Are You Using Yesterday’s Behavior Management Strategies With Today’s Students?


teacher classroom management blog


Are You Using Yesterday's
Behavior Management Strategies
With Today's Students?



"In the past 2 years, I've had 4-5 students who are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Tourette Syndrome, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Asperger's, in addition to students who have suffered sexual, mental and physical abuses."

The quote is from an email sent by a classroom teacher noting her lack of mental health training. She was seeking help to manage her classroom and all the different emotional, social and learning disorders she was encountering on a daily basis. Like you, this teacher felt behavior management and student discipline was harder than ever.

behavior management strategiesI'm behavior management expert and workshop instructor, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. Let me share with you some of the behavior management strategies that I have developed to help counselors, teachers, principals, justice workers and juvenile court staff better manage students who are presenting serious social, emotional and behavioral concerns.

Most teachers and counselors agree that today's youngsters are more troubled, challenging and difficult than ever before. There is even data to back it up that assessment. USA Today reported in June, 2005 on a study conducted by Harvard Medical School. That study found that half of all mental illness begins by age 14, and that three-fourths of mental illness begins by age 24. Counselors and mental health workers are trained to manage the emotional concerns, but teachers and other non-mental health workers are not. This issue is especially for those of you who work with today's troubled and disturbed children but have not been provided the training that you need to safely and successfully do your job.

If you accept the premise that today's students are more trying than ever before, then you know why you are so discouraged and burned out at the end of the day. If you have ever felt that "nothing works" with some students, this is your explanation why. Factor in the reality that most teacher training devotes little attention to troubled and problem youngsters, and you have the perfect storm. Kids are more impaired, but most conventional college training doesn't prepare teachers for the significant behavior management problems posed by this type of child. Ideally, if you are not a mental health professional, you would fully update your skills at a class like our Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop that is offered live, on-site and online. To help a bit, here are few key behavior management pointers from our workshop and elsewhere, to help you start the process of upgrading your behavior management skills for successfully teaching and working with today's troubled and difficult students.

Innovative Behavior Management Strategies for
Today's Emotionally Disturbed and Problem Students


There's No Substitute for Mental Health Basics

Remember your last car?– the one that limped along, leaving you to wonder if you'd get where you needed to go. The car needed fixing but you put it off, making your life much harder than it needed to be. Well, attempting to teach or work with today's students without basic mental health information is like driving that old car well beyond what is safe and smart. For example, here is a quick test of your basic mental health knowledge: If you can't immediately state the difference between a conduct disordered child and a thought-disordered one then you will not understand what is happening right in front of you.


Read this issue from our Behavior and Classroom Management Blog to get the basics on these two types of mental health problems and more. But don't wait too long because you must have this basic information to provide safety for your students and yourself.

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Develop an Arsenal of Methods

Years ago, you could use "one-size-fits-all" behavior management methods with students, and teach or counsel successfully. That's not true today. For example, if you use conventional methods with the two populations mentioned above, you will find those strategies almost always fail. To function successfully today, you have to be armed with a dynamic array of methods. While generic approaches may still work with some kids, you may need humor to defuse an oppositional youngster or to delicately reach an abused, worn-out student. For example, below you'll find a simple, but useful idea from Marjan Glavac, a highly regarded, veteran Canadian teacher who is the author of How to Make a Difference: Inspiring Students to Do Their Best.


Marjan routinely surveys students to find out their likes and dislikes in the classroom. This is such an important preventative measure with several types of challenged students, including conduct disorders, oppositional-defiant and abused youngsters. For example, if a child has problems with rage, surveying his preferences can keep outbursts from ever happening. At the start of the school year, Marjan even surveys parents to learn about their children. Marjan has devised some wonderful terms to describe what he does. My favorite is his "sunshine phone calls" where he calls the parent when a child has done something well. This is a terrific approach to use with anxious and vulnerable kids, as well as others.

Learn a Variety of Styles

Any mental health professional will tell you that you need a variety of styles of behavior management strategies, with modes to fit each type of child you work with. The classic example is the rock solid firmness needed with conduct disordered students vs. the delicate touch necessary with abused youngsters. If you just use generic, uncustomized behavior management strategies, you can end up steam rolling over an abused student or fragile work refuser, for example.


Ever the creative, inventive teacher, Marjan Glavac gave me this humorous, gentle strategy that is so perfect for work refusers who are overwhelmed by the enormity of the work they have to do in school. It's a joke. He asks the students: "How do you eat an elephant?" Answer: "One bite at a time." See how that silly, gentle technique could help alleviate some of the anxiety, and even begin to move the child slightly forward?

As you can probably tell, I just finished reading Marjan's ebook, How to Make a Difference: Inspiring Students to Do Their Best. I am now chock full of fresh behavior management strategies that utilize a wide variety of styles. The book actually ends with a terribly sweet, heart-warming activity. I won't ruin the book's ending by telling you it. All I will say is that it is such a sweet, inspiring book in addition to being practical. I only wish I had written it. If you want to learn about Marjan's collection of truly inspired methods, check out this gem of a book, How to Make a Difference: Inspiring Students to Do Their Best.

Marjan also has a free newsletter you can try, or you can get the e-book. The book is so good that it actually comes with a guarantee that Marjan's teacher-tested techniques will propel you to "become the teacher you've always dreamed about becoming." In the book, Marjan says that these methods helped him to stop being so exhausted all the time from constantly disciplining students. He says that now he feels that he has the control and power again in the classroom. Unless you are retiring soon, it's worth the one click to head over to his site to check out his inventive behavior management strategies.


behavior management strategies

Want more behavior management interventions
designed especially for children with serious challenges?

Visit Youth Change's huge store that's packed with books, ebooks, posters and online training workshops with college credit and clock hours. All our resources will give you the newest and best student behavior management strategies.

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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.