Behavior Management - Handling Stinkers...

Each year that I have taught, there has been at least one (sometimes more) little stinkers that have helped shape my perspective and behavior management style. How do I survive it all and WANT those students in my room?

Yes, I really, truly want these children in my classroom.

Okay, okay... I am NOT insane, but I do know it takes a special person to truly take care of these tough behavior-type students. Have I gone practically insane at times - well, it has felt that way. After it is all said and done, I learn more about myself from the experiences and grow more from these experiences than anything. Is it tough along the way - MOST definitely.

How do I manage students with misbehaviors when they are all so very different?

Most times, you will not encounter any two children that have exactly the same behavioral needs. For this reason, you MUST be willing to learn new strategies every year. If you are unable or unwilling to try something new, you already gave up (in my opinion). In that situation, you will struggle and never see light at the end of the tunnel. Be open to suggestions from others, even if you think it will not work or that you have tried that before in the past and it didn't work - it might be different this time.

Next, you must have great classroom management skills. How do you know if you have great classroom management skills? Have someone (who will be honest with you) observe you and give you feedback - that is always the best way. Some of us THINK we have great classroom management skills, when in fact, we do not. Having a procedure and plan in place for everything is extremely important, as students need to know what to expect from the moment they enter your classroom. Try to keep it simple and be consistent with routines and procedures. If children do not know, they tend to act out.

I am a HUGE fan of visual schedules - no matter what classroom it is. Children need and want to know what is going to happen next. This will assist all students, especially those with disabilities. I wish I still had a photo of my visual schedule (pooey), but here is a lovely example (note: it is always best to use real photos, when possible):

(Source Unknown from Pinterest
please let me know if you know the source)

Once you have the first two down, it is time to get your mind in check. What!? You have to KNOW your students... really know them! What is causing the misbehaviors - is it to gain attention, is it due to something happening at home, is someone bullying them at school, etc. There is always a cause and once you find it, you will know how to accommodate the child.

Another thing to keep in mind that MANY teacher struggle with - PICK YOUR BATTLES!! This is huge, as there are so many thing we tend to harp on that are really not worth it. When something is going on (misbehaviors), ask yourself this: Is it harming the child, other children, or getting in the way of anyone learning? If the answer is truly NO, then do not worry about it. If the answer is YES, then, of course, take care of it. When I learned to pick my battles, things were so much easier. This past year, a child of mine was going through some emotional things at home (a lot of issues). More than anything, he just had to be near me or just touch my hand... something. Once he got this, without interrupting the environment, he began to make a turn around. This same child also pitched a fit when he did not get his way. Once he saw that it no longer bothered me and that I didn't make a big deal of it, it stopped!

When all else fails, have many strategies at hand to help you and to help your student. Do not be afraid to try something new. Also remember to incorporate their interests into any behavior plan you help to create. One more IMPORTANT tip - whenever possible, involve the parent as much as you are able to. They have a tougher time misbehaving when the two are connected and communicating at all times.

Where do you find strategies? My assistant principal was GREAT at quickly finding me resources, so I could focus on the students. Perhaps you have a Behavior Specialist or some other resource person. If not, I will share what I have done and some online resources. Here is a good start:

What has worked for me?:
  • Consistent procedures and routines - we worked on them until they became automatic - remember to be consistent (read Rules, Routines, and Standards In Elementary and Secondary Grades or Harry Wong's First Days of School)
  • Visual Schedule - using real photos of my classroom when I was able
  • Set Criteria with students to create a positive environment - rules for our classroom (criteria was set for how we line up, how it should look during carpet time, and our classroom rules)
  • Movement activities - some kiddos just need to move more. Let them stand to learn (if they aren't bothering anyone). Move them to the back of the room to pace if need be or every so often send them to walk up the hall (designate a stop place - they must practice this until it is routine also)
  • Visual (silent) timers - Used these for alone time or to monitor that students get their movement time - also, have to practice this for it to be effective.
  • iPad goal reward - I had a student who had a tough time with transition to and from lunch - if he met his goal, he had time to play a tractor game - he LOVED tractors!! Another loved wrestling, so there was an app for that, too!
  • Rewards -------- I am NOT a huge fan of rewards (candy, treats, toys, etc.) as it is my belief that at some time students must realize that we must behave even if we are not rewarded for it. Trying to make the other students understand why some had extra time on the iPad was not easy at first. Then, I incorporated a time for them to earn extra time... (next bullet)
  • Mystery Student (in line) I used this to allow all students the opportunity to have extra iPad free-play time. My assistant would pick a random name and no one would know who the mystery person was; she would watch them during lunch transition. If this one person followed all criteria, they had 5 min. on the iPad upon returning. This cut out the discussion of the others getting time for meeting their behavior goals.
  • The POWER of ignoring is HUGE, and it worked for me most times. Use it when you can.
  • Movement Again - if you have students who have trouble moving about in line or on the carpet - give them a head start... just before the transition to their trouble spot, have them get up and move about. Of course, model and practice appropriate area and how to move about without distracting others. They lose the privilege if they cannot do it appropriately (after they have had time to master it).
  • Colorful tape - Some students need boundaries, as they love to move freely throughout the classroom (disrupting the environment). Place tape down in an area, appropriate for them, giving enough space for them to still move about (which is what they need in the first place).
  • Walking Time Out - I have a tough time standing students out at recess, when I know they need some movement time (which most times is perhaps why they may be in trouble). For this reason, we have a track they can walk at recess, instead of just standing there.
  • No Desk/No Chair - If they have a tough time sitting still, have them work without a chair - they can earn it back, of course. Same with the desk. I had one want to ride on the desk...LOL. He lost the desk and had to use a clipboard for a while, until he earned it back. If they lose their chair and want to sit, have a throw blanket if you do not have carpet.
  • Nap - If a child is sleepy - let them sleep for a bit. If not, they will be ill anyway, which can make the misbehaviors escalate.
  • Pencils - If students 'play' with their pencils, given them a tee-tiny one to use. After a while, they will stop, because they get tired of using the tee-tiny one!
  • Angry Bird Management - Have a child that gets angry? I used the Angry Bird System, which worked wonders for a student who needed help calming down!

Other Ideas:
The Bead Reinforcement System
PBS Interventions (by Tier)
Intervention Central
The Teacher's Guide
School Behavior

I suggest your school having a Behavior Management Notebook with all ideas listed by category that you can go to and find what you need :)

Important tip: Whatever you do - DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Not every time, but many times, the person who goes out of their way most for a child, that is the very person they misbehave with the most. I have witnessed this a couple of times with myself and with some of my colleagues. Just do not take it personally. Sometimes, they do not know how to act when people show them this type of care and love for them, as a lot of children have lacked this at home.

One more tip: BEWARE of praise... What!? Yes, I love to praise my students, but some children CANNOT handle it. Use it wisely. If you see a child intentionally misbehave after praise is given, do not give praise until they get on the bus or in the car to go home - or NONE at all. I have seen more than one child who just could not handle praise.. just a heads up!

I am sure there are many things I am leaving out, but this is a start - especially for beginning teachers & for some veterans. I pray that I learn something new each year that will help me become a better manager of my students' behaviors - that way, we can FOCUS on learning!! :)


  1. I absolutely love this advice. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic class for my first year. I'm sure I'll be referring back to this advice in the future. Thanks for sharing!

    Beach Teach

  2. So glad you found it helpful:) I was the same way when I student taught - the perfect class. Boy, was I in for a surprise my first year...LOL!! :) Thanks for commenting:)

  3. I have had plenty of stinkers over the past 9 years. I was so happy to see that you have used my Angry Birds strategy! Thanks for the little shout out! Funny how the s,all things work wonders sometimes!

    Mrs. H's Resource Room

  4. Oh definitely... he LOVED Angry Birds, so it was a must for him. He really enjoyed having his own 'nest' and once we practiced the breathing, he would catch himself and begin breathing the Angry Bird calm down!! Thanks for such a fantastic tool!!

  5. The picture of the schedule is of my kindergarten classroom. I got the schedule from TPT though. =)

    1. Thank you for letting me know :) Will update this page soon with the information!

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