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TOP 10 WAYS TO RESPOND TO DEFIANT BEHAVIOR IN THE CLASSROOM

 

Defiant behavior in the classroom is a reality for all teachers.  Classroom teachers, special subject teachers and assistant teachers, all have to respond to a variety of defiant behavior(s), sometimes, on a daily basis.  Defiant behavior(s) also affects the other students who share space with those who are struggling.

 

Some, experience severe behaviors.  This post will address mild-moderately defiant behaviors.  These are behaviors that are unsettling and/or disruptive to your teaching, including; non-compliance, arguing and being rude and disrespectful.

*The strategies discussed here and the Freebies passed along, are not intended for significantly defiant behaviors that may be dangerous to you or the student.  Those behaviors and related strategies are outside of the scope of this blog post.  For help with excessively aggressive or dangerous behavior, seek the help of a qualified mental health professional and or behavior specialist.

 

HOW TO RESPOND TO DEFIANT BEHAVIOR

 

 

When students are defiant with us, how we respond is very important. 

  

Depending on the situation, we may want to respond in one of 3 ways: 

  • Disengage
  • Interrupt
  • De-Escalate

Additionally, 3 things you do NOT want to do are:

 

  • Get Visibly Angry {even though you may feel angry}
  • Raise Your Voice {keep a calm, neutral/flat voice}
  • Use Intimidation {as opposed to giving a clear/pre-determined consequence}

 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these 3 choices. 

In many cases of defiant behavior, the best choice is to disengage with the student.  Do not allow them to “bait” you into a power struggle.  Power struggles never end up favoring the teacher.  In a power struggle, no one usually wins, but often the student believes he/she won.

 

To Disengage with a student who is showing defiant behavior:

 

  • Breathe deeply before responding {this helps you to be calm and gives a bit of time before you respond}
  • Ignore small stuff {don’t get caught up in a cycle of defiance}
  • If necessary to attend to the behavior, use a neutral voice to state what was wrong and to implement a pre-determined and expected consequence, i.e. do not deliver and “off the cuff” consequence
  • Be brief, use few words
  • Move on as quickly as possible 
  • Don’t hold a grudge {reward positive behaviors as quickly as possible}

 

 

To Redirect a student who is showing defiant behavior:

{only if the behavior is mild and can be ignored}

 

  • Divert the student’s attention to something more positive {a preferred book or topic of conversation, etc.}
  • Change of setting {get a drink of water, deliver a note, etc.}
  • Take a cool down or sensory break
  • Show empathy, then move on

 

To De-Escalate a student who is showing defiant behavior:

 

  • Use positive wording vs. negative {“When you are finished with your math, you can have free choice”…vs. “No free choice until your math is done.” }
  • Use neutral non-verbal body language and facial expressions {try not to mirror students body language, keep your hands down and sit or bend down}
  • Acknowledge the student’s control, then state your wish {“You can choose to rip your paper, but I hope you do not.”}
  • Consider postponing consequence {if student is very agitated, postpone consequence until they are calm}
  • Allow student a way to “save face” {give them an “out” a negotiation that is brief and clear but acceptable to both}
  • Use humor {must know your student to know if this strategy is appropriate or not}
  • Try to get a “Yes” response {ask questions that the student would likely say “Yes” to, this can activate a positive feeling in the student}

  

Always be calm, brief, direct and non-judgmental.  Give the student time {to respond} and space {personal space}. 

 

Think about what the function of the behavior might be.  If you know that the student is being defiant because he/she is insecure about his/her ability to do the task, come up with ways to make it more accessible to them, easing them into more challenging work…slowly.

 

There are dozens and dozens of strategies to help decrease and de-escalate defiant behaviors.  Here are my top 10 favorites, for supporting students who exhibit mild – moderately defiant behaviors.

 

De-Escalation Strategies For Teachers To Use With Students 

1. Stay or Get Calm

2. Use a Low or Neutral Voice

3. Validate The Student’s Feelings

4. Listen Without Judgement

5. Show Empathy

6. Encourage a Break or a Calming Strategy That Has Been Pre-Taught And Practiced

7. Give “Planned” Choices {Plan ahead so that you only give choices that you can/will accept}

8. Ignore Minor Behaviors

9. Give Clear Instructions Using Few Words

10. Recognize And Praise Desired Behaviors {as soon as possible}

 

 

Keep the teacher poster: De-Escalation Strategies, handy for you to review, on a daily basis and when your student(s) are engaging in defiant behaviors. 

 

And Here Are My Top 10 Calm Down Strategies, For Kids

1. Take Slow, Deep Breaths

2. Count To 10, Forwards And Backwards

3. State Your Feelings 

4. Take A Short Break

5. Think Positive Thoughts

6. Change Your Environment {with permission-go for a walk or move to another part of the room}

7. Think About What You Need {and then tell an adult}

8. Accept Help

9. Think About Consequences   “If_____/Then______”

10. Think About What Size The Problem Really Is

 It is important to pre-teach these strategies and practice them often, when the student is calm.  This will help the student to be able to access the strategies when they are upset.

 

 

Grab your copy of these handy posters by joining my Weekly Freebies Club, The Teacher’s Lounge.

Simply fill out the form below . See you in the lounge!

 

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