As a special education teacher with 18 years in the classroom, I am still continually tested with kids who are oppositional, defiant, aggressive, and just plain rude at times. It is up to me, to set the ground rules at the very beginning of the year, and “take no prisoners” – an expression I use to motivate me. It is not necessarily the best affirmation, but it is a way of life I’ve come to understand, due to the fact that we are often dealing with a new kind of child. I won’t go through the long litany of reasons for this change in attitude of “our kids”, for there are many contributing factors. Placing blame on someone or something doesn’t solve the problem. Here are ways I’ve come to deal with flare-ups in the classroom, and in my personal practice, because children’s behaviors and intentions toward us will only change, if we change our approaches.
Although consciously we don’t cause kids to “act out”, we can inadvertently reinforce inappropriate behavior and children’s choices of goals, by reacting in ways they expect. Put another way, we react to their goading and manipulation because, if it’s one thing most kids know how to do, it is manipulate or find your weakness. It’s an innate sixth sense they have. Here are some suggestions to work on if you haven’t figured it out, or you can’t step away from your problem long enough to put a plan into effect.
Problems will continue to blossom between you and your child unless there is mutual respect. I try to deliver this message in my classrooms, and I understand what a tough task this is – it requires consistency. Kids need to be called on their penchant to disrespect others, as soon as they “go over the line” of acceptable behavior.
Kids don’t seem to realize respect needs to be earned, and that it comes from showing respect to others. When you holler, nag, or do things for your child you know they can do on their own, you are actually showing disrespect for them. As an example, do you require your child to knock before entering your room, and then simply barge into theirs? Do you tell your kids smoking is bad for their health, and then light up in front of them. To begin a culture of respect, try lightening up on your negative talk, and speak with him/her when you’re not emotionally charged. Keep your voice calm, and offer encouraging words, before you get into the matter that is disturbing to you. Mirror positive behavior to your child. Take time to do something “fun” together – even if it’s only for 15 or 20 minutes. If it’s a younger child, bedtime would probably be an optimal time. If it’s an older child, just dialogue about the day if possible, and tell the child about yours – the good, and the bad.
Encourage your child. You must believe in your kids, before they can believe in themselves. This should be a constant. Let them know about all the positive things you see, and minimize the importance of their mistakes, as you recognize their assets.
Please write to me should you have a specific question and I’ll try to respond in the next blog.