Carman Wimsatt – Dir. of Culture and Innovation; Learning by Design Charter Elementary School
The reality is all of us, adults and children, want to do well and behave well, but settings and circumstances at times get the best of us. Children are acutely susceptible to environmental triggers, emotional challenges and just about anything that can make doing what one is asked to do appear to be an impossible task.
Let’s take a closer look at children and begin the practice of looking at their behavior from 2 lenses:
1st, children want and can learn to behave in a positive manner and
2nd, if they make a mistake with their behavior, there are certain factors that have gotten in their way.
As adults, we are interested in knowing and should be attempting to discover, what factors are preventing children from using will power, self-discipline and other personal skills they need to help them focus. With that said, a clear understanding of what factors may be preventing the skills from developing is not a pathway for excusing misbehavior, but it does help us support their needs to grow in said areas and have empathy for their struggles to develop those vital skills.
There are 5 main reasons children misbehave…
1. Basic Needs
Are they hungry? How many kids do you think are temperamental are really just hungry?
Do they need more physical Activity? Moving from one academic activity to another for some children is a life sentence to pain. The fidgety, wiggly kids may need a moment to move before sitting down again to reengage mentally.
2. Social-Emotional Needs
These needs fall into 3 additional categories
A need to belong
A need to feel important
A and need for fun
Belonging…a real need that can be a wonderful motivation to follow the rules when this leads to acceptance, friendships and bonding or to break them when the need to speak with friends during class time meets that need better than listening to the teacher. Children follow other children due to a need to belong, not a need to disrespect the teacher.
Importance…though difficult to manage, sometimes children break rules to stand out from the crowd.
Fun… all children need to have fun at school. And…if the work is not engaging, they will have fun where ever they are. It is not to say that
3. Lack of Social-Emotional Skills
- What skills does each child need to learn?
None of us were born knowing the skills we need to get along with others. For many children school is the first opportunity to learn them. It takes time to learn active listening, taking the perspective of others, empathy, manners, etc. They are not horrible children, but they may not have learned the skills that make it easier to get along with others. Children CAN LEARN these skills as long as we provide them with the teaching and practice needed.
4. Lack of Academic skills
- Is it true that a child would rather appear bad than stupid? Yes, it is true. Students with academic challenges will attempt to…
distract the teacher
interrupt the class
distract other students for most of the day
complain that the work is “boring”
5. Developmental Factors
Understanding where children are developmentally will explain behavior. At what age do children talk more, speak less, move more or argue more? This is no excuse for misbehavior but our assessment of such may be off we don’t understand or have sympathy for the development stage the student is in. In reality…
Developmental markers are complex – it’s a mix of biology, psychology, culture and environment.
Every child is unique – reaching the developmental markers are individual achievements. Being aware of what a child can do, should guide expectations with a mixture of patients for the influence of other factors.
With the above knowledge in hand, let’s examine a few tips on….
How to promote positive behavior.
1. Make sure children have their basic needs met.
-Water, food, bathroom breaks and movement
2. Build a safe and caring community.
-When students believe we care about them, their home life, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, they are more likely to cooperate with a program they believe supports them.
a. Begin each day with community building
b. Allow students to get to know each other within your academic activities
c. Spend time with students outside of class (lunch, recess, morning greetings)
d. Talk with students one on one through the day.
3. Address the social needs.
-Provide multiple opportunities for students to interact. Move seating, schedule rotating partners and work groups.
-Provide “air time” to all students. Random name cards for students to share opinions, ask questions and paired discussions.
-Respond equitably to students. Children are always watching, so make all the “hoorays” are equally heard and given to each child. It is so easy for children to feel less important. We may have favorites, we are human, but children should never know!!!
-Have fun with kids. Schedule a time to play with them at recess to show you care that they smile. Make learning fun whenever possible.
4. Set students up for academic success.
-Consider where children are developmentally and academically when there are episodes of misbehavior.
-Connect lessons to student interest and prior knowledge
-Name the learning objectives of the lesson. Students often focus better when they understand the purpose of the lesson.
-Try as best you can, to assess where the student is, give work that meets their current academic level with the intention (goals stated) to move them to the next level.
5. Establish clear expectations.
Make expectations clear from day one.
Model and practice routines. ANY routines that you will use during the year need to be modeled.