Working with Challenging Children: Tips to Make It Easier

Are you ready to face some of the most challenging weeks of the year?  The stress of state testing and changes in our routines weakens children’s ability to stay resilient and brings out negative behaviors from even the best behaved children. For children with poor self control, coping skills, and/or other behavioral difficulties, these things can lead to meltdown, especially when teachers are worn out from the pressures of testing, record keeping, and year end clean up.  Let’s face it.  Dealing with discipline isn’t pleasant for anyone, so perhaps this is a good time to share how we might avoid it.  Here are a few ideas I have, and I know I could use a few tips myself.

As Much as Possible, Stick to the Normal Routine.

 We are all creatures of habit, and when routines are disrupted, none of us like it.  All kids enjoy parties, projects, and fieldtrips, but for the child that really counts on a routine, these fun events can lead them into trouble. Our attention may be pulled by the to-do lists we have, so we may miss the child’s warning signs.

Provide a Visual Schedule to Help Students Know What to Expect.

Giving advanced notice of change and posting it may make all the difference. Many teachers do this year round, but if you haven’t included this, you might give this a try.  It may be a child specific schedule that is needed.  One idea is to use a small cookie sheet and magnetic self adhesive sheets normally used for business cards to make magnetic event labels.  They can be moved and reused easily.

Watch for the Events That Trigger Behaviors and Plan Ahead.

As routines change, we need to increase our awareness of our students’ moods.  We need to be aware of what sets some off, and head off the triggers before they happen.  Cuing students for changes and giving them choices when possible can help them feel more comfortable with the changes.  Yes, this takes time, but I’d venture to guess that more time is spent handling problems that arise when we aren’t proactive.

Allow Flexibility in Movement, Snacks (if needed) and Space.

As we know in reading, one size does not fit all with book selection. Children have varying tastes in their interests and read at different levels.  A book that one child loves may be totally wrong for another.  It is the same way with behaviors.  For some children, we can not adopt a one size fits all behavior plan.  As we teach, we keep learning styles in mind, and we need to be aware of children’s needs with classroom behavior too.  For the child with unique behavioral needs, a break, a kind word, a snack, a chance to move, or additional space may keep him/her on the learning train. Again, meltdowns take a lot more time then allowing a little wiggle time.  In fact, incorporating movement into the teaching routine helps children improve attention.

Build a Strong Connection with the Challenging Child to Find Out What’s Important to Him/Her.

challenging-students-1I will end with one last thought, and that is to make the challenging child your buddy.  If a challenging child knows that he/she can trust you and that you care, that will increase motivation to please you. A warm good morning, a compliment, an inquiry about the child’s activities outside of school, or a comment that you care about them builds security.  Security builds trust and keeps the child positive.
I will close with a reminder that many heads are better than one.  I could really use a few ideas too, and I’m looking forward to reading the other blog posts.  If you don’t blog, please share your ideas in the comments.Have a great testing season, and may the challenging child move through it meltdown free.  Until next time…happy reading!


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Plenty of great information to help us make it through the end of the school year! I think it is really important to plan ahead for triggers that could cause conflict. Great point.
    Burke's Special Kids

  2. Good reminders! I'm so glad you started this linky. I hope to be able to participate more. If you have time to email me the topics in advance that would be awesome. It takes me a long time to think. 🙂
    Not very fancy

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