Managing Kids’ Behaviour – Kids 5, Adults 0 – Not the Result You Want!

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More trouble to sort out in a mainstream school — but some good examples of how things can go wrong and what to do about bad behavior…

I keep a very close watch on what’s going on in the schools where the children referred to me go. Why? Largely so the children know I’m aware of what they’re up to and I’m able to deal with problems as they arise. Plus, I can support teachers to learn how to effectively manage behaviour. There’s so little training in managing children’s behaviour available — and with much of what is available being inaccurate, not clear and largely pointless, adults need all the help they can get!

Anyway, yesterday morning I phoned a school for a report on a boy, Jack, who recently moved to Year 5. His new class teacher has recently started at the school and is in only her second year of teaching. As with so many others she’s just expected to know about managing children — no training or guidance has been given.

I always emphasise that it’s what action you take when a situation has the potential to go wrong that measures your success as a behaviour manager. If you haven’t had training for dealing with potentially difficult situations, then how on earth are you supposed to know what action to take? No wonder lacking confidence in managing classroom behaviour is cited as the number one reason for teachers leaving the profession. Insufficient behaviour management training is abusive to young teachers… and the children!

Off your soap box Liz… what happened next?

I was told that Jack had started arguing with a teaching assistant when he had to do some written work the previous afternoon. The adult attempted to get him to do the work but Jack became increasingly awkward and argumentative — becoming quite verbally aggressive. The more the adult insisted the more Jack dug his heels in and argued even more. At this point it’s essential that the adults take effective action to assert their authority. What did they do? Hm — sorry, but they didn’t do the right thing.

They became increasingly concerned that pushing Jack into doing the work would create a volatile situation and they feared he would become more violent so they backed down and gave Jack some colouring to complete!

OH NO! A perfect example of rewarding unacceptable behaviour — and just about the worst thing to do!

And the result?

Jack 5, Adults NIL… total control handed over to a stroppy 9 year old… not the result you wanted…

So, where did that leave me and what did I do? I gently told the teacher she’d done the wrong thing but that it could be rectified. I had to let her know that I would support her to ensure she was confident to put the necessary actions into place. The unfortunate thing is that if simple behaviour management techniques had been acted on years ago when a much smaller and younger Jack first started flexing his little muscles a whole lot of misery would have been prevented — but there again if everyone could do what I do then I’d be out of a job… hm, maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot here and should just shut up…

With the plan firmly in place, Jack arrived and had to face consequences of the previous afternoon’s appalling behaviour — firstly letters of apology to both adults in school, in his own time. Then he was told that if he behaved inappropriately again there would be further consequences. It would be up to him whether he had to face consequences or not – behave yourself appropriately and the consequences wouldn’t have to happen — quite simple really! He got the message that I wasn’t at all pleased with the news I’d had from school.

Jack went off to school that afternoon, after having a reminder to give the letters to the adults and to offer a verbal apology as well as the letters for his bad behaviour. Later that afternoon I decided later to check up on how things were going. They were absolutely fine — Jack was working well in class and using good manners as if they were going out of fashion!

Consequences focus children’s minds — they have to know that bad behaviour won’t be tolerated and the adults mean what they say and will implement consequences if the need arises.

The end result? A happy little boy plus adults with increasing confidence in managing behaviour… that’s what makes the job worthwhile!


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