George Lucas Educational Foundation

Behavior Problem Child Needs Help

Behavior Problem Child Needs Help

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Hello, I am a second grade teacher and I have been struggling with a particular student all year. He has tremendous behavior issues, he does not do ANY work, and he is aggressive and lashes out towards the teacher, administrator, and police. He has a big problem with authority. His home life isn't that great as his mother lets him get away with anything and there is no father figure. He is currently in alternative school, and this is the third time he has been there this year. I have tried everything from bribes, to talking, to love and logic strategies. Is there anyone out there with a suggestion for me???

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Linda Blum's picture
Linda Blum
1st grade teacher

Hi Lindsey,
I can really empathize with you regarding this child, as I had a couple of children with the same behaviors my first year of teaching. One of the children was diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder. The other child was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Both children are now in third grade and continue to struggle with their disorders, but have been helped with the right combination of medications and behavior plans. It is a long process to find what works for each child as there can be so many factors involved. These children need so much support from all parties involved with the child: teacher, parent, administration, counselors, psychologists, student support specialists, and the family doctor. Everybody has to be on the same page with the child, talking to the child his behavior, setting and reinforcing limits, letting the child know that you care about him no matter his behavior, holding him accountable to your expectations.

Regarding your student, you had mentioned that his mother lets him get away with anything and their is no father figure. He also seems to harbor alot of aggression and defiance. I think this is worth looking into by a trained professional such as a doctor or psychologist. Is it possible to meet with his mom and explain to her that you need her help by establishing rules and accountability at home? Is there a school support system in place where this child could get a mentor? Is there a formal behavior management plan in place that allows him to work for a goal of his choice? Does the boy meet with a school psychologist who can reinforce a behavior management plan and coordinate with a doctor for medical treatment if necessary?

I really don't think there is a cure-all for these children, which is why they especially need a caring team of people who hold them accountable for their behavior.

Lindsey Stallings's picture

Hi Linda,

This child is receiving many services. He goes to a counselor three times a week outside of school. He has been to two or three doctors and psychologists. I have met with his mother and she says that he is her "miracle baby" and that she does not want to discipline him. I know that this is the main problem. At the school level we have a support system and plan in place for when he acts out. I really like the idea of him having a mentor in the school. I am going to try and find someone that he will agree to go talk to each day and maybe that will help. Thank you for your response.

Linda Blum's picture
Linda Blum
1st grade teacher

Do you have a student support specialist or a parent coordinator in your school? Both people in our school help coordinate and/or mentor students in our school. I can't help but think that 'mom' is the key to reaching this child. It's almost as if he's acting out to get her to discipline him. Children need to know that the people who love them have boundaries for them. It seems as if this mother, hasn't set boundaries for this child. Do you know if the mother goes to counseling with the child and sits in on the counseling? Perhaps, his counselor could assist in getting support from the mother?

Brigitte Haas's picture
Brigitte Haas
Teacher for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

I do agree that the boundaries are the biggest and most effective approach while in school. One student that I work with has incredibly disruptive behaviors. The teacher has set into place that, when the student is acting out, the student is asked if he would like to stay or leave. If he states that he wants to stay, then he is told exactly what needs to happen for him to stay. If he acts out again, he is escorted out of the room. Prior to this approach, the entire class would actually leave and he would be left in the room with a para-professional. When the teacher returned, she would discuss what happened and it has actually helped to the point that he only has to leave an average of once a week now.
Not to sound negative, but sometimes the parents are not going to be helpful and the school has to find a way to reach the student. I think that your student is really looking for some structure so that he feels safe and cared for. If his mom is not offering this, he is seeking it out in school. Set up a behavior plan with him and let him know the clear expectations...and make sure that you have a team to follow through with the consequences as well as the praises that he will attain. Start with small baby steps....he stays in his seat for 5 minutes without disrupting verbally...and then work up from there. For a student who has never had ANY boundaries, it will be a tough transition...but so worth it in the end.

Keep up the good work and best of luck!

conal wright's picture

I worked in an alternative school setting in a residential treatment center so believe me when I say that this is not an easy task. The most effective thing I have found with this sort of student is to find how you can connect with him and use that to establish your place of authority, not a friendship. All the doctors and therapist in the world are not going to help because therapy is not real and these kids need real life intervention. Your student does not know how to build proper relationships because he has never seen it in his real life. He needs to be "reprogrammed" so to speak.

His mother is a whole other issue and the same issue at the same time. She needs to be reprogrammed too. The diffenence is that you have no authority with her.

Keep working and be patient. Your student will respond but you have to establish your authority first if it is going to work

Linda Blum's picture
Linda Blum
1st grade teacher

Hi Brigitte,
The circumstances and plan that you described in your response is also used in our school to deal with children with severe behavioral problems. I do think that this child can, as you suggested, learn to work with the school's boundaries if those boundaries are clearly stated and strictly enforced.

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