Monday, November 21, 2011

Helping Children with Challenging Behavior

The education news last week in New Jersey focused on a teacher who got caught bullying a 15-year-old child. The child captured the teacher’s humiliating words on his cell phone camera and the teacher was suspended. Now, what was so interesting to me in reading about this on the Internet was the range of comments that people left. Many of those who responded were teachers themselves and about half criticized the teacher for unacceptable behavior, and the other half empathized with the teacher’s inability to maintain self-control when faced with a child whose behavior was outrageous. Many of the teachers complained about parents and the horrible behaviors that are frequent in schools today.
            Few people, however, mentioned needing better skills to work with children whose behavior is unacceptable. It seems they wanted the administration to remove the children and make the problem disappear. There was no discussion of professional development, strategies to help teachers, or the desire for more knowledge about working with challenging behaviors.
            My guess is that many teachers don’t realize there is hope. Challenging behaviors are learned behavior, and therefore they can be changed. These behaviors are highly affected by the environment, so if we change the environment, we can have a big impact on behavior. This requires, however, that we make a HUGE mental change from thinking about punishing behaviors to thinking about teaching new behaviors. If a teacher can do this, however, she will be happier, more effective, and the child will be saved from a downward spiral of educational failure.
            I’ve created a free guide to helping children with challenging behavior because I believe it is so important to change the way many teachers are reacting. Both teachers and students are suffering and I know there are ways to improve the situation. Please click on the link below, or visit the page on The Positive Classroom for free classroom management guides. Share this booklet with your colleagues. Let me know what you think of the information, and if you try out any of the ideas, please let us know what results you get. I will be posting more free booklets in the near future, so check back again soon!

23 comments:

  1. yes it would be better if some teachers stopped thinking about throwing the child out of the school but unfortunately they don't. I wish they would stop thinking that those kids are horrible and they can't wait until the school year is over. Maybe the principle should do something about it, like have a meeting on how to better a classroom with an uncontrollable child or something like that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, Monica, working with children who have challenging behaviors is VERY difficult and teachers can get frustrated when they feel like they don't have the resources, skills, or knowledge to change things. I'd love to see more focus of professional development on helping teachers to develop these skills!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My opinion is that many times teachers manage their students as they manage their children at home. They come up with shabby rules and empty threats for behaviors as the behaviors occur instead of thinking ahead. Or they try to ignore the behavior in the hopes that it's going to go away. Consequently, the child is always trying out different ways of getting away with the misbehavior. Unfortunately, whether the child realizes it or not, they are only trying to get their needs met. Then the more needs that have not been met, the angrier the child becomes
    I think this is like a viscous cycle. Every time a misbehavior is ignored or not treated properly the behavior only gets worse.
    So,I would say that the ideal solution for this problem would be for teachers to get themselves some kind of behavior management training. Also the administrations should look for teachers that have had this kind of training or provide behavior management training for their teachers as a way of problem behavior prevention. I bet that many teachers and many students would be much happier.

    ReplyDelete
  4. One question that I would love to have an answer for is how do I know what constitutes an appropriate consequence for a given behavior. For instance, what would the proper consequence be for a child that consistently refuses to listen to instruction? Notes home will not help, calling the principal or disciplinarian will not work work. praising will not work, nothing works! This child gets away with anything because he will simply continue on doing as he pleases. He will not come when called, he will answer as he pleases, he gets to hold toys when no one else is allowed to, and so on. The teachers have gotten to the point that they simply ignore him. Well all the better for him because now he gets to play when ever he wants and if he doesn't he will have a melt down that will last an entire day!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Holaya,
    I'm sorry to hear that you are having so much trouble with this child. It sounds like you need to go beyond thinking of consequences. Instead, think about the function of his behavior. What function is the behavior serving? You don't mention teaching the child new skills to help him get the function met in a more positive way. Ignoring behavior will not change it if that behavior is working to get the child what he needs. You need to teach him NEW behaviors to use instead. I highly recommend you read through the booklet I have linked on this page. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  6. For the life of us, we cannot figure this child out. He is bright,articulate, knows his work, gets many complements and positive reinforcement. We have gone over Tucker Turtle, learned how to smell the flowers and blow the candles,read social stories. I will be out of this setting in a short time but my heart will stay with him because I could not do much for him. Many times I try to catch the behavior at it's initial states and I find that redirecting him gets good results, but I know that this has to be a group effort. Professor, you mention reading through the "booklet", can you specify the name of this booklet? This way I can pass it on to my cooperating teacher so that she may understand where I'm coming from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder what would happen if you asked the child to help another student? Even read to them-Or if partner work which gradually shifted to individual work might be a way-- I appreciate Muriel's efforts to give teachers ways to solve problems rather than tolerate (as I was usually advised to do long ago), or ignore or pass on those problems. Now I love nothing better than looking for ways to solve problems and to help others to do so - and it is not only young students with such problems--I have seen them in every level from pre-K through Ph D students. And I still love teaching and overcoming ( most of the time!) such things. I do not like passing them on or letting the student not learn--
      Mary

      Delete
  7. Holaya,
    Click on the picture on this page above that says "Helping Children with Challenging Behaviors." This will take you to Google Docs where you can download the booklet.

    Or paste this in your browser:
    https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B0BHRLl0GEW7ZDBlNjk4YWEtMjZjMy00MjFiLTg4ZDYtYjEyNzc1MzIwZTVl

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Dr. Rand,

    I learned so much from this blog. I was able to read half of the booklet today and plan to read the rest another day. I wrote down a lot of information that helped me understand why a few students that I know are experiencing challenging behaviors in the classroom. My co-op teacher and I are trying to come up with new techniques to get around a few challenging behaviors that some students are experiencing, but obviously we have not reached that yet. We are guilty for reinforcing the behaviors rather than changing our ways so that the children can change. I like what you said, "If the challenging behaviors keeps repeating itself, we know it is being reinforced." This statement helped me realized, "this is exactly what the teachers are doing (including me) in the classroom. For example, if a child is constantly hitting other children, the teacher reacts by pulling the child to the side to shout and tell them why this behavior is not okay. Because I have been getting so much information regarding this topic, I am realizing that what I have been doing is wasting my breath. It is pointless for me to scream at a child, tell him what I do not want him to do, then release him with poor reinforcement, which leads to him to repeat the behavior again. Now that I think about it, I must sound like a broken record to children that listen to me complain rather than provide with the positive support they need, to get better and move on. The child must be saying, "la la la la la," every time I talk to them about what I do not want them to do. :)
    I am looking forward to reading the rest of this booklet. However now I want to focus on helping the future with positive techniques, that will become natural for me as a teacher to deliver and natural for the child to take in and help them later in life.
    Clara M.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Clara, I'm glad to hear the information is helpful. You are definitely on the right track toward more positive behavior by providing positive feedback. The next step is to systematically teach the child the behaviors you wish he would use instead of the hitting. This will take time, so be persistent and patient. Be sure to give positive feedback when the child starts using the new behaviors. Good luck with your new efforts!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've actually been in a school walking down it's halways and over herad a teacher call her students "stupid," I will never forget that! I do think some teachers if not all need to attend some type of sensativity training every year. I was also in a situation where one child was considered to be "troubled" because he lacks social skills and could not sit in his chair intead choose to play with his pencils. "Hey so and so pay attention, sit down, I am going to send you to the principals office etc. When it came down to it the child was very very intelligent, I swore he was High-Functioning Autism/Asperger's because all though he had all the signs he was extremlly intelligent, but his parents refused to have him tested. Last I heard he sits by the teacher's desk. As a parent, I would be FURIOUS if I knew my child was being mistreated by a teacher.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vanessa, I think our culture, in general, sees misbehavior as a moral fault rather than skills that a child (or adult) hasn't learned important skills. Too bad, because we can make such a difference in children's lives!

      Delete
  11. I just found your website and just wanted to say Thank You. I am not only using the information to help in my classroom and with my research for my Masters degree, but also with my own two children. I used to be the director of their old school and I joke that I was in charge of 200 children a day. Out of those 200, 198 of them listened to me. Of course my own 2 were the ones that didn't! They have always been "challenging" in part due to being above grade level and acting "bored", but I have seen children who struggle academically also act out because of their frustrations. thank you again. I am looking forward to exploring your site more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you found The Positive Classroom! I know exactly what you mean about working with your own children, ha ha! You make a very good point, though, about gifted children. They often display behavior problems, in part because of the lack of challenge, and in part because they are so smart at getting their needs met (and challenging behavior often gets children's need met very effectively!)

      Delete
  12. I just passed this website onto my head teacher I am doing my field work in. It is a kindergarten classroom and there are definately some challenmges with these young boys and girls. I like that they are so young so we can start giving them skills they can use for life! I kept exploring and just found your book on Amazon.com. I will be ordering it this month for further reading. Thank you for all you do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the sooner we can teach children the skills they need, the better they will do throughout their schooling. I like to think of these skills as "academic survival skills" since they are so important. I'm so glad that the website is helpful to you. I hope you like the book!

      Delete
  13. I'm just curious. Muriel, have you ever taught in an elementary, junior high, or high school setting?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I started my career as a preschool teacher and I worked in both suburban and urban settings. A few years ago I was the Professor-in-Residence at the Glen Cunningham Early Childhood Center in Jersey City which allowed me to be back in the classroom once a week for a year - a great experience! I also supervise about 3-6 student teachers each semester and the great majority of them are in primary grade classrooms (although this semester I have a student in 5th grade)and about half are in special education or inclusion classes. In total, I spend a few hours a week in urban classrooms. I'm surprised and grateful for how much I learn about teaching from observing many, many different teachers using different techniques and strategies!

      Delete
  14. I am NOT a teacher. I am a parent of child with autism (functioning but very delayed)I was wondering if you could all come up with some ideas for me to help support my teachers at home. My son "chats" constantly about things that seem random to us but are usually movies, videos, games, anything he plays in a loop in his mind. I know this is the disruption to his learning because he is so attentive to his "mind TV" and this is also disruptive to his classmates because it is a constant stream of chatter. The only times hes quiet is in the movie theater and we really can't teach there. Haha! Thank you for any ideas, suggestions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there Craft Bees, I would like to address your situation, since I am the parent of a child with a similar condition as well as a special education teacher.
      I have found that I can directly influence what my child "plays in that loop" by personally monitoring what she watches on TV, video games she plays, computer time, or the activities that she participates in. First of all, I try to limit TV and video games because I find that she will obsess over these the most. The trick is to constantly expose the child to information that relates to the real world. For instance weekly trips to bowling, weekly swim classes or some other type of school related activity. It is my experience that even if my child may not seem as interested at first, with enough repetitions, she will eventually grow to like the activity. After some time you will see that you will be able to enter that "loop" to some degree.

      I hope that my input is useful to you.








      Delete
  15. Hi there Professor Rand,
    I would like to share with you a very interesting situation that I witnessed recently when I was subbing for an assistant teacher in a kindergarten class for a couple of weeks. It seems to me that this teacher is in desperate need of some kind of classroom management skills. Well, the way this teacher tries to get the attention of her students is by calling, "Claaasss?" to which the students all yell back, "Yeeesss?". Then she will call "Class, Class?", to which the students will reply, "Yes, Yes?'. At this point the students have given the teacher the attention but are all out of control. Then if this is not enough, the teacher will then go a step further. She will call out, "Classity,class,class?" and the students will answer, "Yessity, yes, yes?". At this point she will ignore the unruly behavior and continue trying to get her lesson started! I wanted to advice this teacher against her new idea, but I felt that she would not consider my opinion and take it as if I was trying to show off. How would you address this type of situation if you were a sub in this classroom?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ϻɑany Toronto roofing companies are tɦe same. Most ϲonsiderably, iit may be
    subjected to mechɑnical abuse. If you decide that yoս want to make certain that the roof needs be attended to.
    So, yoou can multiply those tow togеther and come up with a
    roߋf that has drawn your attention ɑnd madе the house llook
    good.

    Checҝ out my blog ... Roofing in Loveland

    ReplyDelete
  17. Most peoрle think of oldd tin roofs is an unbearable noisе whicҺ οccurs on rainy nights.
    Never do your installation roоfing throughout chilly աeather сonditions сonditions.
    Always remember your friendѕ andd other members off family.
    The greatest thing about them is to visit the
    nearest local store. Even the ceilings and walls are damaged; better yet,
    checқ yor roof, clean your gutters, allow roofers in Austin working in our arwa thwn you must see thee
    review of these.

    Takе a look at my ƿage - Fort Collins CO roofing (http://home.25haha.com/space.php?uid=665&do=blog&id=197)

    ReplyDelete