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Home Family Parenting Advice School bus behavior — Good Parenting

School bus behavior — Good Parenting

Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011School bus behavior — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

Five days into the school year and my fourth grader has been kicked off the bus. “Amos” is sensitive to loud noises and told me he had a headache from the yelling by the other children. So he yelled back for them to “shut up!” and earned a “strike” from the bus driver because of this. The next day he was caught eating the candy his teacher had given him. Second strike. On Friday’s bus ride home a fellow passenger did a pressure point jab into my son’s ribs and the bus driver gave Amos his third strike when he pushed the boy back.

My husband and I have to set up a meeting at school to discuss when Amos can ride the bus again.

I know my son. He has limits like most people. Unfortunately, speaking up to the authority figure – the bus driver – is not something Amos is comfortable with. What else can I suggest to keep him out of trouble? Losing his bus privilege, by the way, is a definite consequence for his parents.

His New Driver

Don’t miss last week’s column Big brother-to-be

Dear Driver,

Your morning and afternoon commutes will give you a chance to spend some quality time with Amos. This can be used to your and his advantage. His absence from the bus may also force the rowdies to develop other daily patterns. Children are definitely creatures of habit, and their relationships with each other fall into daily patterns that soon become automatic. In the first weeks of school it is important to establish positive patterns, which I presume, is what the driver was trying to do.

Let’s look at Amos’s relationship with the bus driver. Ask Amos to tell you what he knows about her, starting with her name. The goal would be for Amos to have a more approachable impression of the driver than he currently has so he can use her to solve some of the issues he’s having on the bus. At present, it seems he is only being noticed for breaking bus rules. He needs to find ways to repair the driver’s impression of him as well. Suggest that Amos prepare a friendly greeting for her each time he boards. Each evening, as this habit gets rooted, ask him what she said back. Help him develop new routines — that soon will become automatic — to foster this important relationship.

Rules of the bus should be reviewed so that Amos is crystal clear about what is expected of him. Ask what will help him to follow each one. The key to avoiding conflict with other children on the bus (even about their noise) is strategic seating. So a suggestion, if he doesn’t think of it, is to sit with a “safe” friend (who won’t start trouble) as close to the front as possible. Prompt him with suggestions of topics and questions that can promote a mutually satisfying way to spend the time. Rehearse a new habit of heading for each bus ride by filling in the blanks of “I can’t wait to ask Alden about ____.” Or “I can’t wait to tell Alden about ____.”

Part of the responsibility of transporting the children safely is to maintain orderly behavior among them, so even a rule about eating on the bus must be strictly enforced so the children know that their behavior is being monitored.

Brainstorm with Amos, during your rides together, about what his options might be in the future for: children being too loud, pain being inflicted by another child, and the irresistibility of food or drink in his back pack. Options are always easier to consider away from the stressful situation. Once he picks the best strategy for each situation help him review and rehearse. Ear plugs may be allowable to drown out the noise of other riders as long as Amos can stay attentive to the bus driver if necessary. Choosing a friendly seatmate is a good strategy for avoiding maliciousness. Planning a snack each morning to greet him when he gets home can help him stave off rule-breaking consumption of food or drink should there be anything irresistible in his back pack. Once you get past the present issues, feel free to explore other “What ifs” about the right thing to do in tough situations.

Your conversations in the car will help him with problem solving – an essential life skill. Help him to 1.) recognize trouble before he falls into it (“trouble” is anything likely to bring about a regrettable consequence) 2.) consider the options he has to not fall in it 3.) get better about avoiding trouble all together. With your help he can assess the resources he could use to keep from breaking bus rules. His resources include a couple allies among the other riders, the bus driver, and of course, his parents. Help him to identify at least one friendship (and maybe a couple of standbys) that give him something to look forward to on each bus ride. Be sure Amos knows that his driver wants him to do the right thing on the bus. If possible, arrange a quick social call – maybe take him out of class a few minutes early one day so the two of you can chat with the driver before the other children get on. And of course Mom and Dad, too, want him to follow the rules and be a good passenger. Not just because it saves you from having to drive him, but because a pleasant bus ride to and from school can be a nice routine to have.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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