Many parents over the years have come to me with the same question. Why is my son or daughter such a tyrant at home and such an angel in school? Why do they listen to whatever Miss Lisa says but give me a shrug and an attitude? Why do children give their teacher their best and often show their parents their worst? Well, the answer isn't always simple, nor is it always the same for every child and parent, but for the most part it's easy to flesh out. Ask yourself... Do you expect the same "good" behavior from your child all the time, or do you waiver?
Example: You want your child to sit nicely at the dinner table and eat with you, but some nights, when you are too exhausted to protest, you allow them to bring their iPad to the table and watch something or play a game.
Children are smart and they understand, just like a gambler would, that if they win some of the time, chances are if they play enough, they will win again. Children need to see and hear consistent messages. While at school, children absolutely must sit at the table while they are eating snack or lunch. There are no exceptions. When a child sees that the options are sit at the table and eat your food or will have to skip your snack, they understand and respect those parameters. Teachers in school also explain to the student "Why" it is so important to sit at the table while eating. Walking
around could cause them to choke and that is not a safe or good choice.
Parents will have the same success at home if they are consistent and also explain to their child "why" they would like them to sit and eat at the table without other distractions. Perhaps it's a safety issue, or simply because mom and dad really want to talk about the day, or share family news. Whatever the reason, consistent expectations need to be set and followed through.
Children will often be asked in school to help create some of the classroom rules which gives children a sense of ownership and pride when they follow the rules they helped to create.
Sit down with your child and create a list of 4 or 5 house rules that are important to your family. Take turns thinking of them and discuss why each one is important. Children are often more likely to buy into rules and family practices when they helped to create them. It gives them a sense of control.
If dinner time rolls around and things seems to be going off the rails, gently remind your child about the rules he or she helped to create by asking them to remind the family of the dinner time protocol. You don't have to mention that your child isn't following the rules, simply ask him or her to remind the rest of the family and he or she will usually follow suit, as they will want to set the example.
Although it can be tough some days, when you are just totally exhausted and want so badly to just give in, if you can see it through, the rewards will absolutely be worth it in the end.