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Behaviors At School

"I Don't Care"

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
Failure may have caused this student to give up trying, and to find personal satisfaction in "I don't care" behavior.

Self-Confidence
This student may have such low self-esteem that he/she has reached a point of really not caring.

Primary Needs Being Revealed

Sex/Sexuality
This student may have experienced a failure in some personal relationship.

Escape from Pain
Failures in academics and/or personal relationships are very painful and an "I don't care" attitude screens the pain.

Secondary Needs Being Revealed

Achievement
This student probably arrived at the "I don't care" attitude through a series of failures. Somehow there must be some success in his/her life.

Status
The student probably considers him/herself a "nobody." If this child becomes "somebody" to a teacher, peer, or any special person, his/her attitudes may change.

Actions to Take
  • Be aware that the student who says, "I don't care" in a hostile manner usually does care. He/she may really be saying, "I don't want to get hurt." The student who appears to have given up may, indeed, have stopped caring.

  • Talk with the student individually. Ask what he/she wants-try to discover what, if anything, the student is interested in.

  • Rather than reprimand, ask, "What are you worried about?" This is the real issue, even if the student doesn't know it yet.

  • Then, talk to the student about "finding yourself."

  • Ask what his/her problem is with the class. Ask why he/she is coming to class with these negative feelings and bringing them into the open. Then, ask the student to think about these things. Say, "You do care. That's why you're acting this way." Then say, "I'm going to help whether you say so or not."

  • Always explain the consequences of "I don't care" behavior. Show the student how this attitude totally dissolves and ruins his/her effectiveness; the student will be the only loser if the behavior continues. At the same time, show the student the excitement that can be inherent in the learning process.

  • Use all modalities for learning when dealing with this child.

  • Point out the good things this student does.

  • Shorten assignments.

  • Make the goal of each assignment clearer and more immediately achievable.

  • Try to give the student choices.

  • Be aware that this student is much more difficult to work with than the cheater or the liar. The latter are at least attempting success through cheating and Lying. The person who doesn't care won't even cheat or lie to get tasks completed.

  • Think twice before addressing a question to a nonlistener in order to gain attention. This technique only makes everyone aware that someone in the class isn't giving full attention. Too, the questioned student may laugh or counter with some other defensive reaction that instills a negative climate in the classroom.

  • Never reveal dislike for a student. Such dislike is very often triggered by a student's aggressive or passive defiance of teacher authority. Revealing dislike may lead to such student responses as more aggression, a retreat into despair if the student feels unworthy, or an "I don't care" attitude. Worse, other students may respond the same way because they think they may be the next target. Thus, a teacher's response of dislike can set in motion the negative feelings of a whole class. The teacher must make the initial positive move when dislike surfaces. The teacher must understand the causes of his/her dislike, make him/herself respond to student behavior rather than to the student personally, and follow up every difficulty with caring counsel.

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.