In this post, I share five common reasons for student misbehavior. No matter how strong our classroom management is or how positive our relationships with our students are, we are bound to encounter student misbehavior. As I’ve said before, I firmly believe the most important part of classroom management is our relationships with students. You can read a blog post on strategies to build relationships with your students here. I also believe that clear procedures and expectations are essential for preventing student misbehavior. You can read a blog post with strategies on introducing and practicing classroom procedures here. However, despite our best efforts, we will all still observe student misbehavior.
Over the years I’ve learned that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to misbehavior. Students misbehave for different reasons, and the way I handle that misbehavior depends on the student and the reasons for the misbehavior. In this post, I share some of the most common behaviors I’ve seen in my classroom and ways to help students showing that misbehavior.
Student Misbehaves to get Attention
This is probably the most common cause of misbehavior. Acting out by making fun of others, talking out of turn, or being overly silly are just a few ways students looking for more attention may misbehave. Many students who value or crave attention don’t care if it is positive (praise) or negative attention (reprimands). They just want attention!
With these students it is very easy to fall into a ‘reprimand trap.’ First, the student misbehaves. Then the teacher approaches the student and reprimands him or her for misbehaving. Because the student finds the negative attention to be reinforcing, he or she continues to misbehave. A cycle is established, with the student repeatedly acting-out, and teacher reprimanding him or her.
- ignore attention seeking behaviors (unless it interferes with other students)
- give positive attention that is unconnected to misbehavior
- ask students to help you with classroom jobs
- make small talk with the student
- physical proximity or a hand on the shoulder
- make eye contact and smile
Student Misbehaves out of Frustration
- foster a growth mindset
- differentiate and adjust work accordingly
- manufacture situations where the student will experience success
- reach out with heart to heart talks
- don’t overemphasize grades, focus on learning
Student Misbehaves out of a Desire for Power
Some students who misbehave are expressing a desire for more control in the classroom. Acting inappropriately makes them feel powerful. Signs of a power-seeking student include constant arguing and a refusal to follow basic rules. There are two types of this behavior – active and passive. The active power seeking student will be the student who throws tantrums or gives you bad attitude. The passive power seeking student will be the student who quietly is in noncompliance with you. Power seeking students can be incredibly challenging. I’ve found that many of these students have experience some sort of trauma in their lives. These students are often desperate to control some aspect of their life and that need for control is reflected in the classroom. One of the best resources for these students is Trust Based Relational Interventions.
- avoid confrontation
- respect the student’s personal space
- give redirection then walk away
- provide choices in tasks
- give student a voice
- speak in a calm tone of voice
Student Misbehaves because they are Bored
- differentiate to be sure the student is being challenged
- incorporate problem based learning
- don’t reward students for rushing through their work with free time
- for students with short attention spans, use lots of short tasks rather than one or two longer ones.
Student Misbehaves because They are Looking for Revenge
- avoid consequences that are retaliative
- focus on making amends
- teach appropriate expression of feelings