3 Tips for Parents Managing Behavior During Distance Learning


As families across the country struggle to balance changing work schedules while supporting their loved ones through a global pandemic, parents and caretakers are adjusting to a new challenge: helping their children with at-home learning. 

With living rooms being turned into classrooms, and parents being turned into assistant teachers, families everywhere are feeling a range of emotions. We are in uncharted territory. Lives have been disrupted and together, we’re learning how to adjust to this new normal.

As every parent, teacher and caregiver knows, adjusting to change can be especially hard on children. Parents can help support their child’s learning and emotional wellbeing in positive ways. Positive behavior support is one way schools encourage appropriate behavior and social skills, and these strategies can easily transfer to the home classroom. 

See how to support improved communication between school and home.

To support children’s learning and behavior during these stressful times, it’s important to be positive and proactive, not punitive and panicked. 

Here are a few tips you can use to support positive behavior and learning at home.

3 Parenting Tips to Support Positive Behavior & At-Home Learning 

Set Clear and Positive Expectations

At school, teachers have a number of tricks up their sleeves for keeping students engaged and creating a positive learning environment. Creating a healthy, happy learning environment and having clear and positive expectations for students are keys to their success. Although every child is different, and expectations can differ between home and school, adult expectations have a big impact on how children behave. 

Set your family up for success by working with your child to set clear and positive expectations for learning at home. Expectations are taught, reinforced and posted for students to see when they are at school. Have an authentic conversation with your child and consider asking which behaviors they think will support their learning and set them up for success. 

Try to keep the rules positive and avoid using negative words like “no” or “don’t”.

Positive Examples to Include:
Negative Examples to Avoid:
  • Follow your class schedule
  • Complete your work on time
  • Ask teachers for help if you get stuck
  • Respect others by working quietly
  • Knock on the door if you need something
  • Don’t miss class
  • Don’t be unprepared
  • Don’t make excuses
  • Don’t disrupt others by being loud
  • Don’t interrupt without permission

Involving children directly in creating a positive learning environment increases buy in makes it more likely they’ll participate and reach or exceed the expectations they helped set. 

Provide Specific Positive Feedback that Matches Expectations

We all want to see our children succeed and protect them from failing. Sometimes we can be quick to point out a child’s mistakes and focus on what they’re doing wrong instead of what they’re doing right.

Positive and corrective feedback are both critical for a child’s success. However, research shows there are better ways to help children thrive and excel than consistently focusing on corrections.

Children grow when we focus on their strengths and what they’re doing right.

One of the tricks teachers use to help students excel is calling out students for what they are doing well and offering positive and specific feedback that directly matches expectations. Instead of using generic statements like, “Good job!” or “Nice work!” try offering praise for the exact behaviors you agreed upon.

Parents can offer positive feedback by saying things like, “I noticed you asked your teacher for help when you didn’t understand the assignment today. Way to take responsibility for your learning.” In this case, you’re reinforcing the expectation of asking the teacher for help when you get stuck.

By noticing and verbally recognizing your child’s positive actions, you boost your child’s confidence and reinforce those specific behaviors you wish to see. 

Use a 3:1 Positivity Ratio

Positive and meaningful praise can be a powerful tool. Most children (and adults) thrive on positive feedback. It’s a motivator that can boost a person’s self-concept and improve performance. Still, it’s important to find a balance.

We know from experts that the ratio of positive-to-negative interactions we have with someone directly impacts our relationship and our emotional well-being. Corrective interactions, when overused, can demoralize and demotivate a child. While positively praising students is effective, studies show older elementary and high school students can also tell when compliments are inflated and insincere.

According to research, the golden ratio for giving positive praise is 3:1 or 75%, meaning it takes at least three positive interactions to outweigh one negative interaction. When you use sincere, spontaneous and genuine praise, balanced with occasional doses of correction, you build a foundation of trust, and an environment of safety and comfort. (This holds true for adults as well!)

Remember, children are resilient. In a time where families are facing new challenges, setting expectations, focusing on the positive and creating a safe and emotionally supportive environment are the best ways to help your child succeed.