8 Year Old Not Focusing and Getting into Trouble in School

Updated on March 21, 2014
J.C. asks from Bronxville, NY
25 answers

My 8 year old girl is not focused in school. She'd rather socialize and talk than focus on learning. She is very bright but is very distracted. My issue is that she is just like me. I was that kid in school. I was the one who was always turning around looking for the fun. I wanted to sit with the rowdy boys and giggle. I wanted to make jokes and talk. I loved it when the teacher left the room and fun ensued!

The teacher keeps calling and writing to tell me about having to tell me daughter over and over again to behave and listen.
How do I tell my daughter not to act this way when I know it’s her personality? She loves school and does pretty well (she could do better in reading she is at her level but could advance – otherwise she is doing very well). She’s her mother’s daughter. I turned out pretty well. Have a college degree and a great job, wonderful husband.

I guess there are just times that I want to tell the teacher that she is who she is. I’m just frustrated.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I'm not excusing her behavior at all. I do understand it. Just looking for some insight on how to change it and how to help her. I guess it's hard to see solutions when you were on the same side of the fence.

And yes - one huge complaint is that she is distracting to the other students - I certainly don't condone that one bit.

I do want nothing more than to help her. I am just finding it difficult. I'm not there with her. It's just one teacher. Desks have been moved, daily logs have been written. We are trying some new ideas. I'm sort of lost. And am being honest about my personal background and how I do understand where she is coming from while reaching out for some suggestions.

Last night I gave her some punishments. No TV/media time this week. This Saturday she must help me clean the house. I have been lax about her chores around the house - that ended yesterday. We spoke about behavior and I am going to keep on her big time. I agree - she is old enough to suppress this behavior when needed. Now just to get it done!!

Featured Answers


answers from Washington DC on

I have a friend with a daughter like that. She told her that the next time she got a call from school, she would be sitting in class with her every day until she could behave.
It took less than a day for her to shape up. Mom at the lunch table was more than she could take... :) She was mortified.
Every day when the daughter left for the bus, she said, "don't make me have to come to school with you."
Problem solved.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

First, I would see if there is a medical (ADD) issue. If not:

Let her know there is a time and a place for everything and class time is a time for letting the teacher teach and the other kids learn. There may be other kids in her class struggling and the interruptions can throw everything off for the learners and teachers. Her misbehaving is selfish and self-centered.

The playground is the time for goofing off. She can be "who she is" there.

Sorry to sound so harsh, but my son, a good student and well-behaved boy, comes home day after day with stories of the same 2 kids in class acting up, screwing around, getting the teacher frustrated and angry and disrupting the class constantly. THAT is frustrating--a mom wanting to let her kid be who she is at the expense of the whole class.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

You are going to have to link her behavior in school to a consequence or reward at home.

I just got home from subbing a first grade class. I had three students all day that constantly had to be redirected and told to stop...they disrupted the whole class, got everyone off track, and were just plain disruptive. And of the three there as one that caused all the issues and the other two were his "wingmen".

The only "punishment" was to make then move a card to a different color, and if the colors changed enough then they didn't get a sticker in their book and got a conduct mark...big wooptie doo..

The school has NO way to change this behavior because they cannot discipline...you are the only one who can help her make changes by having consequences at home.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

I think your daughter needs to realize that her behavior is distracting to others. I was *that* kid in school, the one who had a hard time focusing and paying attention when kids around me were goofing off, forcing the teacher to constantly stop and redirect them. It drove me crazy :-(
Unless she has some kind of ADD issues (my youngest does, so I'm very familiar with that) she is plenty old enough to learn how to reign it in and pay attention when she needs to pay attention. Will it be easy? Probably not, but she needs to learn that she is one in a classroom of many, so she needs to think about the people around her, and especially the teacher, who is trying to do her job and shouldn't need to constantly remind your daughter how to behave in class.
She doesn't have to change her personality, she just needs to work on the important life skills of using good manners and judgement, and respecting those around her.
ETA: and remind her there is a time and place for everything. Class time is listening time, not play/social time.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I used to teach high school, and I had a student behave very similarly. I was joking with her about it (trying to get her to focus), and she commented that on almost every report card she had gotten her teachers made comments that she was a good student but very talkative and disruptive. I carefully said something to the effect of, "And your parents haven't broken you of that habit yet?" She got defensive and said, "THAT is my personality. Are you suggesting I not be myself?" I was a very young teacher and not at all sure how to respond, so I think I just said something like, "Well, there are times we have to follow the rules."

Honestly, I really felt sorry for her. She really had no idea that she was doing anything wrong. In her mind, the teachers simply wanted her to be someone she wasn't. Her parents had, unfortunately, encouraged this idea and probably made things more difficult for her in the future.

It's important for kids to learn that in class we behave. We pay attention, we do not talk out of turn, we do not try to cause trouble, we do not do things that disuprt what the teacher is trying to do. That is simply not acceptable behavior in a classroom.

Teaching her what is acceptable behavior in the classroom is not the same as denying who she is. We all have to learn how to behave in a classroom.

By not teaching her that, you are teaching her that she is above the rules. That her personality is more important that the rest of the class. She needs to learn to follow the rules just like everyone else.

In your SWH you mention the different things that have been tried like moving her desk and daily logs. Have you tried saying something along these lines? "Suzy, I know you like talking to the other kids, but when you're in class, it is time to stop talking and pay attention to the teacher. If the teacher says you can talk, fine. But unless the teacher says it's ok, we keep our mouths shut and use our listening ears." That would be my recommendation.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

There's a time and place for everything.
School is not the place for goofing off.
After school or recess - that's the right time for it.

It helps if you don't excuse her behavior.
Tell her you expect she will listen to the teacher and tune out what ever else is going on around her.
It might be hard for her but she's got to try and put some effort into it.

If you get a call from the teacher then your daughter has not earned fun time for that evening - no tv/computer (except for school work)/video games/etc.
After homework/chores/supper she can get ready for bed and read in her room till lights out.
Once she sees you are serious about what your expectations are, she should have the incentive to get her behavior turned around at school.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I understand your wanting to tell the teacher "she is who she is" but what you are not taking into consideration is that all the time she spends on your daughter's behavior, is less time she has to teach.

So, perhaps that it what you should tell your daughter, she is cheating her classmates out of learning when she acts up. I used to tell my daughter that if she didn't want to learn, that was her choice, but she had no right to keep others from learning. She had to just sit there quietly and could not be disruptive. In middle school and high school, she would ask to go to the bathroom and not go back to class. All I could say was at least she wasn't disrupting other students and the ones that wanted to learn had an opportunity to do so.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

As Mamazita said, she is definitely old enough to know how to behave in class. She shouldn't be acting this way when learning is taking place, and unless she has ADHD, she should be able to control herself. Heck, my 9 yr old daughter HAS ADHD and can control herself when learning is going on, and then runs around and is a loud, hyper, hot mess during the "off times". Explain to her that she has to focus on her schoolwork when appropriate and there will always be time for fun later. You turned out fine, but she may not have the same experience, the same teacher to put up with her antics that you did and it may eventually hinder her success if she's not made to reign it in when it's needed.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You know, I have a kiddo who sometimes gets caught up in 'fun' and we are fortunate enough to have a teacher who lets me know when this is a problem.

Our response-- as his parents-- is that any day that he receives a poor report from the teacher, he loses his privileges for that afternoon. That means no tv/media time and if it's two days in a row, then that second day he also loses access to his Legos. (Taking away media time is a sting, and taking away the Legos makes an impression.) At that point, he has to 'earn' his Legos back with a good report from the teacher.

Some will say that kids get their consequence at school; I believe that we best support our son's teacher AND our son when we make our expectations clear: he's to let the teacher teach and let the other learners learn. (these are the posted class rules) If he's keeping her from doing her job, then we have a problem he must find it in himself to correct. And he knows that we KNOW he can do a good job at it if he *wants* to. He's meant to 'work your hardest, even when no one is watching', and we believe that is an important ethic.

I understand you feel it's her 'personality'... but I think we'd all have to agree that there are certain situations when it's appropriate to subdue parts of our personality in order for the group to function. So, I'd suggest attaching some significant consequences to behavior. Making her earn her screen time or time spent with a currency item is my recommendation. You let her know that NO MATTER if it is her proclivity to chat and goof around in class, she's to respect the teacher and the teacher's job-- and that if she doesn't, there is a consequence. Privileges like favorite tv shows or video game time, etc must be earned with a good report *every* day.

Believe me, if I didn't back the teacher up with a consequence at home, my son would have very little motivation to mind himself at school. Talking about it is one thing-- taking action is something else entirely. He's also had to write an apology letter to her for ignoring her, etc. I believe in personal accountability and that he has to do his part in making amends to her when we feel it necessary. It's about him respecting her-- and her position (and she's a good teacher)-- and us letting him know that we *expect* this of him.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it's lovely that you understand your daughter so well, and empathize with her, and appreciate her unique and bubbly personality.
how about a little more empathy for the teacher, though? 'she is who she is' also applies to bullies, lazies, tweakers and freakazoids as well as good-time charlottes.
and there are kids in the class who are actually there to learn, and they too have a right not to have to try and peer through and hear through the fun-loving gigglers.
your daughter won't have to wrench her character out of true by learning to sit down and pipe down when it's appropriate. and the teacher has a very, very limited bag of tools at her disposal. she's relying on you, the parent, the most important person in this hierarchy, to come up with boundaries and consequences for inappropriate behavior.
do your daughter a huge favor, and find some.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

"She is who she is" doesn't help the teacher, who has to deal with the consequences of her distractedness, which includes distracting other kids. Distraction and chatting are like viruses; they spread lightning-quick and are hard to stop.

It's puzzling to me that the post is through the lens of how this is all like you were. "My issue is that she is just like me....I loved it....fun ensued...She's her mother's daughter....She is who she is" which apparently means, she's you all over again.

Can you go back and read your own post objectively and see how it seems somewhat off kilter that your child has a school issue that causes the teacher actually to call and write you--repeatedly--but your focus is on yourself and your own past experience? Can you see how the "let her be herself" idea sounds good but isn't conducive either to her learning or to her being a positive part of the classroom for other kids?

Can you step back from seeing this as "It's me all over again, I was always in trouble for the same things, it was just fun, I'm fine" and see it instead as "My child is not doing her best and is creating issues"?

Because...those are the real issues for today and not about your own past. She is being a pretty typical eight year old, but it's a typical stage that also must be worked on for any kid who does it, not just yours. As Mamazita rightly posted, your child now has the opportunity to learn that there is talking/play time and there is class time, and class time is not appropriate for what she's doing. Why not focus instead on teaching her that lesson rather than just wanting the teacher to accept that she's fine as she is?

I would see the teacher and say, let's work out a specific set of steps to take and things to do so that your daughter can be a better member of the class as a whole. Those steps could include moving her desk (totally appropriate and doesn't have to be against the wall, just where she isn't in range of the kids she wants to talk to most); instituting a warning system used both at school and at home so it's consistent (one warning to stop talking/goofing, second time no warning but straight to consequence that you and the teacher decide on); and daily reports for a while, where you check in with the teacher daily on how daughter did and institute an at-home discipline if the report is negative (but daughter needs to know what exact behavior is negative, clearly). That way daughter knows that teacher and mom DO talk. Some kids figure what happens at school stays at school--nope, don't let that happen here. She needs reinforcement at home for the behaviors expected at school. But the post doesn't indicate that you would want to do that since you see it as she's just "being herself."

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

This is an extremely important lesson! Appropriate behavior for appropriate circumstances and following the rules of the place where you are.

We try to teach our kids that every place we go to will have a different set of rules: our house, one grandma's house, the other grandma's house, aunts and uncles' houses, preschool, daycare, school, church. Part of their job as a kid is to learn the rules of each place and behave accordingly.

If you were in church or in court you would never allow her to be talking loudly or laughing and joking around. She needs to learn to respect the teacher and his or her rules.

It is really important for you not to focus on her personality and her desire to be goofy. This is a life lesson for her.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

People come in all sorts of personalities.
But, eventually, a person has to learn, how to cooperate/be respectful/learn/be dutiful/be responsible/be aware of themselves and the time and place to do it. As required. DESPITE their "personality."

It has nothing to do with academics.

One day, no one will put up with it.
And do know that, yes, students like that DISRUPT the entire classroom. And it is NOT funny. And yes, ALL the other kids, KNOW darn well, which kid is like that, and the other parents... know... it....too.

I know a classroom, that has about 4 kids like that in it.
OH it is their personality!
But ya know what? ALL the other classmates, COMPLAIN about those kids. AND the Teacher is really having a hard time, because, not even the parents think anything is wrong with it, and the DISRUPTION that those kids cause. Some of them are VERY smart. Some are not. BUT they all have that personality! "Oh but my son is so personable... one day he will make a GREAT Lawyer!" or "One day it will come in handy for her!" type thing. Yeah. But what about now? It is negative for the whole classroom. Those kids aren't "cool" even if they think they are.
And the other kids will say, "our table gets in trouble, because of just them...." and the other kids get pissed off. It is unfair, to the other students that are doing as they are expected to.

Those kids have no, self-reflection.
At all.
And it is self-centered.
And it is not just an age thing or a gender thing.

It is time to just be blunt with your daughter.
She is 8.
Just tell her, her behavior is NOT appropriate. She is causing OTHER students... dismay and difficulty and the Teacher too. That is NOT funny. It is not funny anymore. She is not 2 years old.

Gosh, so many kids just have a personality!

What reprimands does her Teacher do? When kids are like this?
Nothing has worked. With your daughter.
I know one teacher, that will have the child, just STAY right next to the Teacher, ALL day, ALL day. And then they stay in for recess too. And do their work that they missed, while fooling around, in class. At that time.
But for one student, the parent thought that was SO MEAN, of the Teacher! How dare she! . So well, then the Teacher could not do anything. Nothing. To correct the student. Teachers can only do so much, and when they have a class of some 25 or so students or more.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If she is 8, yes, this is who she is. However, she is old enough to understand social expectations (this is what we do in school vs. the playground) and that some kids may be able to learn despite distractions from a playful peer, but others simply can't.
Is there a way for the teacher to channel your daughter's personality in constructive ways? Can't sit still for long kid can help pass out materials. Can't be quiet for long kid can make announcements.
As a teacher (albeit of older kids), it always helps me to use these students' energy and humor the same way that I'd use another student's artistic skills or ability to rap. dance, etc. It also allows me to prove to the student and parents that I like the kid, have a sense of humor, yadda yadda. That way, when I have to call or email to say "Jane's behavior is impacting other students' ability to focus.", the parents are usually willing to listen.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I don't know why, but I just felt the need to interject the other side of this, since you are already familiar (personally) with your daughter's personality.

I was the OTHER kind of student. The kind who hated when the teacher left the room b/c it meant chaos ensued. The kind who wanted to hear what the instructions were so we could get started, so I could get it done and not have to take it home for homework. The one who got feelings hurt b/c the teacher was punishing the class as a whole AGAIN for 2 or 3 kids' behavior that I wasn't part of and could do nothing about.

I don't know if $20 is sufficient incentive, but Momwithcamera has an interesting idea to try. That's exactly what it is like for the other kids who are doing what they are supposed to.

I would most definitely talk to her about how her behavior affects the other students in her class, AND the teacher. This is just the beginning of her school years, and it won't be long before she has a "mean" teacher. She needs to understand WHY and HOW "mean" teachers become that.

Another thing you could add in to the $20 idea... After you get done talking with your husband and goofing around at the table, flicking on the TV and such, to the point that she doesn't get her work done on time... She doesn't get the money. But also, then tell her that since YOU didn't get YOUR chores done (starting dinner, paying bills, whatever), she has to go to her room now or miss a TV show or something she wanted to DO. (no recess). THAT is what it is like for the kids who are behaving properly.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

You can show her how it feels so she really understands what she is doing.

Offer her $20 if she can complete her daily homework in 45 minutes. Let her get started and interrupt her, sit hubby down beside you and talk to him. Ask her a few questions, drop your pencil, move the table, and see if she can handle it. In the end, no completion, no $20. Then explain the reward for the other students is their grade.

Maybe that will shed more light on the harm of being disruptive.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Ask the teacher to move her desk where it will face away from the class. Nothing on the wall in front of her. So she can only see the teacher perhaps.

This should be a physical reminder/barrier to her getting distracted.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I was the exact same way. I understand. What has worked for my daughter is talking to her about making good choices. (Not you are bad or good) If she can make good choices that day and do well at school she gets a sticker on her sticker chart. When she fills it up she can get a toy or go somewhere like Chuck E Cheese. You can make it as cheap or expensive as you like. Just a suggestion. Doesn't work everyday but much better than old school whom the teacher talked about how bad she was. A child doesn't need to know that they are bad everyday. They have the power to make a good choice. The stickers and sticker charts can be purchased at Mardel Christian Books

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Since this has become a serious problem, the next step would be handing out consequences at home. Normally school can handle school stuff, but not in cases like this. That means when she misbehaves at school, she gets punished by you at home in addition to whatever school punishment she has. You'll need to communicate with the teacher to keep tabs on that.

If THAT doesn't work, then it could be the behavior is beyond her control at this stage. That doesn't mean give up, it means taking her to see a psychologist, trying social skills therapy, etc.

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answers from San Francisco on

Honestly, I think it's totally reasonable for you to have a conversation with your daughter about her behavior. Offer some rewards for good behavior in school. Tell her that the teacher's been in contact with you about the excessive talking and see if you can come up with a rewards system to address the issue.

With that being said, I also feel that the teacher needs to be setting the appropriate boundaries in the classroom. Having a special seat for your daughter in the class that is separate from everyone else. If there is a rug that the class sits on, perhaps your daughter needs to sit close to the teacher so she can keep an extra eye on her. This needs to be addressed by the teacher too. Not just at home. If you aren't getting far with the teacher, I would make an appt to talk with the principal and see if you can come up with a plan of action.

I can understand your frustration and I'm sure your daughter will turn out just fine in the long run. It's the short-term that needs to be addressed and the teacher needs to set some reasonable guidelines and expectations for her in the classroom.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I suggest you consider why she is having difficulty modulating her impulses.

Bubbly, social folk may be more outgoing than others, but given the negative attention she has received in school, it would seem likely that if she could tone down her behavior, she would.

If I remember correctly, someone was rating her on the Connors scale. Whatever the outcome of that, I would seek help from her guidance counselor or school psychologist. The goal would be to honor and preserve her personality, while teaching her the skills she needs to be part of a group.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have a very chatty boy who is also 8. I tell him often that he needs to not disrupt the other kids. He learns quickly in spite of his chatting and sharing, but the other children might not and they need to concentrate. Maybe you can work with the teacher to get a report each week about her behavior and do something fun each weekend if she was quiet in class. Might work, plus the school will know you are trying to help.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

When you find out, let me know too!

My 7 year old is exactly the same and just like me! It's so hard to get it across to her how important being focused in the class room is. Trust me she can do it, she just chooses not to. It's more fun not to.

I've tried so many ways of telling her how important it is. She's even been moved to tears during these explanations, but still goes back to the same unfocused distracted behavior. I've tried rewards, removal of valued items, "heavy" chores, even spankings. Nothing sticks for more then a day or two. She's monitored daily and at the end of the week we get a "report" to sign. I'm at a loss.

I'll be reading the other responses. Maybe they'll give me some new tools too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Since you had this issue yourself, why don't you think back to what motivated you to behave? My dd is a bit like this too, but she just got the "top kid" award (finally) in 5th grade. They pick a different kid each grade each month and she never got it until now because she always talked and messed around too much. I think she really wanted to get the award so she behaved extra good this year.

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answers from Atlanta on

This is personality so maybe you can find another outlet for her to express this. Maybe khave a skate day with a couple of friends, there they can enjoy and joke and laugh. Maybe a day for a friend. Find a way for her to be the comedian off school time.

The teacher needs to figure a creative way to deal with this too. It may take a few more minutes in class but in the big picture it takes less time away from the other students and class lessons. Maybe she should get funny and silly too for a couple minutes it often lightens things up and defuses the situation. Maybe you could suggest this to the teacher.

1 mom found this helpful
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