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Behaviors At School

The Defier

Action: Identify causes of misbehavior. Pinpoint student needs being revealed. Employ specific methods, procedures, and techniques at school and at home for getting the child to modify or change his/her behavior.

Primary Causes of Misbehavior

Revenge
This student wants to be disliked. Failure has made him/her give up trying to get attention in an acceptable way.

Primary Needs Being Revealed

Sex/Sexuality
This person's interactions with people are very negative.

Escape from Pain
This student is feeling a lot of pain and his/her behavior demonstrates this pain.

Secondary Needs Being Revealed

Aggression
This person is using assertion as a means of survival. This assertion must be directed toward a more positive involvement in the class.

Achievement
Personal responsibility is a form of achievement for this student.

Power
A positive form of power must be offered to this student.

Status
Everything must be done to demonstrate the worth of this student. This does not mean you accept his/her behavior, but you do accept the person.

Autonomy
The student has many ways to be in control of his/her life other than defiance.

Actions to Take
  • Regardless of the situation, never get into a "yes you will" contest with this student. Silence is a better response.

  • Whatever you do, don't lose your dignity, and never, never raise your voice or argue with the student.

  • Use the "Third-Person" technique. Remember, you are the outlet, not the cause, for this student's defiance-unless you are shouting, arguing, or attempting to handle him/her with sarcasm. Therefore, don't take the defiance personally. Rather, say, "John, what's the matter? That doesn't sound like you," or "What's making you so upset?" By using this approach, even if it doesn't reflect your feelings, you place yourself in the position of a third person who can help rather than affront, and you can maintain both your dignity and your professional position. In addition, you emphatically convey to all students that the defier is the problem, not you. If you don't use this approach, especially in front of other students, you may feel forced into saying or doing something that will only aggravate the situation.

  • If a student says, "I won't do it" or "You can't make me," don't let the student make you believe his/her defiance is directed toward you. Again, become a third-party participant by saying in a questioning or even bewildered way, "What's the matter?" or "That's not like you." This reaction may not agree with your feelings, but it will produce the best results. Follow this response with "What happened to make you so upset?" or "Is there anything I can do to help you?" If the student replies, "Yes, get off my back," don't lose your composure. Rather, continue using the third-person stance and the problem has a chance for a solution rather than a guarantee of an unfortunate scene.

  • The "Delayed Teacher Reaction" also works well. For example, if a student says, "I won't do it"-do not say anything for a moment. Rather, look at him/her in surprise and say, "I don't think I heard you." This response gives the student a chance to retract the statement- to change unacceptable behavior into an apology without teacher reprimand. If your situation with the defier has already deteriorated to the point that you could not use this approach in front of other students, then do it privately. This problem can never be handled past this point publicly. Sometimes, you can only try to quiet the student by saying, "Let's not talk about it here. Let's visit later when you can tell me everything that's on your mind."

  • Put this student on your priority list for after school, between classes, or recess-time conversation.

  • Speak to this student in conferences outside the classroom setting. A quiet, private, neutral place is best.

  • Be caring, but honest. Tell the student exactly what it is that is causing problems as far as you are concerned. Be sure you listen to the student as well. In the process, insist upon one rule-that you both be respectful.

  • Alert administrators and counselors to the problem if the behavior persists.

  • Avoid power struggles with this student. They will get you nowhere.

  • Try to convince the student that he/she must produce in order to survive in a meaningful way.

  • Give this student some classroom responsibilities.

  • Create various group activities so the student can have experiences with peers.

  • Always listen to this student. Let him/her talk. Don't interrupt until he/she finishes.

  • Ask if isolation would help. But don't force it on the student prior to talking about it. Such "surprises" will only make him/her more defiant.

  • Make the student a part of any plan to change behavior. If you don't, you'll become the enemy.

  • Above all, reach an agreement with the student on how you will treat each other.

  • Be very specific in relating what behavior is unacceptable.

List of Behaviors

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Please Note
We are labeling behaviors, not children! For the sake of convenience, we will describe behaviors with terms such as The Whiner or The Interrupter.

Never use such labels when talking to—or about—children! Doing so could cause many new problems and seriously damage the teacher-student or parent-child relationship.