WHY CHILDREN ACT OUT
According to Diana Browning Wright of the Schwab Learning Foundation, specific negative behaviors may be exhibited as a result of a child’s specific learning disability, such as ADHD, autism, or other learning issues; however, many children without learning disabilities also exhibit problematic modes of conduct, as “success in school involves being able to complete work, stay organized, get along with kids and adults, be positive about your own abilities and school, follow rules, and do your best work. But some kids […] may develop behavior problems that add to the risk of failure.”
While children may exhibit problematic behaviors for a myriad of either understood or unknown reasons, Wright further asserts that “before we can understand children’s behavior, we must understand their needs. In addition to their physical needs — food, clothing, shelter — kids need fun, freedom, power, and a sense of belonging. If these needs aren’t met in positive ways, problems develop.”
In examining children’s needs, oftentimes some children in the school setting may need to move around and burn off extra energy. This can often stimulate classroom behavior issues. Considering that children often have to sit and learn quietly for hours at a time, these constraints may prompt behavior problems. For many parents, helping their children overcome these hurdles involves teaching them social skills that are appropriate for their grade.
Adding to this, it is often the case that behaviors are a child’s way of communicating. Perhaps a specific negative behavior is the child’s attempt to explain a hidden complaint or fear. As Wright further explains, “once you understand what her behavior communicates about her needs, you can help her learn more appropriate behaviors.” Parents and teachers can strive to understand a child’s behavior by opening up the child to a discussion about how they’re feeling in school, or by meeting for a parent-teacher conference to address specific concerns and issues in order to brainstorm a plan of action. In striving to collaborate in order to help support the struggling child, “when parents, teachers, kids, administrators, and other school staff develop a behavior plan together, success is more likely. Each person needs to understand his role and communicate with others involved. Everyone, not just your child, needs rewards to keep a plan going.”
PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS AND BEHAVIORAL PROGRAMS
For students who are exhibiting serious behavior issues and classroom distractions, public schools have designed a program to help focus in on the students’ specific conduct issues. In most public schools, children who have behavior conduct disorder or emotional disabilities are enrolled into a program that focuses on behavior modification. In these programs, the student is pulled out of their regular course and is provided with a new set of classes specifically designed to focus on structure and discipline.
Specifically, these public school programs focus on rewards and punishments for altering behavior patterns. For example, a child can “graduate” from the behavior class if they do not experience any “timeouts” or reprimands for disobeying the classroom rules. Once a child is taught the rules and guidelines for positive behavior, the child may return to his or her regular classroom once per month, while gradually earning the privilege to attend his or her regular classroom full time. For many of these programs, if the student can behave appropriately for 90 days, then he or she can return back to the standard classrooms.
To encourage positive behavior after a child leaves the behavioral program, both teachers and education specialists can monitor their progress in the classroom and in periodic student-teacher conferences. Should the child revert to previous behavior patterns, or is still disruptive in the classroom, then the student will be asked to return to the behavior modification program.
Typically, children who engage in a behavioral program early on are able to combat their negative modes of conduct, and are taught how to positively and appropriately engage in their regular environment and surroundings – which will bode well through elementary, middle, and high school.