Tuesday, May 15, 2018

When Frustration Leads to Defiance

No one wants to deal with defiant students no matter how young or old they are or the form that the defiance takes. Whenever I conduct workshops to help teachers cope with and support challenging students, the most common concern that I hear is always about students who are defiant and disrespectful. It is a serious discipline concern that we all share.

The toll that student defiance takes on teachers can be harsh. After all, few teachers go home at the end of a successful and productive school day worried about what will happen next class. Even the most stalwart of us find it hard to leave the emotional problems caused by defiant students at school. These tend to be the problems that cause us to sleep poorly and to contemplate changing careers.

One of the most productive ways to stop defiant students from acting out in your classroom is to first determine the cause of the misbehavior instead of blindly reacting just to the incident and its negative effects on the general atmosphere in the classroom itself. When you take the time to do this, several good things happen at once.

You treat the defiant student with respect despite the bad behavior

You send a message to the other students that you will not lose your cool

You preserve the dignity of the misbehaving student

You will be far closer to resolving the situation than if you just reacted to it

The cause of defiance is usually something that the student has been seething about for a while. Given the nature of the modern classroom, there are plenty of opportunities for students to have wounded feelings or a sense of frustration. And it is often  this frustration that causes students to react impulsively and to lash out.

To find the cause, first talk gently to the student who has been defiant. This is best done in private. If you both need a few moments to cool down, then be sure to allow that time. No one can hear even a reasonable explanation when they are stressed and upset.

As you talk, don't be accusatory. Keep your language as factual and dry as possible. Describe what you saw and heard. Then, tell the student that you want to listen carefully to what he or she has to say.

Listen carefully. Ask a tactful question or two. Figure out what caused the incident.

Try not to be preachy. Do not induce guilt. Your relationship with the student has no place in this discussion. Stick to the facts at hand. Determine the cause and act accordingly.

Once you have had this conversation with the student, then you can make the decision about how to proceed. Not every defiant act deserves a harsh consequence. Your innate teacher's judgement will allow you to make the best decision that you can make now that you are informed about the cause.