Three Strategies to Understand and Address Misbehaviors

October 26, 2021

Behavior management is a hot topic in the teacher realm. Needless to say, handling what’s often more than 20 students at a time can be challenging. Especially now. As students deal with uncertainty, stress, and isolation during remote learning – misbehaviors both in and out of school are on the rise.

And as parents, it can be frustrating to feel the need to constantly discipline and redirect our kids while also juggling our own work responsibilities. However, the strategies teachers use for behavior management can be used at home, too! 

To successfully address student misbehaviors, educators try to get to the root of the problem and then address the issue appropriately. 

Here are three strategies to help you better understand and address some of the most common misbehaviors. 

1.Be Mindful About Your Unspoken Rules

Unspoken rules are the deep-seated rules we are unaware of until the rule is broken. Because we are unaware of our unspoken rules, we rarely possess the language to express our concerns, frustrations, or even expectations. We tend to believe these rules are just the way the world works, and often cannot understand why someone would choose not to follow them. But once our rules are broken, we usually realize we never taught the desired behavior or even explicitly shared our expectations.

Reflecting on what is bothering us about a specific behavior and why we are bothered can change how we discipline children. We must help children become more mindful about their behavior by addressing the root of the problem.  

Example: Every day before lunch break, Alyssa throws a tantrum screaming “I’m hungry” while you rush to prepare lunch. 

Response: "Alyssa, every day I notice you yelling while I’m trying to prepare lunch for you. I’m preparing lunch as fast as I can, but you have to understand that cooking takes time and sometimes I have work to do, too. This makes me feel like you don’t appreciate me preparing lunch. When you’re hungry, please tell me once in a normal voice. I will 100% prepare lunch for you. But, I need you to stop yelling while I’m cooking.”  

  • Every day I notice you yelling while I’m trying to prepare lunch for you. You are addressing the situation directly (what) instead of being apprehensive. Children will be able to understand exactly what behavior you are addressing. 
  • I’m preparing lunch as fast as I can, but you have to understand that I have work to do, too. This makes me feel like you don’t appreciate me preparing lunch. You are explaining why this conduct is concerning. By establishing a reason, you are building empathy. You are also addressing the root of the problem.
  • When you’re hungry, please tell me once in a normal voice. I will 100% prepare lunch for you. But, I need you to stop yelling while I’m cooking.  Finally, establish redirection. Avoid redirections like “Stop yelling.” By addressing our concerns, we are building empathy and providing an alternative to the behavior in question. 

2. Use Quick, Simple, and Constant Redirections

Ever heard teachers use the phrase criss-cross, apple sauce to redirect students? Quick, simple phrases can help redirect children to your expected and desired behavior. Creating routines for behaviors — such as how you want your kids to sit at their desks or how you want their laptops set — can help you avoid misbehaviors. 

Tip: Avoid using verbs to establish redirection. It can unintentionally present negative feelings toward the redirection. For example, instead of saying, “Copy what is on my board,” say, "My board equals your paper."

Here are some examples to use during school hours: 

  • “45 degrees” – When you say 45 degrees the student understands that laptops must be closed at a 45-degree angle. 
  • “Feet, back, straight” – The student understands you are asking them to sit in the expected manner.
  • “Level zero” – Students must now be silent.

How you redirect students can save you time and negative emotions. Establishing quick redirections outside of the classroom hours can help you with other constant and/or consistent misbehaviors. For example “Bed ready” can redirect children to get ready for bed. 

3. Track Behavior with an ABC Tracker

Sometimes children have lagging skills or unsolved problems that you have not yet identified.

Lost at School by Ross W. Greene describes lagging skills as social, emotional, or executive skills that a child has yet to master. Unsolved problems are problems children face that they do not yet have the tools or skills to solve. Identifying lagging skills or unsolved problems can help you apply long-term strategies to correct misbehaviors.

To identify a pattern of behaviors, use an ABC Tracker:

  • Antecedent. What happens before the behavior occurs?
  • Behavior. What did the student do?
  • Consequence. What happens after the behavior? How do you react?

Once you’ve identified the behavior trend, understand which lagging skill(s) or unsolved problem(s) the student has a difficult time dealing with. Then, apply strategies to correct the behavior accordingly. Check out the video where Specialist Westley Baker explains how to use the ABC Tracker. 

Remember, this is a strategy that will take time. And it’s unlikely you’ll use this strategy all of the time. But sometimes we’re so busy with our other duties, it makes it difficult to identify trends in our child’s behavior: the ABC Tracker can help.

Stay current on the "new normal"
Receive support for your family's in-home education needs in a post-COVID world.
Thank you! You've signed up for our newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting your email.
Professional teachers for families
Qualified, committed, and diverse teachers sourced and curated for your family. Personalize learning and engagement at home.
OUR SERVICES