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Behaviour Management

Why do children misbehave?

Throwing water on an electrical fire will not put the fire out, it can make things worse. Similarly, bringing out a reward chart to solve the wrong problem behaviour could exacerbate the situation.

It is said that most problems in life are because of two reasons, either we act without thinking or we keep thinking without acting. In some classrooms, undesired behaviour in the room can obstruct learning and cause upset or frustration. Teachers may reprimand or reward alternative behaviour as their training has taught them but experience little success. 

Why is this?

Perhaps it is because teachers are trying to solve the problem with the wrong solution. Much like when trying to put out a fire, the source of the fire will decide what type of solution is needed. Throwing water on an electrical fire will not put the fire out, it can make things worse. Similarly, bringing out a reward chart to solve the wrong problem behaviour could exacerbate the situation.

This is why teachers should have an imaginary behaviour management toolkit. There should be lots of different strategies and interventions included based on alternative theoretical perspectives so they can use their nous or trial-and-error until success is achieved.

Behaviour should be viewed as communication. Anyone who performs a behaviour is trying to communicate some kind of message. Children who engage in undesired behaviour can be doing so because of a number of reasons such as:

  • To communicate how they are feeling.
  • To obtain the desired result such as having a tantrum to be removed from the room to avoid work.
  • They do not know what the expected behaviour is.
  • Unreasonable expectations have been set for them.
  • Hunger.
  • Tiredness.
  • May have a challenging home situation.

There is a myriad of reasons to explain behaviour and depending on the explanation, a different intervention is needed. If a child is acting out because they don’t know what the expected behaviour is, teaching and rewarding the expected behaviour is a great strategy. If a child is coming in and misbehaving because they are tired and hungry, however, is teaching and rewarding the expected behaviour the most suitable intervention? I do not believe so. 

When a teacher is faced with challenging behaviour and little success. Think about why and what the child is trying to communicate. Think and then, use observations to identify patterns or anecdotal records to see if there is an underlying cause that can be addressed. Think and then act.

By Barry Whelan

A teacher with a huge interest in improving behaviour, communication and inclusion.

3 replies on “Why do children misbehave?”

I work with teachers to help them to understand and interpret what a child is trying to tell them through their behaviour. We then work together to create effective positive behaviour support strategies that meet the child’s needs and reduce the impact of their behaviours. It’s so important to take the time to try and understand the communication.

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