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Expert Answers to Your Questions About
Students' Problem Behavior


Here's some of our best answers for your questions about specific behavior problems. We hope you like our creative answers, interventions, tips and tools, but remember we have hundreds more group activities and classroom management materials than this sampling. If you want more of our behavior interventions, come to a workshop, purchase a poster, book or ebook or get an online workshop. You can also contact us for help by clicking here.

Answers are provided by our expert, Ruth Herman Wells, the author of dozens of books on students' behavioral, social and emotional problems.


Dear Youth Change,

Can you think of any way to get kids to believe me that their risk-taking behavior will have probably have bad results? Whether it's avoiding the consequences of using drugs, contracting AIDS, getting hurt in a gang battle, or getting pregnant, many of these kids believe they will beat the odds.


J.J., Cincinnati, OH


Dear J.J.,

We have the answers you need. Stop reasoning and start showing. When the child says they can do the behavior and beat the odds and avoid the consequence, ask the youngster to then beat the odds by breaking any law of nature, such as breaking the law of speed and running 60 mph, or breaking the law of gravity, and just hanging on the ceiling. When the child can't, quietly note that the child can't beat the odds in the other area (the drug use, delinquency, etc.)

This intervention may not turn the child around, but it can definitely get their attention, and maybe get them thinking.

One more idea: If the child persists in claiming a special ability to beat the odds, perhaps even claiming they'll never need education because they're going to become rich by winning the lottery, challenge this notion: buy a lottery ticket with the youth, and show the child that they can't defy the odds now, and they won't be able to defy the odds later.

answers for student behavior problems Having them play the card game "21," is another good way to show that the youngster lacks a magical ability to beat the odds.

Our Forgotten Favorite Strategies in paperback, or printable, instant download ebook form is stuffed full of terrific methods like these. These methods can accomplish what traditional approaches won't.


Youth Change Workshops



Dear Youth Change,

Any ideas for all the kids that think school is such a waste because they'll always be able to find jobs without a diploma?


F.L., Phoenix


Dear F.L.,

We've got tons of totally different, exciting new answers and ideas for unmotivated students, far too many to fit here. Here are about a half dozen of the best. Our book (or ebook), Education: Don't Start the Millennium Without It has dozens more, and so do our live conferences and online workshops. 

Here is a favorite intervention for building motivation: Ask your students to list all the jobs they could always do without a diploma, then ask the group to imagine how these jobs might be done in 10, 20 or 30 years. The kids will offer dozens of ways to automate, computerize or eliminate every job. After that happens, point out that many "fall-back" jobs may cease to exist in this millennium.

A dynamite follow up: ask the kids to guess how many jobs remain in your city for blacksmiths, trolley car drivers, TWA employees, outhouse builders, stage coach drivers, even 8 track tape makers, typewriter repairmen, Montgomery Ward cashiers, and even go-go dancers.

More great ideas to use: Let the kids know that many McDonalds in places as disparate as Oregon and Ohio, are starting to require a diploma just to apply. There are estimates that all McDonalds will be automated within the next decade or so, meaning that a single human could operate a typical McDonalds.

Another goodie: The salaries of drop-outs are plummeting at a rate of about 1/2% per year, a trend that is expected to continue. Drop-outs tend to earn about 1/3 to 1/2 less than high school grads anyway, so at any average income of about $500 per month pre-tax, that 1/2% annual cut can really hurt.

Have students speculate what they might have to give up each year if that trend continues as anticipated, or, ask what items they might get to have/keep if they opted to finish school, and got that higher salary. Since the salaries for college grads are expected to increase by more than 1% per year well into the new millennium, teach your kids that "The More You Learn, The More You Earn."

message poster 130The handful of techniques listed here are enough to just get you started motivating unmotivated youth, but you know that you will need more than a few initial ideas. Consider surrounding your students with our coordinating message posters. These highly unusual, innovative posters powerfully reinforce the information in our books, and can dramatically speed the pace of change. Only $8 each, these compelling posters are designed to effectively alter how your students think, behave, and view the world.


Youth Change Workshops



Dear Youth Change,

I work with students who are incredibly unmotivated. Several say they don't need school because they're going to be sports stars! (Or rock stars, rap starts, actors, models…) What can I do to get them to understand that they still need school?


D.L., Dallas


Dear D.L.

Here's our best answers. For your potential sports stars, the next time one of them says they won't need school when playing for the Chicago Bulls, say, "You know, maybe you're right. It just so happens I have here a contract very similar  to what the Bulls use to sign their players. If you can quickly read over this contract and sign it, then I'll drive you home because you should be resting up for the big game, not wasting time here at school."

When you write the contract, use big words but tiny type, and use this intervention just with poor readers. The student, wanting to save face, will quickly sign, then you can say "Thank-you so very much!"

Your student will ask "What is your problem?" You can respond, "Well, you just signed over to me everything you're going to earn, your parents are going to earn and your children are going to earn, and given how they pay us in Texas, I could really use the extra money!"

student motivation bookYou can make your own contract or get it in our Turn On the Turned-Off Student book. This book is full of other equally wonderful motivation-makers. For potential rock stars, models, etc. simply adapt the contract to that occupation.


Youth Change Workshops



Dear Youth Change,

My kids see no need to get control of their anger or aggressiveness and constantly use vile words and touch where hands don't belong. They just grab anything and anyone. Do you have any answers that could work?


C.H., Los Angeles


Dear C.H.,

Ask your kids to name jobs or businesses they can do and mouth off or touch wherever and whenever they want. There may be very few of these jobs and businesses– if any. Then ask your kids if they will ever need to support themselves, and how will they be doing it with a temper like that?

Offer multiple choice questions like this:

Brenda is a beautician who styles hair. She sometimes has a problem with her temper. When Brenda's customers see their hair dresser is starting to tantrum, they will…

a. Think it's cute when Brenda turns red with rage

b. Get up and leave when they see Brenda shaking in anger

c. They will come from all over California to have their hair cut and styled by the tantrumming hairdresser.

anger management bookStudents will laugh at these multiple choice questions, and their defenses will  be down. Humor is a terrific way to get past anger or rage. The full quiz is in our Temper and Tantrum Tamer book, along with 19 additional other lessons.

Don't assume kids know how to be peaceful– especially if they grow up in violent homes, live in violent neighborhoods and watch violent TV. You may need to teach them everything they need to know about being peaceful including having a peaceful sound, peaceful look and peaceful actions. Our methods give you lots of ways to do that.


Youth Change Workshops