How to Solve Children’s Problem Behaviors at Home and in the Classroom

It’s 3:15 PM and your classroom is quiet–at last. You think back on the day. It started with Suzie punching Jeff in the stomach and ended with Norm burping loud enough to wake the dead during Mrs. Newman’s announcement. In between Douglas dropped his math homework in a puddle on the way to school and a car drove over it, Leah stole Jeremy’s chocolate cake, Seth bare-face lied about erasing your science lesson during recess, Joanie burst out crying when nobody picked her for baseball–and there’s more, but you can’t remember. You start thinking about what to make for dinner, your own kids and how they’re doing at school, and the social studies reports you still have to mark. Your dreams of becoming the perfect teacher fade into oblivion.

Do you find yourself scrambling–not knowing what to do with some kids, or, knowing what to do but not having the time or energy to do it? Ideally, you want to keep one step ahead of the game–and sometimes you are–but other times you’re reacting from one disaster to the next. Part II is a fistful of ready-made solutions you can rely on when the problems hit. Many of them, by the way, will help parents as well. Most of these strategies are either behavioral, “Changing What Children Do,” or cognitive, “Changing How Children Think.” For both types, I’ll explain how they work, how you can set them up in your classroom or home, and how you can get the best results. Some of the particular strategies you will learn are the right way to praise, no-fail steps for setting up a behavior modification program, problem-solving, anti-arguing instructions, and side-stepping the power struggle.

In addition, I offer you an armload full of suggestions on what to do when children misbehave. These are for problems you meet up with everyday–lying, attention-seeking, and noncompliance for instance–but may not have found a solution that works with a particular child. If you find attention deficit disorder children challenging, or feel awkward talking about sex with children, or want to include social skills training in your curriculum don’t skip the last part of this section, it may help you. Preceding these I lay down the stepping stones to success by telling you how to make rules children will follow, and how to put your rules into action.

As I mentioned earlier the solutions I present in Part II, work, but their life is limited. Children are the focus. Permanent changes like the ones I talk about in Part IV demand more from you. These are harder to get and take longer. Your ten year-old isn’t going to start trusting you just because you’ve tried active listening with her for a day. You may need to offer her something special in the meantime, until the two of you can reach some common ground. The strategies in Part II are there to help you get over the hump, until your long-term changes start taking over.