7 Tips for Dealing with the Problem Child in Your Class

Regardless of how long you’ve been teaching, how great your school district is, and how much you care about your students, you’re going to have at least one difficult student in your class year after year. The exact behavior will differ but knowing some general tips for how to deal with the kid who always acts up will help you keep your sanity. Take a deep breath, and keep these tidbits in mind next time your personal problem child starts disrupting class.

  1. Don’t take it personally:

    When a student acts out and is disrespectful toward you, it can be easy to take it to heart. "I’m not a good teacher. This student doesn’t like me. I’m not making a difference." But don’t let those voices creep into your head. Every teacher, no matter how good, deals with these same issues, and these students don’t know you outside of the classroom. Any attack on you has very little to do with the students’ personal feelings, and by keeping that in mind, you can deal with the problem reasonably and without anger or hurt feelings getting in the way.

  2. Talk with the child privately:

    Though you should call out disruptive behavior in class to get it to stop immediately, private discussions with students are often more beneficial. You can show the students that you’re on their side and just trying to help everyone in the classroom. Explain clearly what you expect of the student and suggest changes he or she could make to have a better classroom experience. Your students may be more respectful and less embarrassed to speak up about problems when they aren’t trying to impress their classmates.

  3. Find out the reason:

    Part of your private talk with your problem child should be asking questions to understand why he or she acts in a certain way. Maybe one child’s not able to focus because he’s staying up too late. Maybe a child just wants attention from the teacher and doesn’t know how else to get it. It’s possible some problem children have ADD or ADHD that hasn’t been diagnosed yet so they’re unable to sit still. Finding out how the child is feeling and what’s behind his or her actions will show you how to address it, whether it’s with more positive attention, more involvement in the classroom, parent intervention, or something else.

  4. Know your school’s policies:

    You should be well-versed in your school’s policies regarding discipline and behavior problems before starting any school year. And if you find yourself up against new discipline issues, give yourself a little refresher course. Know when to take problems to administrators, know what you can and can’t do, and know how involved the parents should be. At the very least, it’ll save you some headaches if parents get angry.

  5. Establish a classroom routine:

    Many students behave better when they have a predictable routine set up. They know when to expect transitions and how long they will have to do each activity. They won’t have to be told over and over again what to do because they know exactly what’s expected of them. Once you set up a routine, it might take a little time to get it down, so practice, practice, practice with your class. You’ll see behavior improve in the long run.

  6. Find a positive quality about the child:

    If you focus on the negative qualities of a disruptive student, it can be easy to let your bad feelings get out of hand. You may start treating the child differently and let your frustration expand beyond the point that it’s healthy. Finding even just one positive quality of the child can help in multiple ways. Not only will it give a more positive tint to your opinion of the student, but by making an effort to praise the student for this great trait, you can build a positive relationship with him or her, which will have an effect on behavior. Some experts suggest trying to say five nice things to a problem student every day to build a positive relationship and encourage good behavior.

  7. Talk to past teachers:

    Even though it might feel like it sometimes, you’re not working in a bubble. You may have a certain student in your class this year, but that student was in someone else’s hands last year. If you have any kids with discipline issues, find out who their past teachers were and contact them. You may find out more about the root of the problem, as well as methods that have or haven’t worked for correcting their behavior.

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