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Classroom Manners

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I just had my first parent/teacher conference with my kindergartener's teacher. She said my son is very intelligent and listens well in class. His problem is that he blurts out answers in class and doesn't raise his hand, etc. She said he's "bubbling over" with enthusiasm. Her problem is that it's becoming disruptive to the class and she feels that he's overbearing. My son is an "old" kindergartener; he's an October 1 baby and was almost six when he started kindergarten. He's been in some type of pre-school environment on a part-time basis since he was three.

Do you have any suggestions?

A: It's great that your son is so enthusiastic about his kindergarten experience. We don't want to blame him or punish him for his enthusiasm. I think that you, your son, and his teacher can brainstorm ways to translate his enthusiasm into less classroom-disturbing behaviors. His teacher and he could develop a secret code where he can use a few basic hand signals (these may be more enticing and special than the typical raising of the hand) to let her know he wants to answer her questions. If he forgets to use these signals and blurts out the answer, she could just calmly look his way and give him a subtle "secret signal" that he needs to remember to use their code. With her patience and encouraging words for his adapting to this silent code system, she will probably be able to channel his behavior.

She could also think of other ways to utilize his natural enthusiasm and outgoing nature -- like having him tell animated stories to the class or act them out while she is telling/reading them. You get the idea. Take what he has in terms of enthusiasm and personality traits and translate them into creative, classroom-friendly activities and behaviors. I'm sure that you all can come up with some creative ideas.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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