Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Breaking Bad Habits

disciplineIn Kaylie: What To Do When Things Go Wrong from CEC Blog, Kaylie shares about a student’s bad behavior and how she had to handle it. Then she asks,

“Have you had a similar experience? One of your students makes repeated poor choices and you’re left to decide and manage how it’s handled. How did you deal with the situation? What was and wasn’t successful? What do I need to do differently?”

Many of my students make poor choices on a regular basis so it is important to break this cycle. I feel that many times it is more of a habit than a conscious choice. When the student is exhibiting bad behavior, it is not the time to make it a learning experience. The time is before the bad behavior happens, as a way of preparation and prevention rather than a knee jerk reaction.

So, as in any bad habit, it is important for students to recognize what the bad habit is. Over time, many students have gotten used to blaming their behavior on their disability because they have heard others say this. Students are brainwashed to believe that they have no control over their own behavior. When they hear something often enough, they start to believe it, just like they hear adults and peers say they are lazy or bad or dumb. It is important to have students realize that they can control their behavior and it may be hard but it is not impossible. They need to hear this every day, many times a day. It might even be good to write “I can control my own behavior!” on a couple of index cards. One can be taped to the desk and one can be kept in the student’s pocket.

Next, discuss the behaviors the student has exhibited that are unacceptable. Have the student give input on this because the student knows this as well as the teachers. Have the student discuss what happens that causes this behavior. Have the student see that there is a cause and effect process here. As teachers, we tend to assume that the student knows what causes this but unless we teach the student how to recognize this, it doesn’t always happen.

Once the student can identify the behaviors and the causes, it is time to discuss alternate behaviors that are appropriate. Help the student brainstorm ways to act more appropriately in different situations. Help the student make a chart listing the situation on one side and appropriate behaviors on the other.

Now the fun begins. It is time to role play the situations. The more practice the student has doing this; the more comfortable the student will be in a real situation. It is just like practicing a fire drill.

But it doesn’t stop there. Have the students reflect on their behavior either at the end of the school day or the next day. List challenging situations that they faced and how they reacted. (Don’t judge them and allow them to be honest.) Discuss whether their reactions were appropriate or how they might have acted differently (don’t say better because that is a judgment and they will withdraw from the conversation). This reflection is what will help them internalize their behavior and hopefully replace their bad habit.

I’m not saying this will work for all behaviors or take the place of medication but I believe that many times we don’t give students enough credit for controlling their own behavior.

What do you think? How do you handle situations like Kaylie has faced? Please share!

Image: 'Raise Respectful Kids'

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