School Behavior

Problem Behavior, Solved

How teachers of students with ADHD can keep the peace in their classrooms by learning to defuse anger.

Violent, Defiant, teen boy stares into distance with brick wall behind him
Violent, Defiant, teen boy stares into distance with brick wall behind him

It’s not hard to rein in a heedless or unruly grade-schooler. If a verbal warning doesn’t get him to behave, the loss of privileges or a trip to the principal’s office probably will.

But what’s the best approach when the child you’re trying to discipline is as big and strong as you are? How do you defuse a teenager’s anger or ease his frustration without embarrassing him or — worse — triggering a physical confrontation?

In less tense situations, you may be able to redirect your student. A private signal, such as tapping her desk, can serve to bring her back on task. Or suggest an alternative behavior: “I need your help. Will you take these books to the library for me?”

Private Conversations

You may be able to nip an outburst in the bud simply by talking with the student. If possible, do it discreetly, so he can save face with his peers. You can slip him a note asking him to stay to talk to you after class.

When you meet with the student, listen to what he says. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t take sides. Show that you understand his problem. You might say, “I know you’re upset because you failed the test, even though you studied. Still, you’re not allowed to storm out of the classroom. Let’s rethink your study plan, so this doesn’t happen again.”

No matter what your student’s emotional state, it’s important that you remain calm. Speak quietly and matter-of-factly, but make your point: “It is not OK for you to talk back.”

Leaving the Classroom

Despite your best efforts, there will be times when a student’s frustration boils over. For such occasions, it’s important to have a plan in place.

Let him know that he has permission to go to the guidance counselor’s office, resource room, or to another trusted teacher if he needs to cool off. Keep a laminated permission card on your desk that he can grab, so he can leave the classroom immediately. If a student is extremely agitated, ask another student to accompany him.

Adapted from Teaching Teens with ADD and ADHD (Woodbine House), by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy.