Thursday, May 23, 2013

When are challenging children challenging?

If we focus on a child's misbehaviour we will want to talk about how they:
  • yell
  • cry
  • pout
  • threaten
  • stomp
  • whine
  • bite
  • kick
  • punch
  • spit
  • scream
Or we can focus on identifying their lagging skills. For example, my student Harry has difficulty:
  • persisting on challenging or tedious tasks
  • considering a range of solutions to a problem
  • expressing concerns, needs, or thoughts in words
  • managing emotional response to frustration so as to think rationally
  • shifting from an original idea, plan or solution
  • appreciating how his behaviour is affecting other people
Which list should we focus on? Which list should dominate our meetings?

Can you see how focusing on lagging skills, rather than misbehaviours, gives us more valuable information for working with children like Harry?

Focus too much on the child's misbehaviours and we will never discover the unsolved problems that are truly plaguing the child.

Ultimately, I don't really care about what challenging children do when they are challenging -- I would rather spend my limited time, effort and resources focusing on when challenging children are challenging. Under what circumstances are the demands of their world calling on their lagging skills?

The next time you have a meeting about a challenging child, set a 5 minute time limit at the beginning and allow everyone to talk about the child's misbehaviour, and then for the rest of the meeting, talk about the child's lagging skills and unsolved problems.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree. I'm just in the middle of my first practicum and so have a little bit of experience with kids misbehaving, but I treat/understand the misbehaviour as merely a symptom of something else and start asking, "Are they bored? Are they lost? Do they need encouragement to persist? Do they need help with refocusing? Are they overwhelmed? Do they need some physical activity?" For example, the boys in my class were jumping all over the place and pushing each other around while waiting to be lined up for choir. Rather than threaten them, I stopped and realized that we'd had indoor recesses (i.e., no physical activity). I suggested some quiet activity, and one boy said we should play "Simon Says," so I said, "Okay, you can lead. But we're playing 'whisper' Simon Says and whomever talks louder than a whisper, you can call them out." Worked like a charm!


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