Behaviour Management for Difficult Students – Just Don’t Do It!

Everyone has an opinion on how to manage difficult students.

Don't you love it when people tell you what to do?  Ok. Neither do I.

But I am happy to receive advice on what NOT to do. There are some different strategies for difficult students

There are a million strategies to try with difficult kids. Which one is appropriate and which one will work will depend on the situation. It is more difficult to find which strategy works.

However, it is a lot easier to find out which strategies DO NOT WORK for difficult students.

I am sure you have tried these strategies before. I certainly have. I have also found that they just don't work.

The definition of insanity is continually trying the same thing and expecting a different result.

You see, difficult kids move to a different drummer. They don't have the same make up as good kids. The strategies you need to bring good kids back to the fold generally don't work with the more difficult kids. They have different belief and value systems.

They are always more challenging.

But these strategies just DO NOT WORK.

It is common enough to find many teachers try them again ... and again. Not surprisingly the same results are achieved.

Difficult kids are stressful. They sap your energy. Continually using unsuccessful strategies sap you energy faster than anything.

The strangest thing I have found is that these strategies are the most common strategies used. Just listen to the chatter in the staff room. It will usually revolve around dealing with difficult students. Notice how teachers always love a good war story.

There are a lot of strategies to try, and some will succeed. These strategies never do.

1. Don't Rush for the Bigger Stick for your Difficult Students.

You know how this goes. The difficult student shouts. You shout louder. The difficult student gets cranky. You get crankier.

Any time you try to scare difficult students into submission, it never works. Unless you are Al Capone you can threaten to break their knee caps but it never works. You can scald them until you are blue in the face, but it never works.

It may bring about a temporary halt to the proceedings but bullies, which is the characteristic of most difficult students,  are seldom beaten by bigger bullies. This is what the arms race deteriorates into. A mad clambering for bigger weapons. In the mean time there is a whole lot of collateral damage in the classroom.

And they are the good kids who are victims of this battle. They will see you trying to bring about a change by using the very same behaviours you are trying to stop.

Do you see the problem here?

So if you expect to make a difference in the behaviours of your more difficult students don't use a big stick. There is an old saying that if all  you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

2. Don't Tip-toe around Difficult Students.

I can understand the position of letting sleeping dogs lie. After all the last thing you need in the classroom is confrontation so it is easier to tip toe around the more difficult kids, make less, or even no demands on them. In fact you might even like to give them rewards for simply sitting still which is what the other 95% of the kids are doing automatically.

That is akin to being rewarding for breathing.

I bet it even grates on you that you even consider treating your difficult students differently to the others.

Well don't.

There is a self fulfilling prophecy at work here. Students will rise or fall to the expectations of the teacher. If you behave in such a way that you expect the student to misbehave or that a student is going to be difficult to others in the class, there is a good chance that they will.

Unruly kids are pretty attuned to being treated differently. They smell your fear. These difficult kids have probably been treated differently all their school life.

Have a go at expecting them to do the same work and behave in the same way. Then respond to them positively when they succeed.

3. Don't Lecture the Difficult Student.

I know you feel like taking your difficult students by the scuff of the neck and shaking some sense into them.

I bet you feel all they need is a good shake up, a stern talking to and their behaviour will change. Bom-bow! It won't work.

Honestly, some teachers seem to love giving kids lectures. in fact not only do these lecture not help, they hinder the development of self discipline.

The teacher will attempt to build up the student’s self confidence and rebuild pathways to a more successful classroom experience. The student will usually stand passively and glassy-eyed.

The teacher continues to list all the positives that the students has to offer.  Praise, albeit artificial, soothes the situation and supposedly teaches strategies the student can put in place. All designed to help find this difficult student a place in the grand scheme of things.

The teacher all but tap dances. The kid leaves but nothing changes.

You see, it has been done before. It takes time, effort but is repeated again and again.

There is an assumption that words will make a difference. It should. It is totally logical. Kids misbehave because they don’t know better, right? But it never seems to work.

Don't add extra straw to your own back

Relief teaching is stressful enough without adding straw to your own back.

Want some great advice and support.

Check out the Behaviour Management Online Course.

What are teachers saying about the course?

  • Wow what a thought provoking clip.  It is fantastic to have someone reinforce what I as a teacher needed to have reinforced.  I think at times we get complacent and seem to be repeating the same steps. (Amanda April 2015)
  • Being authentic has hit a nerve. Maintaining a position of authority is not enough. Authentic authority - thought provoking concept. (Pauline March 2015)
  • Valuable advice and well presented. (Cheryl March 2015)
  • This video has made me re focus my teaching, (Louise Feb 2015)
  • Thanks so much Bob, Nikki and the RTA, my fellow course participants. You have all given me such wonderful ideas. (Carron April 2015)
  • I have enjoyed all that you have presented Bob and feel affirmed with my behaviour management strategies (Margaret April 2015)

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