Why You Should Dig Deeper into Challenging Behavior

Photo of Emma (Teach Starter)
Updated | 5 min read

We’ve all been there. When it comes to managing challenging behavior, who hasn’t judged a child based solely on past experiences? Who hasn’t judged a child without giving them a second thought?

It’s incredibly easy as a teacher to stereotype a child as being ‘naughty’.

When a child is constantly found participating in negative situations, exhibiting negative behavior, or breaking the rules, it’s easy to roll your eyes and think “Of course, it’s *insert child’s name* again. What a surprise!”.

Why You Should Dig Deeper Into Challening Behaviour

I don’t know a teacher who hasn’t fallen victim to that thought pattern at least once in their careers. Sometimes it gets to a point where you accuse a child of a crime before you even know if they’re guilty!

But is that really fair on the child? Of course not!

Deep down, we know that this thought pattern isn’t the greatest way to manage challenging behavior and create positive relationships with our students.

So, how can we change our mindsets from one of judgment to one of curiosity? Here are some tips on how, and, if I haven’t convinced you already, WHY you should do it.

Dealing with Challenging Behavior

Digging deeper into challenging behavior and getting to the root of the problem is imperative when it comes to behavior management.

Changing your mindset to question instead of complain when presented with negative behavior is a fantastic way to grow as a teacher, and improve your classroom culture.

You will benefit from it, and so will your students. So, how do you do it?

Separate the Behavior from the Student

The first step in isolating WHY challenging behavior is happening is to separate it from the child. Remember, every child matters and every child deserves a chance! It is unlikely that a child is exhibiting negative behavior purely because they ‘want to’.

Why You Should Dig Deeper into Negative Behaviour - Students Acting Out

Separating the behavior from the child helps you remind yourself that there may be one or more contributing factors as to why a child is behaving a certain way.

It can be so hard! I know this, very well. I once had a student who would make my life miserable on a daily basis… he would wander around during carpet time, scream in other students faces when they did something he didn’t like, and poke his tongue out at me when I reprimanded him. It was hard, day after day, to keep my temper and maintain calm. I had to learn to redirect my thoughts.

Why was he doing this?

Communication is the key here! Have a conversation with your student. Consider some of the following questions when looking for the source of their behavior:

  • Are they having a rough time in an area other than school?
  • Have they been unwell?
  • Did they not sleep well the night before?
  • Are they processing something emotionally?

Digging deeper into negative behaviour - Have a conversation with your students

Try using some of the following phrases when discussing a child’s behavior:

“I’d like to understand what caused you to behave that way… can you explain to me what you were feeling?”

“I like you, but I don’t like the behavior you were just displaying. ”

“The consequences for that behavior are… What behavior could you choose next time?”

In the end, the child and I developed a deep understanding and respect for each other. By the time I left that school, he was one of my favorite students (not that teachers have favorites, of course!).

Remember, deal with the behavior, not the student.

Use Positive Behavior Management Strategies

Once you have addressed the motivation behind the behavior, it’s a great idea to alter the learning environment slightly so you can provide positive support for the child in question.

The aim is for a child who is acting out to feel that the benefits of behaving positively are the driving factor in behavior.

Encouraging positive behavior creates a better classroom environment for all students! As well as this, showing respect to students and valuing students as individuals helps build mutual trust. It encourages students to work together as a team with the teacher to reach a common goal.

Why You Should Dig Deeper into Negative Behaviour - Create a Positive Classroom Environment

Building positive behavior strategies starts with positive reinforcement! Students who feel supported and happy will be work in more proactive, positive ways to earn and keep your respect.

We have a number of appropriate resources to help you tackle this, either with individual students or your class as a whole in our Positive Reinforcement Learning Area.

Image of Positive Parent Notes - Happy Face

teaching resource

Positive Parent Notes - Happy Face

A set of parent notes to send home as positive feedback.

Teach Starter Publishing4 pages
Image of Life Skills Badges Resource Pack

resource pack

Life Skills Badges Resource Pack

A collection of student badges that celebrate student success and progress in life skills, personal and social development.

Teach Starter Publishing39 pagesGrades: 1 - 6
Image of Secret Student Conduct Management Resource Pack

resource pack

Secret Student Conduct Management Resource Pack

Create a mystery conduct management strategy in your classroom with a daily 'Secret Student'.

Teach Starter Publishing32 pagesGrades: K - 5
Image of Blurt Buttons - Classroom Management Strategy

teaching resource

Blurt Buttons - Classroom Management Strategy

Blurt Buttons are a great way to curb calling out in your classroom.

Teach Starter Publishing4 pagesGrades: K - 5

Other Great Reasons for Digging Deeper

Once you’ve got behavior management down pat (or are getting closer to the ideal) then don’t forget to appreciate the other benefits to digging deeper into behavioral issues in your classroom!

Build Stronger Relationships

The process of getting to know your students, especially the tricky ones, means that you are likely to build stronger relationships. This is true for the students, but also with their families!

Digging Deeper into Negative Behaviour

Parents of children who have behavioral issues may be experiencing similar issues at home. They may have also dealt with a number of other teachers bringing them the same news – that their child is causing problems at school.

Your proactive approach may be a breath of fresh air to them.

Showing parents that you are working to get to know their child and get to the bottom of the issue with the child’s input is a great way to gain their respect and support.

If a parent is experiencing the same behavior at home, they may have strategies or insight that you can use – or you may help them in turn!

Create Learning Opportunities for Yourself

One of the best, and possibly most important, side-effects of digging deeper into challenging behavior is the benefits it will have on yourself!

Digging deeper into challenging behavior will help you become a better teacher.

Changing your mindset to one of curiosity is not going to happen with the flick of a switch. It takes practice and reflection – it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!

Digging Deeper into Challenging Behaviour will help you become a better teacher.

Tackling challenging behavior in a calm manner will help you professionally and personally:

  • Working with troubled children will help you build your resilience.
  • Trying to resolve challenging behavior will stretch your problem-solving and communication skills.
  • Finally, your patience will be put to the test again and again – which is great for strengthening this vital teaching tool!

Resolving challenging behavior with a student will give you courage and motivation to do it whenever the opportunity presents itself to you. Your students will thank you for it!

What are your positive behavior management strategies?

Comment below to share them with us!


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