Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Manage Power & Control Behaviors

Ah, the joys of the very combative and controlling student! Many of our kiddos with emotional disabilities display these behaviors. Here's a few tips I've learned along the way to help manage these students so you can stop the disruption and keep teaching.

Stay calm.
I know, you're thinking, "DUH." But it needs to be said. You are the teacher & the "tone setter". If you are becoming agitated and your voice, face, and body are showing it... all bets are off. Take a deep breath, and honestly - SMILE. There is surprisingly a lot of research that states that it is really hard to stay angry if you're smiling. Not only will it help YOU to relax and calm yourself, but it sets the tone visually for the class. Even if you're NOT calm, you need to fake it 'til you make it with this student. 

No power struggles.
This student wants power. Giving it to them in small doses is perfectly acceptable, but getting yourself in a power struggle with a child is not. Repeat yourself once or twice, but do not continue after that. You will only engage and feed the student's negative behavior, otherwise known as reinforcing -YUP! If you give in to this power struggle you are literally telling the student they have an opportunity for what they want. Don't do that to yourself, the student, or the rest of your class. Some lines I use regularly to shut down a power struggle are:
"Okay, I'll wait." (followed by silence) 
"That's the answer. I'm not going to talk about this anymore." (followed by silence and returning to the lesson)
"We can have this conversation later when you are calm and ready to listen." (followed by silence and returning to the lesson)

Provide Choices....Always.
These kiddos are typically not huge fans of authority and following directives, hence the desire for power & control. Give them constant opportunities to have teacher made choices so they have some time when they do have the power and control over their own learning. Some examples are choosing from 3 books to read for next week's guided reading group, if they want a black or red marker, if they want to use paper or a white board, or which type of seat they would like to sit in. Flexible seating is a great choice for these types of students as they have elements of choice in their day.

Provide Jobs
Jobs are a great way for the student to have ownership & power over something. If they're not ready for a "table captain" type job, create something FOR them. They can be in charge of cleaning up the carpet the last 5 minutes of every day, or doing lunch count. You could even make something up, like putting popsicle sticks back in a cup after you use them for cold-calling. This also provides a really powerful and meaningful distraction if the student is caught up in a struggle. 

I hope these tips are helpful for you. What do you do to help keep the classroom calm with students who crave power & control?


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

5 Suggestions for Managing The Student Who Steals

Ah, the stealing student. It's so tough. The kid takes everything. From exciting things like toys and manipulatives to "weird stuff" like broken pencils and random office supplies. What do you even do?

In the ED/BD world we see this a lot. It's an unfortuante problem because it's one that cannot be ignored. In the "real world" (isn't school the real world too? I've never really understood that phrase, and here I am using it!), you get fined or arrested for this. It's a behavior that needs to stop now. Here are 5 suggestions to help deal with the kiddo taking stuff.

1.) Talk to them.

It's awkward. "Hey, you keep taking stuff..." How do you even start this conversation? Talking to the student, in private, is essential. Maybe another staff member like a counselor or social worker is helpful as well. Let them know, point blank, that you are aware that they are taking items in the classroom. Ask them, "Why?" Sometimes kids KNOW why they take things. Many children who steal have experienced homelessness and do not have many items to call there own, while others have lost many people/important things in their life and don't have a sense of object permanence. Talk with them.

2.) Set healthy boundaries.

When you see a child touching an item or attempting to take it - immediately stop them. Try something like, "Hey Kate, I see that you're looking at the marker set. If you want to see them, just ask me." Make sure you set a time so the child can experience the item they're looking at. Setting this boundary but not keeping the items off limits can help!

3.) Label their belongings.

Many classrooms have the "community supplies" situation going on. That may not work for this student. Allow them to have their things in a pencil box at their desk. Label their belongings with their name. Let them know that these items are THEIRS.

4.) Set the tone with their family.

Be sure to communicate this with their family in a way that shows concern, but compassion. Stealing feels really threatening to teachers, it has to me! The kids are taking your stuff and probably creating problems in your classroom because of it. We need to remember that there is an underlying cause to the stealing. Sometimes it's easy to discover, sometimes it's not. Often, families will come down harsh on children who steal. Shaming the child during this tough season is NOT going to make the behavior go away. Though we can't control the reactions of families, we can set the tone in a meeting or with a phone call. Offer suggestions on how to approach the topic. If the child feels very ashamed and upset by this confrontation, it's going to make it harder to get to the underlying issue of why the behavior is happening.

5.) Allow for special time for you and them.

Sometimes this can get really tough, and awkward, and tense. Make sure you have time with the student to allow them to feel and experience that your relationship isn't completely damaged because of their behavior. Again, you'll never make progress if the child feels like they have ruined their relationship with their teacher! Maybe a lunch together, time after school to look at some materials they may have been "eying" in class, whatever works for you!

I've been in this boat, not knowing what the best course of action is with this behavior. While I can't solve your student's challenges, hopefully my suggestions help get your wheels turning on how to address this in your classroom. Have you ever experienced this with a student? Comment below!!