Often teachers think they’re getting nowhere when dealing with a child’s bad behavior. The correct behavior management strategies are being used and some success is evident — but then another problem crops up. The child starts showing a different level of unacceptable behavior!
When faced with this it can lead teachers (and parents dealing with similar problems in the home) to believe they’re failing and the strategies aren’t working and it’s not worth continuing. Their thoughts are understandable but wrong.
An example may clarify this…
An 8-year-old boy’s behavior in school had been totally appalling since he started school – it was also replicated at home. He’d been the center of his mother’s universe at home — treated like royalty with no demands to behave in acceptably. Little wonder he’s grown up thinking he should be totally in control of every situation!
His behaviour led exclusions from school and a referral to a behaviour unit. He still attends his mainstream school in the afternoons. At the behavior unit his behaviour has improved. He remains very egocentric but doesn’t present any real problems. This is because at the unit the behaviour isn’t allowed to become unacceptable because of the use of effective behaviour management strategies. Situations are dealt with immediately at a very low level and not allowed to escalate.
Previously his behaviour in school was disgraceful with daily violence to adults and children. Adult instructions were defied — he was rude and confrontational every hour of every day! It was all extremely wearing and very unpleasant for his teachers! It’s not surprising when teachers say that they’re relieved when some kids are away from school because they’re sick! Unprofessional to be sure, but very understandable…
How is he at school now? In fact, he’s a lot better with no violence or aggression. In class now he actually sits and works without the previous levels of disruption. He still can’t be trusted around the other children because he pushes and nips them when he thinks nobody’s watching him. What a charmer…
The head teacher and teachers in his school have been great to work with as they’ve listened and taken advice. They’ve done their best to put the advice into action and that’s why they’ve seen improvements in the child’s behaviour. They’ve made good progress in taking control away from this child and asserting their authority. Is he happy about it? No of course he isn’t but he’s got to learn to accept the new regime!
So, back to the reason for this article…
This boy’s behaviour has changed for the better but he’s still trying to assert his control over the adults. However, this is at a much lower level of unacceptable behaviour. A recent example saw him being a nuisance in class and he was removed. Before the teachers started using effective behaviour management strategies this would have led to a major tantrum and mayhem. His improved behaviour meant that he did as he was told by the teacher and left the classroom without a problem.
So what happened?
The teacher told him to sit on a chair which he did. Not long ago they wouldn’t have got him anywhere near the chair, never mind sitting on it and staying there! But, in an attempt to assert control he started to make silly noises — but didn’t move from the chair. When he was told to stop making the noises he did so, but only briefly. He then started again but louder. What did he do this for? It was simply to remind the adults that he could still try and exert some control over the situation.
Of course this is very immature behaviour… It’s also pointless! But at this stage of his behaviour changing it’s a necessary stage for him to go through. Trying to be in control is still important to him – he’s been used to behaving like this for too long for him to change totally in such a short time. His present behaviour is nowhere near the previous levels but exceedingly annoying and frustrating to those dealing with it.
The danger is that it’s so easy for teachers (or parents) to think at this point that they’re getting nowhere and the strategies aren’t working, but they are. You have to be consistent and persistent!
So, what should they do about this lower level behaviour? The teacher should tell him there will be a consequence if he makes one more noise — and make sure he understands that she means it.
A consequence should be implemented even if it means being inconvenienced. It’s an unfortunate fact that effective behaviour management quite often means you being inconvenienced in the short term. However, if you don’t deal with problem behaviour you’ll waste far more of your time in the long term – and you won’t see any improvements in behaviour either!! A lose, lose situation… Do it properly and it works!
So, don’t think you’re not succeeding. You often have to look back weeks or even months to realise how much progress you’ve made. It’s vital that you keep using the strategies — they work!
It’s important to remember that it’s so much better not to allow the bad behaviour to become established in the first place — that’s where the real skill and success lies!
Anyone can learn to manage children’s behaviour – it really isn’t difficult…