How to Get Your Students to Stop Pushing Your Buttons

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I teach fifth grade and I have a student who is driving me crazy. I have been to Kid Whisperer Professional development at my school, so I have used “Recovery” with this student, but when I send him to Recovery he smirks and sort of swaggers as he goes there. IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!!! What do I do in to not go through the roof the next time he does it? Hurry! I know he is going to do it tomorrow! –Kathy, Centerville, Ohio


Let me tell you how I will not answer your question: By telling you not to get so upset, he’s just trying to get to you, you should be more understanding about where he is coming from, blah, blah, blah.

Nope. This behavior really bothers you so it has to stop. Period.

This is a huge “hot-button” issue for me as well. Yes, the kid is trying to simultaneously anger you and show everyone else that he doesn’t care about having to go to recovery, or be corrected, etc. He will stop doing this is you handle it in exactly the way that I prescribe here.

(Kid struts and smirks back to the recovery area after I have asked him to go there after he has exhibited some very negative behaviors)

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. This is sad. I’m going to do something about this…later. Have a good day.

Kid Whisperer walks away. Later, at a time of my choosing, any time between five minutes or ten days from the time of the smirk, I have the following conversation.

Kid Whisperer: Thank you for talking with me. I owe you an apology. I have been getting upset with you simply because you have been sort of smirking when I set a limit after you cause a problem. I won’t get upset anymore. I will just tell you now, for the last time, that when you do that, it really bothers me. I cannot allow things that bother me to happen in this room because I have a hard job and don’t have the time or emotional energy to do my job and be bothered. Right now you are really terrible at not bothering me. You do it all the time. Therefore, I am going to ask that you to practice being around me without smirking. I have called your father and he says that it’s fine for you to stay after school today and practice not bothering me. The good news is that all you will have to do is not smirk while in my presence. What would work better for you: Would you rather practice not bothering me for 45 minutes or an hour?

Kid: Huh?

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. I only say things once. An hour it is.

Kid: That’s not fair!!!!!

Kid Whisperer: Probably so. Would you like to sit or stand while you practice?

Kid (quickly): Sit. Geesh!

Kid Whisperer: Sounds good. I’ll see you here in the room immediately after school. Thanks for talking with me.

When the kid comes in, you can give the choice to do nothing, read, or do homework. Just as long as he remains smirk-free, he is practicing successfully. If the smirk reappears, the time resets, and he has to do another hour of practice. You may have to do this once or twice at most.

If you would rather take care of this at recess or on a weekend, go for it. Whatever works for you.

Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else!