Managing Challenging Student Behavior

When you think of managing student behavior we’re guessing that these words sometimes come to mind: challenging, disorganized, intimidating. It’s E-Therapy’s hope that we can help you change the narrative so that words like easy, communication and hopeful begin to replace the latter. 

We recognize that life is all about balance, and that as leaders within your school organization it’s important to maintain your composure and quickly de-escalate challenging behavior. We’ve compiled a list of our five favorite tips and tricks so that when all else fails, you can remember that you have go-to methods that you can count on one hand. 

Read between the lines.

Remember that behavior is a form of communication, so it’s up to you as a leader and teacher to really dive deep and attempt to understand what the student is trying to say, perhaps without words at all. 

Over the years, and through an extensive amount of research and education, E-Therapy has gathered tools along the way that have helped schools, administrators, directors and teachers overcome some common communication barriers. When a difficult situation arises with a student, bear in mind that much of what they want to tell you is communicated through their body language. Some common functions of behavior are to seek attention or to avoid something. Is there some indicator within this behavior that might help you identify how to help?

Know who is in your corner.

You are likely not alone as an administrator or leader in your school when dealing with communication and behavioral issues among your student body. While it doesn’t make the issues go away immediately, building a support network of other teachers and administrators (whether in your school, district, or town/city), it’s likely that the others among your network have their own tips and suggestions that you can add to your stock of go-to solutions. 

Educators and administrators across the globe are beyond successful at building communities, so rely on those you’re surrounded with to help you work through the tougher times of leading. At the end of the day, discipline is helping a child solve a problem, so you can approach uneasy conversations and behavior with grace and sympathy.

Create a positive narrative.

Often we assume that students should know the right way to behave, when in fact we haven’t provided them a baseline for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior or communication. Much like raising our own children, we have to explain the expectations we have for those we teach and discipline. 

Most administrators would agree with us that students are inherently good. While they may make decisions based in fear, or act out as a way of needing our attention, students seek our praise and guidance at every step of their educational journey. By having visuals and conversations around what behaviors are and are not acceptable, we prepare them with the tools they need to succeed in the environment we are creating. 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

It’s a priceless quote, and one that we have all heard. Ultimately, it can be a reminder to be a role model. Especially when it comes to dealing with and improving challenging behaviors, emanate the behavior that you are hoping to receive. Being a good role model isn’t just about redirecting when behavior is challenging or disruptive, but about leading and guiding through the process so they begin to take authority and become independent.

Speaking of, we urge you to encourage independence.

Children often thrive on the power they are given, guiding their peers and taking roles such as “team lead” or the like as a way to help manage the classroom or group activities. By encouraging students to model the behavior and actions that add up to a safe and fun learning environment. 

Ideas for establishing this type of classroom or group management are behavior charts, rules, visual lesson plans, reminders posted throughout the room or within assignment details, and don’t be afraid to experiment with allowing your students some freedom to make their own choices.