With the amount of stories in the press every week about another school incident and bad behavior, some people can’t be blamed for coming to the extreme conclusion that school is bad for children. Bad behaviour in school seems to be far more widespread today than in previous generations, but it also has far more of a spotlight on it as well.
Background on Bad Behaviour in School
Student and classroom bad behavior doesn’t just suddenly happen. In most cases the behavior manifests over time and is often associated with other issues from home, initial upbringing, primary socialization training or lack of it, or medical conditions.
Everyone is fairly in agreement that school success for students at any level involves being able to:
- Socialize well with the class group.
- Complete and perform the work provided in a timely fashion and correctly.
- Stay organized and on track with what is coming in assignments.
- Follow the school and classroom rules.
- Have a positive attitude.
Even primary grade school children have to meet the above five elements in a fashion that is appropriate for their age.
However, students bad behaviour in school and elsewhere can manifest early on, many times outside the conscious control of the child. Some of the most common examples include known learning disabilities, like dyslexia for example, as well as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). That doesn’t mean every child that is not providing 100 percent attention is by default AD/HD or has a mental disability, which is “diagnosed” by non-medical licensed teachers far too often. What it does mean is that some students do in fact have clear cases of barriers to their ability to learn and socialize, and those barriers require additional help to overcome.
The classic signs of bad behavior in school are often the same signs used to make an early diagnosis of a condition. These include:
- Difficulty or a complete inability to follow a teacher’s directions.
- An inability or difficulty to socialize well and regularly with other children and classmates.
- The child verbalizes that he or she is a failure or hates school and doesn’t want to go to class.
- The child is spending more time in the principal’s office for getting in trouble than time in class.
- Standard incentive awards don’t seem to have any impact on changing the behavior.
How the Bad Behavior in School Manifests
It is often the case that the early signs of a child’s bad behavior pattern are already appearing at home, especially if the child has siblings she or he interacts with regularly. However, many parents don’t see the signs themselves, often due to not knowing what to look for or dismissing the matter as just an untrained child who needs school and routine to get in shape.
The child also picks up signals and cues when his behavior is finally being monitored or responded to. However, he often does not always understand or comprehend in the primary grades what is actually being communicated for a desired behavior change. He just knows that he gets people’s attention with a given behavior pattern. So the case often manifests as a way to ensure a teacher or others are interacting directly with the child, but for everyone else the behavior is disruptive and unacceptable for a group learning environment.
Bad behavior can also manifest in a form of retaliation. A child often knows when he or she is not performing at the same level as the class group. The child sees other classmates get rewarded for correct work, while he is punished or disciplined for his own actions. To compensate, a child may frequently disrupt or even attack other children verbally or physically to compensate for his own inability to figure out success in the classroom. By becoming a bully, he feels confident and powerful again, especially when in the learning environment he is the “weakling.”
Eliminating the Causal Factors behind Bad Behavior in School
Finding and eliminating the causal factors of school bad behavior in a child can be a very complicated affair. It’s not as if they have a switch in the back of their young heads that can be flipped and suddenly everything is a new day with a new person.
However, a good majority of issues stem from the child’s home life. Parents have to take a good introspective look and be honest with what potential influences at home could be causing a child to act out at school. Anything that threatens the stability of home life will definitely stress a child, who will then act out on that anxiety or fear away from home. Food allergies have been well known to cause irritation, anxiety and frustration for children later on when their system is digesting the material. Other fears can cause significant behavior changes in children as they are looking for ways to express fear, anger and frustration by what is causing the fear in the first place.
Digging into what causal factors may exist often helps in providing the means or the direction to go in to change bad behavior. However, parents have to be willing to examine their own home life and make changes if needed. This is often a hard barrier to overcome because it means acknowledging that change at home is needed.
In some cases, as noted earlier, the cause may very well be a biological or mental condition that is impairing the child’s ability to function normally in a socialized setting. Early diagnoses by trained physicians, not teachers or laypeople or school specialists, is critical to help turn around a student as early as possible. Such cases are not as common as the media and urban myth would make them out to be; in fact, home life is very often the cause of disruptive behavior in the majority of cases.
Next Steps when It Comes to Bad Behavior in School
With causal factors identified, parents then need to create an action plan, including the help of school officials and physicians if needed. The goal is to provide a child the critical tools needed to function with groups without being disruptive. If there are ways to help a child express fear or anxiety without the disruptive behavior, these are often used with smaller, younger children. Instead of letting the child get angry and loud to get attention, the child should be convinced to go to a teacher and stay close. This signals to the teacher that attention is needed and it allows the child to communicate without being disruptive to the rest of the class. Simple tools often go a long way in changing a child’s behavior, as well as eliminating the disruption pattern that often gets the child removed from the learning environment entirely.
Parents should be willing to make changes to home life if they are needed and identified. If it means having parental discussion at different times when children are not present, the parents need to adjust. If it means not talking about stressful issues in front of children such as household finances, that can be changed. If it means adjusting exposure to the TV, radio, music or other elements that can influence thought and behavior, it shouldn’t be resisted. These are all elements that children pick up on very quickly and then develop their own perspectives as a result. It also affects their behavior and life outlook. Just watch how kids pretend-play at being adults when they are immersed in a game, and their perspective of life around them becomes very, very evident.
Where medication is needed for behavior treatment, it should be under a physician’s guidance, not a teacher or school’s direction. Only a doctor is licensed to fully understand what is needed for medical treatment and how it will affect a child mentally and physically.
Bad behavior in school gets a lot of spotlight in today’s media, but the causal factors and solutions unfortunately do not. Parents, schools, and physicians are often in a position of potentially working together to resolve school behaviour problems in a child, and going about the matter the right way can make a big difference. However, everyone involved has to be willing to work together with each child on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, the child often gets relegated to a “closet” just to remove them from the class and stop the disruption. That doesn’t solve the problem, and it creates a persona in the child that will continue to let the bad behavior grow worse over time.
If you have a child exhibiting bad behavior in school, it is about time you educate yourself on the causes and the repercussions and consequences of their bad behavior in school!