Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: Dealing With Poor Student Behavior

Dealing With Poor Student Behavior

Do you have a student who just doesn't seem to care about your behavior management system and rewards? Do you know what motivates them?

We have all been there. We have all had that one student who constantly pushes our buttons and doesn't seem to follow any of the class rules. We have all had a challenging kiddo with behavior that has made us cry.

So how do we deal with a student who has challenging behavior?

I think that lots of teachers would say that you need a good behavior management program. 

I agree. Good classroom management is key!

But I also think that you can have an amazing program and still struggle with a kid or two that just don't seem to care.

I am about to share my honest opinions about challenging student behavior. Please know that I am not a psychologist. I am not a child behavior expert. I am just a mom and a teacher who has been insanely stressed by student behavior. I am just like you.

So if you don't agree with what I am about to say, no worries. I hope we can still be friends. 

So here goes...

There is NO classroom discipline program that is perfect. Sorry. 

The reality is that there is no class that is filled with students who are exactly the same. All students are not motivated by the same things. The key to dealing with a student who has poor behavior is to figure out why they are behaving that way and what motivated them.

Do you have a student who just doesn't seem to care about your behavior management system and rewards? Do you know what motivates them?


And that is NOT easy.

I am going to share some of the most common reasons for poor behavior that I observed in my third grade classroom. There may be lots of other reasons, but I hope that they help you to learn more about your challenging kiddo. I know you want to help them!

Student Misbehaves to get Attention

I found that this type of misbehavior is common with students who have lots of siblings and/or students who have parents who work extra long hours. This is not the only student who might have this problem, so don't rule it out just because you think they have the "perfect family."

This student is not phased by clipping down or losing Dojo points. They are motivated by attention. This student is used to getting attention because of their misbehavior and will have to learn to want positive attention rather than negative attention. 

How to reach this student:
  • invite this student to have lunch with you 
  • pair them up with a buddy from an older classroom 
  • if they play on a sports team or take dance classes, it would mean everything to them if you came to watch a game or recital
  • figure out what their hobbies are and learn about them. Ask the student about their interests on a regular basis
  • give them positive praise for any small acomplishment
  • ask them to help you with a project
 Any time this student is NOT misbehaving, give them attention! (Even if that is just one minutes out of the day. 🙃)

Student Misbehaves because they Don't Know how to Behave Properly

This is most common with a student who does not have a good role model at home. This is the student who is allowed to do almost anything that they want at home. 

Your consequences probably don't work with this student because no one at home will care. Mom doesn't care about the clip down or principal visit.

This student is motivated by having someone who cares about them. Their home life might be lacking this feeling. Sometimes this student can get very angry and struggle with emotions.

How to reach this student:
  • choose a small daily goal to focus on rather than all of their behavior problems
  • reward them every time they meet the goal (Example: a sticker for every time they raise their hand before speaking)
  • work towards weekly goals when the student starts to show improvement
  • when the student has setbacks (which they will!), remind them that you love them still
  • find something to compliment them for daily (even if it is just a compliment about their shoes)
Remember that this is going to take time! No kid learned how to behave in a week when they were three. And they still won't learn in a week when they are eight. 

Student Misbehaves because they Need to Move

Do you have a kiddo that is always talking to his neighbors, getting in other people's personal space and out of his seat constantly?

This is common with a student who needs constant physical activity. This is the child that needs to talk and move and is unable to sit still for long periods of time. When they are asked to sit for long stretches they start fidgeting and talking. They might be ADHD, but that is not always the case.

You need to remember that their need to move is beyond their control. They aren't doing it to bug you.

How to reach this student:
  • increase hands-on activities such as STEM, art, games, centers, etc.
  • give this student time to talk (pair shares, group work, etc.)
  • try flexible seating 
  • set small goals rather than expecting perfect behavior for the entire day 
  • do not take away recess as a punishment

Student Misbehaves because they are Bored

We have all had a parent that claimed their kid's behavior problem was caused by boredom. It's annoying because it feels like they are passing the blame. But, I think this is a true problem. 

If a student is not reasonably challenged, they are likely to find trouble. They have too much time on their hands!

How to reach this student:
  • have engaging fast finisher activities that students can access
  • use differentiated math and reading groups so that students are being properly supported and challenged
  • don't give MORE work
  • incorporate STEM, project-based learning or Genius Hour
Do you have a student who just doesn't seem to care about your behavior management system and rewards? Do you know what motivates them?

I am sure there are many more reasons that a child does not behave. I just noticed that these reasons were the most common in my classroom.

It is important to remember that student behavior is not going to change in a day or even a week. It will require patience. A child is not born with bad behavior. This was learned over time and it is going to take at least as much time to help the child to learn new positive behaviors. 

Always remember that it's not just about this year or about your classroom. You are helping to raise these children and it's about their future.

Don't give up on them! If one strategy or reward doesn't work, try something else. They are worth it!

Have a Not So Wimpy day!