Dealing with Difficult Children: Teaching Social Skills to School Children

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Character Education curriculum’s should begin intensively as early on as possible. My belief is that a child who is causing trouble as an older elementary student is more than likely missing something from earlier years. In essence, children who are nurtured under the right conditions consistently from the earliest grades won’t be the problems they are when they reach their older years.

So what are the answers for children who are in older grades and haven’t learned to share, respect others, treat others kindly, or work cooperatively? Not punishment, for sure. In many schools and homes the norm is to impart consequence for undesirable behavior. In most cases the consequence is only a short-term solution and in fact causes more resentment by the student toward those imparting the consequence. This is because behaviorism is a means at which adults use to control children’s behavior. Instead of helping to develop and nurture good character adults typically react to negative behavior by assigning extra work, taking away recess, failing the student, or requiring them to attend detention. How often have teachers heard a frustrated parent say “I’ve tried everything.” They have taken away television, grounded them, assigned extra chores. Nothing works. Exactly.

Most children who fit the description above are reacting to situations in their lives they have no control over, and so exert their own control over any other situation as possible. Teachers have to work with parents to answer the question “why” about student behavior and go from there. Of course, that doesn’t mean accepting negative behavior on the grounds the given child has so much to deal with, but meeting the negative behavior with a social skills program that involves the entire class regularly, one-one intervention, and counselor referral, if necessary. Throw the punishment out the door. Chances are, the given child has been punished enough. Worked toward resolving the issues by helping the child develop better behaviors and training the rest of the class on how to cope with peers who may be difficult. This is important too, because as much as one or two children may be the troublemakers in class, the others need to learn coping skills as part of their social development as well.