Teaching Children With Behavioral Problems

Kids with behavioral problems can present a challenge for their teachers; however, that challenge exists for each one of these children as well. Children who are not compliant and exhibit behavior problems in the classroom most often are kids looking for help, for answers to their problems or for positive reinforcements about their self worth.


The main challenge a teacher faces when confronted with a student who has behavioral problems is how to keep that child’s issues from interfering with daily classroom activities. Teachers also sometimes need to deal with the inordinate amount of time it takes away from the rest of the class to deal with the child with behavioral problems. Sometimes it’s a challenge to prevent the child and her behavior from becoming the focus of the classroom. In addition to these issues, conscientious, caring teachers hope to make some progress toward improving the student’s behavior.

Time Frame

Children with behavioral problems in the classroom can range from preschoolers through high school students. Kids under 3 usually have not yet begun to master the skill of impulse control, and although some children never do, by the age of 5 most kids begin to remember past consequences for inappropriate behavior and reign themselves in. Behavioral specialists, depending on the school district or educational setting, work with kids of all ages; however, it is mainly younger students with severe behavior problems who may be assigned a paraprofessional aid to help them (and their teachers) navigate through the school day.


For most teachers and students, there is a trial-and-error period during which the teacher tries implementing a variety of strategies to see what might be effective. For example, teachers might implement a reward system based on appropriate behavior. Another strategy might be to give the child leadership opportunities within the classroom. Some teachers find that certain behavior problems improve when kids are allowed to have a choice of assignments. Kids with behavior problems often respond well to classrooms in which the activities are changed every 15 minutes.


Teachers of kids with behavioral problems can find some support from a variety of resources. The first of those sources are the parents; when they are kept in close contact through e-mail and phone calls, parents can implement classroom strategies for improving behavior at home. Counselors, school psychologists and behavioral specialists can form a support team for the classroom teacher, as can any special teachers, such as music, art and physical education instructors when they all agree to use the same techniques for improving behavior.


In his book, “No Such Thing As a Bad Kid!: Understanding and Responding to the Challenging Behavior of Troubled Children and Youth,” Charles Appelstein suggests that the focus should be on why a child’s inappropriate behavior exists, rather than what to do about it. He likens the issue to a doctor dispensing medication without searching for the cause of the symptoms.



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