Misbehaviour…horrors_Part 1

If you’ve been around children much, you have come across misbehaviour. It’s a given.  That moment when you say, “Do it” and he says “I don’t want to.”  What do you do?

I find it interesting that whenever I start a new class, the relationship-building always follows a predictable pattern:  the first lesson is understandably tense, but goes smoothly.  The children are feeling me out, figuring out where I come from, what I expect of them and how they should behave.  In the following three lessons or so, we get more comfortable with each other, start using nicknames (Teacher Sue rather than Teacher Suzannah! :) )

Once we’re into the second month, however, I begin to watch for the testing waters.  Having gotten quite comfortable with me, the children begin to test their boundaries.  How far can they push this teacher who seems to be smiling all the time and never raises her voice (two of my personal principles of practice)?  At first, the pushing limits is mild.  If I handle it properly, it stays mild. If I don’t, I have a bigger problem the following lesson.  Here’s a typical scenario:

Student: Teacher Sue, I want to play.

Me: Yes I want a break too, but let’s finish reading this blend ladder first.  You’re on a roll and I don’t want you to forget how to do these.

Student: But I want a break now.  I want to draw.  Can I draw?  Gets off the chair and goes to the table where we keep our drawing materials.

Me: [Name], we’ll take a break after we finish reading this ladder.  You only have two more blends to go. Let’s finish first.

Student: Not looking at me. Where are the markers, Teacher? I will get my own paper.

Typical enough? :)

Right there, you have a power struggle.  The child knows your requirements, but is testing the boundary.  How far can he go with you?  What do you do?  When faced with a power struggle like this, I follow three principles, and they keep me on track.

{CONSISTENCY}  First, consistency.  If I said no at the beginning, I stick to it.  Of course, holding a principle like that makes me think seriously before I give a child an answer—we adults have a strange tendency to say no before we even think about a child is asking for!  If I don’t have a good reason to say no, I usually agree.  Sometimes, I say wait, and other times, instead of a flat no, I give other options.  For instance, my students LOVE painting, but we can’t paint every lesson.  So, sometimes when they ask to paint, I give other options: “Not today, but we can draw at the whiteboard today.  Would you like that?”  There will be children who will stubbornly stick it out and still ask for paints; but after I explain my reasons (remember, I try not to turn down their requests unless I have good reasons) and consistently uphold my decision, they come around and happily settle for something else.  Whatever you do, try not to change your answer.  Think before you answer, even though they’re only children.

All right, that’s enough to think about for one newsletter.  I’ll be back with the other two principles soon! (I hope!) :)  See you then, and thank you for reading!

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