There are endless strategies and techniques with working with students who display challenging behaviors. And although challenging behaviors can be frustrating at times, it can also be rewarding when you are able to use these disruptions as a learning opportunity and change behaviors.
- Review the code of safety. Does your school or classroom have a code of safety? This is a set of rules and guidelines developed by the students in order to get buy-in and empower students to hold each other accountable. Such as ‘listen when others are speaking’ or ‘keep your hands to yourself.’ Students are able to remind each other about the rules and feel empowered to correct behavior when they see it.
- Create a new space or alter space. Does the challenging behavior happen more often when students sit too long? Does the behavior boil up when ‘A’ sits next to ‘B’? Does the behavior occur during recess? Consider how the physical space and transitions can trigger behavior and modify what you can to assist the child.
- Ignore if possible. Can you try and ignore the behavior? I know it is annoying and possibly disruptive, but is your attention to the behavior increasing or decreasing it? Like the wise statement goes, choose your battles.
- Provide choices. Is there another option for this behavior? “Charlie if you do not want to participate in this activity that is ok, but I will ask that you to not ____. You can draw on the back quietly while the rest of the group is finishing.” Or, “Charlie, it seem like you don’t want to be a part of this discussion, but to respect the others, I will ask that you choose to pass and avoid side conversations with other students.”
- Are you addressing this behavior when it comes up every time or are you inconsistent in your response?
- Involve the class. “What is going well in our classroom, what could we change?” Talking with the class as a whole can help empower all students to hold each other accountable, especially if it is more than one student.
- State limits clearly. Communicate limit appropriately with the child, making sure they have heard the limit and understand what is being asked.
- Address the emotion behind the behavior. When an outburst occurs, instead of immediately reacting with “don’t do that” instead reflect the emotion you see in that child like “you seem really angry Charlie.” Allow the child to reply or correct you with another emotion such as “I am not angry I am really frustrated at my mom right now!” This gives the child an opportunity to express their feeling and let’s them know you recognize their feelings. Then you can offer the correction for the behavior like “next time you feel frustrated tell me and we will get you a pillow to hit or scream into rather than hitting your friends.”
- Check in with the Parent and involve the child. Give a position along with feedback to the parent; “I am so glad Charlie was here today. The activity we did was ____. Charlie and I talked about working on _______ for next week. We were having a hard time ______. Does that sound okay Charlie?”
Remember the positive relationship you have with your students and how that makes it much easier it is to address challenges. Work to build a rapport with the child in and out of the classroom. Simple things like checking in and saying hi or even following up about an event. Developing the positive relationships and showing students you care will make a positive impact on the child and the classroom.