How to communicate with students who are having behavioral issues
A message of hope and perseverance for our kids: Share your stories.
All teachers know the sacrifice required to be with your students every day. The worry of finding the right words to ease their frustration, the sense of shame if you have to cut short a child’s time with you or the emotional exhaustion of working through the endless issues in their lives.
Some kids are more difficult to work with than others, or perhaps they have very unique issues with a behavioral issue or emotional trauma, or something completely different. But when working with kids of any age, there’s a core list of behaviors that should be addressed at any time. For an elementary school teacher, we’re most concerned with “causes of distress” that involve aggression and not listening. Students who are falling behind or doing poorly often bring with them other concerns from the previous years.
When we try to help a child, we need to address any of the following “causes of distress” when they are breaking down: aggression, impulsivity, impulsivity at any level, distraction issues, frustration, anxiety, moodiness, anxiety, self-injury, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, self-destructive behavior, compliance issues, behavioral issues or unwanted actions.
This doesn’t mean that you always have to break the child. You can point to something that they could possibly be doing differently if they received better instruction in the subject, for example. Or, if you notice that they’re falling behind, you can give the child, teacher or parent an hour of extra homework or pick them up for an extra half hour. However, these behaviors must be addressed at any time, not just once.
Evaluation of each student is often the most effective approach, since we are now able to determine what the child needs for their overall emotional and social well-being.
Taking this step of treatment with an evaluation gives you concrete guidelines to follow. One example: A student who is resistant to practicing math seems to simply stop trying in the middle of homework assignments. This might not seem fair, but in fact, it’s entirely possible they’re just not participating. As the teacher, I have to get creative to address this. It’s important to look for something that you can identify that is unique to the student’s conditions. Looking for a behavior like no follow-through can be a good place to start.
It can be challenging to determine when an evaluation is needed. Sometimes it’s not an issue for many of the students, such as when the child has already failed their class in class. So we’ll give them an extra period of time after class to practice or have extra questions typed in. Sometimes, you just have to take the time and ask them what they’re doing and how they’re doing. Some children of all ages are more difficult to gauge and often need more information to be able to move through their crisis. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong.
Children also need to know that we love them. Sometimes, just being acknowledged and seen in our faces is all that it takes. When you’re dealing with an individual with behavioral issues, it can be hard to see yourself as “your friend.” You don’t quite know what you can do or say to help. You’re trying to do the best that you can under very trying circumstances. It can be unnerving to know you may not be able to help in the moment. You don’t want to be known as the person who won’t help a student who is a problem.
When seeking help or someone to coach us in training, there are services like BBLTT that can provide guidance for all classroom behavior problems. This organization helps educators with a variety of emotional support, including relationship and parenting coaching, as well as anger management training.
If you need help, or if you have an expert in the situation that you wish to share with our educators, please contact us. You can find us on Facebook or email us at [email protected]