pick him up."
"If Michael steals any item, his parents will remove his TV-watching privileges for two days."
The second example is simply out of your control and cannot be confirmed, so should never be included.
Here's another set of examples that relate more directly to your question:
"If Michelle doesn't complete her homework at home, she will complete it during lunch recess."
"Michelle will complete her homework before playing video games at home."
That's not to say that you can't discuss options for consequences at home if the parents want input. But just do it verbally. Again...no simple piece of paper is going to change an adult's approach to parenting.
Your real influence at home comes in the form of a better teacher-parent relationship. Work on this relentlessly, reaching out over and over again, even if your efforts are ignored or rebuffed.
Bring the parents onto your team. When they start to see the positive results of your classroom-team building and community formation at school, they are more likely to become supportive of your efforts when their children are at home.
The basic prescription for a good parent-teacher relationship: Make sure to give them more positives than negatives.
If all they are receiving from school is negative messages, they won't want to stay involved. Let them know that even though you are tough, you are on the side of their child no matter what, and that you see the good along with the not-so-good.
Isn't that what we would all want of our kids' teachers?
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