How to Improve Students’ Bad Attitudes: Strategies That Work Better & Faster


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How to Improve Students' Bad Attitudes:

Strategies That Work Better & Faster




How to Improve Students' Bad Attitudes:

Strategies That Work Better & Faster

student bad attitude

It's winter. It's that time of year that if the weather doesn't get to you, your students do. One huge annoyance can be the lousy attitudes that you are facing starting too early every morning to way too late each afternoon. You may even have a student or two who is so difficult and sour that you can't forget about him on that long drive home. We're ready to help. Hello from Youth Change Professional Development Workshops' Director, Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. I've spent my entire career developing and honing unorthodox, highly effective strategies to turn around even the most negative student you work with.

The most important thing to realize is that no one changes their attitude because someone else thinks that would be a good idea. If you directly ask students to change their attitude, that's fine, but it probably hasn't been working very well. The strategies below avoid the failure rate that mere words can produce when it comes to trying to generate student attitude adjustments. Notice that all of these student attitude adjustment strategies do not rely primarily on words, but take more indirect approaches. The use of this style of approach means that you are placing a light bulb over the students' head but letting the student pull the cord to turn it on. If you pull the cord for the student, then really the only option left for many of them is to fight back and resist. Using less direct methods means that most of the time, the student with the negative attitude, won't always immediately default to being resistant or oppositional.

The next time you consider just telling a student to improve their attitude, remember that the adult equivalent is being told to lose weight or stop drinking. That image may be a very useful reminder to minimize your reliance on verbiage and to increase your use of more indirect approaches that don't generate resistance.

teacher workshopIf you want more than the sampling of strategies offered here, consider coming to our Seattle Breakthrough Strategies to Teach and Counsel Troubled Youth Workshop on May 4-5, 2017. Right now, we have have two completely free work-study scholarships to give away. Grab one of these awesome no-fee workshop registration slots before they are all taken. Call 1.800.545.5736 to quickly sign up. You'll learn 200 powerhouse strategies for whatever student behavior, attitude and social problems you name.


Students' Negative Attitude-Buster Strategies

student bad attitude posterUse Passive Intervention Strategies

to Improve Students' Bad Attitudes

Poster #314, shown at right, is the perfect, low effort strategy to chip away at students' bad attitudes. It may appear that the student is just staring at the wall but Poster #314 could be eating away at them slowly day by day. You don't need to buy the poster. You can make your own, or have a student whose behavior warrants a consequence, make a version of the image shown here. Either way, students can't argue with a poster. Nor, can students unsee what they read. Your message was delivered– and probably more rapidly than if verbiage had been the sole method. With this passive intervention strategy, you've planted a seed that may gradually begin to grow over time. This tactic is most definitely not a quick cure, but part of an on-going effort that can ultimately produce results.


Use Strategies That Show the Benefits

of Attitude Improvement

If people are going to change, it's because they see a reason to change. Give your students a reason to improve their bad attitudes. Show students what's in it for them if they limit or improve their negative attitude. This approach can work very well with your more self-interested students who care mostly about what they can get for themselves. When the student is in a difficult situation, such as having done a minor bit of problem behavior, encourage the youngster to "Keep 1 Problem to 1, Not Turn 1 Problem Into 2." Since this strategy shows students what they get for themselves by evidencing a less negative attitude, this approach can be hard to resist. It is, in essence, showing students that their negative attitude is like the old adage about biting your tongue to spite your face. The more you can link a more positive attitude to the student getting more of what they say they want, the more progress you may make improving the negativity. It's almost like you are marketing and selling a more positive attitude like it was a brand of jeans or cell phone.


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student attitude posterUse Strategies That Un-Normalize

Students' Bad Attitudes

At many schools, having a sulky, negative, oppositional attitude is considered normal. Consider working to get that rather bad standard to be different. Poster #574 (shown at right) gives you some words to do that. It can start or further the process of helping your students understand that being nasty or mean or difficult is not a life plan that will work. You can also help students to identify all the jobs and businesses that people can succeed in if you are really unkind to those around you. Most students realize that there are few or no jobs where abusive behavior is tolerated, and that ultimately having a really negative attitude will be a potential obstacle and impediment throughout life. You are again selling the idea of a more positive attitude as benefiting the student with the negative attitude. Us humans are often pretty self-interested and that makes this strategy a good candidate to use if you want to transform the bad attitudes you see in your classroom or around your school or program. Using the phrase shown on the poster, "healthy humans don't destroy other humans" is a great phrase to use regularly as it can impact some students who will find the words unsettling.


Use Inspirational Strategies

to Improve Students' Bad Attitudes

Some students are impacted by pretty sayings and inspirational words. For your students who have negative attitudes, but might respond to inspiring words of wisdom, consider using this phrase, or creating a poster of the words for your walls. The phrase is "Live each moment as if you chose it." These words are going to be especially useful for students who are sullen and negative in specific settings, such as P.E. class or when there is an exam announced. Because the phrase is provocative and worth further thought, some students may actually stop and consider what it means since it's meaning is not necessarily obvious. It is difficult to resist words that you haven't yet figured out, making this strategy a winner. In the instant that the student grasps the phrase's meaning, you actually delivered a bit of insight to the youngster. It can be one step on the long progression of improving that student's attitude in your classroom and school.


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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.