Why does your child’s behaviour in home versus school differ so much? They can be an angel in one context (for example, at home) and yet be an absolute terror in another (for example, at preschool).
She seems to switch from the gentle Dr Jekyll to the confrontational Mr Hyde with great ease, and it’s hard for you to understand why her behaviour should vary so much from home versus school. But this is very typical for a child of this age. She is able to differentiate the limits, restrictions and possibilities for each context, and at times exploit these differences as much as she can.
Here are some suggestions to help her have more evenly-balanced behaviour, regardless of the context:
Explain common standards
Make it clear you expect her to behave the same way outside as she would at home. Explain that she is responsible for her behaviour. She is old enough to understand that “good behaviour” is the same, wherever she is.
Your child might actually believe that home and preschool, or home and a friend’s house, are entirely separate, and that what happens at one place has nothing to do with what happens at the other. That’s why it is absolutely vital that she realises you get regular feedback from wherever she goes. She is less likely to misbehave when she has no doubt that you will find out about it.
Not only must you convince her that you will get to know if he misbehaves when she is not with you, you actually have to carry this out. So, for example, make regular contact with her preschool, and contact her friend’s parents when she has played there for a while. Hopefully, the reports you receive are positive. But whether they are or not, tell your child that you know what she’s been up to.
Related: 5 ways to stop sibling rivalry
Give an appropriate response
If you hear of, or see, anything that you regard as negative, let your six-year-old know that you disapprove. This reinforces your message that you expect suitable behaviour from him at all times, and at all places. Resist any temptation to ignore negative behaviour that you didn’t witness first-hand. If you hear about it, show your disapproval.
Talk to her
Give her a chance to give her side of the story. She might offer what she thinks is a logical explanation for her uncharacteristic actions when she is not under your direct supervision. For instance, she may say: “I’m just doing what all the others do.” Once she has had her say, remind her that people do care about how she behaves, particularly you.
Check out context
If, for instance, you discover she really is Dr Jekyll at home but transforms into Mr Hyde at preschool, check out the context in which she misbehaves. Ask yourself: What is it about preschool that makes my child think that she can behave differently? Perhaps it is the way the staff implement rules, or maybe there are lots of children who misbehave this way and she simply copies them.
Related: 5 signs that your child is a bully
Consider changing the context
Easier said than done. But if your child is an angel at home but wild at preschool, consider ways to change this. For instance, maybe she could be transferred to a different group of peers, or perhaps he could take part in different activities. You’d be surprised how a small change in the environment can result in a big change in behaviour.