Question:  A child in my class has a mom that is an aide, and a grandma that is the assistant principal. When walking down the hall or just a glimpse at seeing them it is an uproar.  She screams with delight and then runs to them, getting out of line and also causing the other children to want to do the same.  Grandma and Mom think this is so cute, and now I feel this child is the exception to any rule we have in our classroom.  Any ideas on how to solve this problem?

Myrna Shure:  Because both relatives reinforce this child’s behavior – they think it’s cute – it is important to talk to the adults rather than the child about this.  I would recommend meeting with them in your classroom, not in the principal’s office, because it is a problem that affects both this child’s and the other children’s behavior, and you will feel more comfortable discussing this in your own domain.  It is possible that Mom and Grandma are not even aware they are reinforcing this behavior, but whether they are or not, you can explain that this child’s classmates may develop negative feelings toward her, tease her, or reject her because she gets to play by different rules than they can.

If Mom and Grandma don’t want to listen to the explanation you present to them, you can simply tell them that you’ll have to change the rules and let all the children step out of line and approach them.  If they don’t want that to happen, they’ll have to talk to the child about why she can’t step out of line and approach them when she sees them.

If the reason for this problem goes deeper, try to find out why they approve of this behavior.  Is there a separation anxiety, and they are so delighted to see the child that she responds in kind?  Is there tension between you and the relatives and they are trying to show you how much she likes them?  Once the underlying problem is identified, it can begin to be solved.