9 Strategies to Handle Difficult Behaviors in Children

Children Playing With Toy Laptops in Class

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The first step in dealing with inappropriate behavior is to show patience. This often means taking a cooling period before saying or doing something one might regret. This also might involve having the child or student sit in a time out, or remain alone until their teacher can deal with the inappropriate behavior.

Be Democratic

Children need choice. When teachers are ready to give a consequence, they should allow for some choice. The choice could have to do with the actual consequence, the time when the consequence will occur, or input as to what follow up should and will occur. When teachers allow for choice, the outcomes are usually favorable, and the child becomes more responsible.

Understand the Purpose or Function

Teachers have to consider why the child or student is misbehaving. There is always a purpose or a function. The purpose could include getting attention, power, and control, revenge, or feelings of failure. It's important to understand the purpose to support it readily.

For instance, knowing a child is frustrated and feeling like a failure will require a change of programming to ensure that he or she is set up to experience success. Those seeking attention need to receive attention. Teachers can catch them doing something good and recognize it.

Avoid Power Struggles

In a power struggle, nobody wins. Even if a teacher feels like they have won, they haven't, because the chance of reoccurrence is great. Avoiding power struggles comes down to exhibiting patience. When teachers show patience, they are modeling good behavior.

Teachers want to model good behavior even when they are dealing with inappropriate student behaviors. A teacher's behavior most often influences a child's behavior. For example, if teachers are hostile or aggressive when dealing with various behaviors, children will be too.

Do the Opposite of What Is Expected

When a child or student misbehaves, they often anticipate the teacher's response. Teachers can do the unexpected when this happens. For instance, when teachers see children playing with matches or playing in an area that is outside of the boundaries, they expect teachers to say "Stop," or "Get back inside the boundaries now." However, teachers can try saying something like, "You kids look too smart to be playing there." This type of communication will surprise children and students and works frequently.

Find Something Positive

For students or children who regularly misbehave, it can be challenging to find something positive to say. Teachers need to work at this because the more positive attention students receive, the less apt they are to look for attention negatively. Teachers can go out of their way to find something positive to say to their chronic misbehaving students. These children often lack belief in their ability and teachers need to help them see that they are capable.

Don't Be Bossy or Reflect Bad Modeling

Bossiness usually ends up with students seeking revenge. Teachers can ask themselves if they like being bossed around, in consideration, as children do not enjoy it either. If teachers employ the strategies suggested, they will find that they won't need to be bossy. Teachers should always express a strong desire and interest to have a good relationship with the student or child.

Support a Sense of Belonging

When students or children don't feel they belong, they often act out inappropriately to justify their feeling of being outside of "the circle." In this scenario, teachers can ensure the student has a strong sense of belonging by praising the child's efforts to get along or work with others. Teachers can also praise attempts to follow the rules and adhere to routines. Teachers may also find success in using "we" when describing the behavior they want, such as, "We always try to be kind to our friends." 

Pursue Interactions That Go Up, Down, Then up Again

When teachers are about to reprimand or punish a child, teachers can bring them up first by saying something like, "Lately you've done so well. I've been so impressed with your behavior. Why, today, did you need to be involved with a hands-on?" This is a way for teachers to deal with the issue head-on.

Then, teachers can end on a note like, "I know it won't happen again because you've been so good up until this moment. I have great faith in you." Teachers may use different approaches but should always remember to bring them up, take them down, and bring them up again.

Strive to Create a Positive Learning Environment

Research shows that the most important factor in student behavior and performance is the teacher and student relationship. Students want teachers that:

  • Respect them
  • Care about them
  • Listen to them
  • Don't yell or shout
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Are in a good mood
  • Let students give their opinions and their side or opinion

Ultimately, good communication and respect between teachers and students are effective in maintaining a positive learning environment.

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Your Citation
Watson, Sue. "9 Strategies to Handle Difficult Behaviors in Children." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/get-a-handle-on-behavior-3110692. Watson, Sue. (2023, April 5). 9 Strategies to Handle Difficult Behaviors in Children. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/get-a-handle-on-behavior-3110692 Watson, Sue. "9 Strategies to Handle Difficult Behaviors in Children." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/get-a-handle-on-behavior-3110692 (accessed June 6, 2023).