How to Curb Loud, Goofy Behavior From Middle School Students

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I attended your Kid Whisperer University last summer and it has really improved my life this year. I have recently, however, been getting frustrated with one of the teams of five students in a sixth-grade period for goofing around and being too loud. I used the interventions that you taught me, but it only worked with three of the students. The other two didn’t stop. So, just like you taught me, I delayed the consequence on those two. The problem is that now I don’t know what a logical consequence would be for loudly playing around for these two boys. Thoughts? -Missy, Cincinnati, Ohio



You have been PERFECT so far! Great work. Most teachers, without explicit and systematic skill instruction, will accidentally make this situation worse and worse all year long by intervening in ways that give too much attention (which kids enjoy), or using punishments that aim at arbitrarily inflicting pain (which just makes kids dig in their heels) instead of using logical consequences that will facilitate learning about how and when to use positive behaviors.

Facilitating learning probably sounds better than causing pain since you work in a school and not in a dungeon.

During a non-instructional time such as lunch (make sure they still have the opportunity to eat, of course), recess (if you have it), or before and after school (depending on whether you can do that logistically), this is how I would handle things if I were you.

Kid Whisperer: (with a smile) Oh, nuts. You guys really seem to enjoy being around each other. I totally get it. The problem that loud goofiness causes is that it makes it hard for me to teach and for kids to learn. Look at my face, do I look angry (Kid Whisperer gives a silly grin)?

Kid #1: No, you look crazy.

Kid Whisperer: Why does everyone keep saying that to me? Huh… Now, I’m going to like you no matter how long it takes you to learn this, and you will be with me at this time for the rest of the year until you become an expert. I am now going to give you the opportunity to become an expert at being quiet and not causing a problem for other people while sitting next to each other.

Kid #2: You ARE crazy.

Kid Whisperer: I enjoy pancakes as well. So, tell me, how long do you guys need to practice not being loud or goofy together? Would you like to practice for 45 minutes or an hour?

Kid #1: Are you serious?

Kid Whisperer: One hour it is. You can sit in your regular seats just like this. For the first 50 minutes, I am going to make it easier for you, and you will be silent. Feel free to read, work, or play games. You don’t have to look at each other, either. If you laugh or cause a problem, you will start over. If you can be not loud and goofy for that time, for the last ten minutes, you will have the choice to talk with each other without causing a problem, or you can stay silent. If you can successfully get that last ten minutes done, we will consider you experts and you can go on living your lives. I will like you no matter how long this takes…and…go.

Keep in mind that you don’t want them to be cooperative at first. If they refuse and wander around the room, fantastic. They will be learning the most important lesson of their lives: that refusing the reasonable request of an authority figure doesn’t get them what they want! It might be less annoying to enlist the help of another teacher so they can learn lesson #1 in separate rooms. Then you can put Kid #1 and Kid #2 back together to learn lesson #2.