Managing challenging behaviours in the classroom

James Hourihan, Author

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is dealing with disruptive or challenging behaviours in the classroom. In fact, three-quarters of teachers have considered quitting as a result, with 45% saying their initial training had not prepared them to manage difficult pupil behaviour. 

Whether you’re a primary, secondary or special education teacher, understanding the reasons behind and identifying challenging behaviour can make all the difference to the quality of a student’s education, giving staff the confidence to teach and support their pupils using simple but effective person-centred approaches. 

Types of challenging behaviour 

There are a few different types of challenging behaviours that can present themselves in the classroom setting. Remember, no two students are alike, and now that more children with special educational needs (SEN) go to mainstream schools, it is essential for teaching staff to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to recognise behaviour that challenges, especially if it poses a risk to their safety and to others, or makes communication difficult.

This can include talking out of turn, interrupting other students, being inattentive by using their phone without permission, failing to comply with rules or instructions which can involve confrontation with the teacher or another student, and aggressive behaviour such as hitting, kicking, biting or destroying property. 

The causes of challenging behaviour 

All behaviour is a form of communication and this plays a major role in determining the underlying causes of challenging behaviour in schools. Some common causes include:

Lack of structure or clear expectations: If a student doesn’t have a clear understanding of what is expected of them this can lead to disruptive behaviour in an effort to get attention or figure out the rules.

Boredom or frustration: Challenging behaviour may arise if a student is bored or not engaged in their learning and they may misbehave as a way to relieve their boredom or frustration.

Poor social skills: Students who lack social skills, unable to express their emotions clearly or are excluded by others in their class could display challenging behaviour.

Learning disabilities: Those with conditions such as autism, ADHD and other learning difficulties could be feeling upset or frustrated because they are struggling to keep up with their peers or understand the material.

Trauma or stress: Children or young people who have experienced trauma or are under a lot of stress could be behaving badly to cope with their emotions.

Learned behaviour: Challenging behaviour could be the result of a child seeing others acting out at home and repeating their actions, or learning to misbehave as a method of getting their own way. 

Home environment: If students come from a chaotic or abusive home environment, this can influence their conduct in school and act in an inappropriate manner as a way to release their pent-up frustrations.

Strategies for managing challenging behaviours in the classroom 

Managing difficult behaviour in the classroom is an issue that many teachers face. However, it’s important to take a step back and figure out the causes to establish a safe learning environment for everyone to succeed. Here are a few positive behaviour strategies that schools can use. 

Build positive relationships: 

It is important to build positive relationships with all students in order to create a positive and respectful classroom environment. This includes getting to know each student individually, being interested and available to talk as a demonstration of care and concern.

Be a role model: 

Teachers need to be good role models for their students by managing their own emotions, using appropriate language, and behaving in a way that they would like their students to behave. Nonverbal communication is also crucial when it comes to building a rapport with pupils by being enthusiastic during lessons and taking a confident stance. 

Develop a class code of conduct: 

Developing a class code of conduct with your students can help them to understand what the expectations are and what the consequences will be if they do not meet them. The code of conduct should be reviewed regularly with the students and posted prominently around the classroom as a visual aid. 

Create a quiet area: 

Sometimes students just need a break from the hustle and bustle of the classroom or if they are feeling overwhelmed. Creating a quiet area where they can go to calm down and de-stress can be very helpful in managing challenging behaviours.

Recognise & reward good behaviour: 

Recognising and rewarding good behaviour when a person completes a task or performs an act of kindness is key to managing challenging behaviours in the classroom. This can be done through verbal praise, awards, or other positive reinforcement.

Keep a record: 

Keeping a record of incidents can help identify patterns and triggers so that you can develop more targeted strategies for managing those behaviours and stay consistent. It can also be helpful to share this information with other staff members who work with the student for all parties’ acknowledgement. 

It is important to tailor the approach to the individual child, as what works for one may not work for another. Remember to involve the child’s parents or carers in any classroom behaviour management plan, as they will be best placed to provide support at home.

Positive Behaviour Support from Timian 

Timian is a BILD Act certified provider of positive behavioural management training suitable for use in a wide variety of education settings. Our physical interventions training for schools can provide staff with the skills and knowledge to safely and effectively manage challenging behaviours. This type of restraint training can cover a range of topics, including how to:

– Understand the role of communication

– De-escalate a situation

– Use physical interventions safely with breakaway and positive handling techniques 

– Minimise restraint and restrictive intervention 

– Build a respectful and positive culture 

Click here to book a course, or call 0800 987 4075 for more information. 

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