Kids go to school to learn. But unfortunately, what they learn is not always good. Often kids will learn bad habits and behavior problems from other kids at school, leaving parents with the challenging task of teaching them that such behaviors are wrong. Your child may be kind, well-behaved, and typically make smart choices. Other students may not be so inclined.
Here are some bad habits kids often teach other kids at school that parents should look out for:
1. Inappropriate Language
Visit the cafeteria or playground of any typical public school, and you’ll hear an earful of bad language ranging from raunchy curse words to sloppy slang. If you notice new, inappropriate words slipping into your child’s vocabulary, nip it in the bud early! Let your child know that you have zero tolerance for bad language or grammar, explain what the consequence will be if you hear it, and follow up to show you’re serious!
Gossiping hurts peoples’ feelings, creates rumors and unnecessary drama, and undermines the gossiper’s trustworthiness. If you find your child participating in gossip, explain why it’s unhealthy and explain that gaining a reputation as a gossip will harm them in the long run.
3. Bad Eating Habits
You may be careful what you allow your child to put into their body, but not all parents are. If you realize that many of the nutritionally balanced, organic items you pack in your child’s lunch are still in their lunch box after school, that’s a red flag that they may be sharing friends’ junk food instead. Explain that food is fuel for the body and brain and that consuming too much junk food can cause weight gain and health problems. As a compromise of sorts, have your child grocery shop with you and identify foods they really want to eat. For items that aren’t healthy, like potato chips, find healthier versions (baked potato chips, pretzels, etc.)
4. Maliciously Excluding Others
Instead of punishing your child for being exclusive, appeal to their sense of empathy: “How would you feel if you were the only child in class not invited?” Consider sharing a personal story of how you were excluded. Encourage your child to apologize to the child or children they’ve been excluding—and to become a leader! Encourage them to gently confront friends who have been participating in the exclusionary actions and to explain that it’s not nice to hurt someone’s feelings on purpose. If your child is up to it, why not take it a step further and arrange for the excluded child to come over for a playdate?
5. Acting Boy-/Girl-Crazy
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with opposite-sex friendships or innocent age-appropriate “liking” or “dating.” These are normal, healthy phases of childhood and adolescence. It becomes problematic when it becomes extreme and all-consuming. If you sense your child is becoming boy- or girl-crazy, tread lightly so they don’t grow to mistrust you or stop confiding in you. Keep a close eye on your child, and if they have a cell phone, limit access to it as you see fit.
6. Inappropriate Social Media Use
Speaking of cell phones, they’re ubiquitous even in elementary schools. Even if your child doesn’t have a cell phone, they probably have friends who do. What do kids with cell phones do? They text and play games, but they also “Snap” and “Insta.” If your child does have a phone (and/or a computer), make sure you’ve installed parental controls that block access to sites you don’t want them to visit.
7. Acting “Too Cool for School”
Every school has students who truly don’t want to be there—or who act like they truly don’t want to be there. As a parent, you should consistently remind your child that education is the key to a bright future. Explaining the types of jobs an educated person can get versus the types of jobs a dropout can get should put the “cool” back into “school”!