How to Simultaneously Remove and Train a Belligerent Student

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I appreciate you offering to give me some strategies because my para and I are at our wits’ end. I am in a K-3 ED classroom with five children. I’ve got a great para and we are on the same page – which is important.

The student giving us the blues is a first grade female. When she has an anger/rage episode, it starts w/ her walking around the class (let her do, she wants attention) When she gets no attention & others are great at ignoring, she ups the ante by putting her face into others faces and calling them “bitch” or she’ll touch their desk. Others are still pretty good at ignoring. I praise them for ignoring, she escalates more.

If the para is in the room, one of us will take the other students out of the room (removing the audience). The boys who are able to ignore and not react to her are always rewarded w/ extra stickers and they even earn gummy worm treat. (They love that!!! 15 stickers earn them an ice cream sundae.)

Even after the audience is removed, she is thoroughly angry at this point and starts throwing chairs, desks and tossing stuff off my desk (my personal trigger that sends me into the next universe, but I’m learning to breathe deeply- a lot)

The last 5 days, she has had these episodes when the para is at lunch, leaving me in the class by myself. Therefore, also leaving “removing the audience” tool unavailable. We try ignoring longer, even trying to encourage the boys to ignore, but she escalates to the point that it requires me to do something.

The way this usually has ended (especially when the para is at lunch) is I have to put the girl in a bear hug type restraint hold while I’m rubbing her hands, arms, back in a figure 8 motion that usually in about 10-15 minutes she falls asleep and naps for 30-60 min.

At this point in the year, I’m tired of being kicked by this girl (who happens to have the biggest, heaviest boots available to a 6 year old on her feet w/ all this snow ) I’m tired of the classroom being tore up, too.

I saw your blog post on the “temper tantrum”, and I’ve tried that, and obviously haven’t perfected it, but my concern is that she continues to escalate to violence. I don’t know what to do to stop the violence.

These little people are so angry and violent…..It is beyond saddening. My principal’s suggestion: “your lessons aren’t engaging enough”……sigh……Sorry – needed to get that vent out.

-Terry, Louisville, KY

Dear Terry,

Now that you got that vent out about your principal, let me get mine out.

Here goes. Ahem… (throat clear, throat clear). Okay….Terry’s principal? I need to get this off my chest.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT TO DO ABOUT A BEHAVIORAL SITUATION JUST SAY “I DON’T KNOW AND LEAVE TERRY ALONE!!!!!!! DON’T TRY TO MAKE HIM FEEL STUPID AND INCOMPETANT BY TELLING HIM THAT HIS LESSONS ARE BAD. I’M INTERESTED, DID YOU EVEN SEE TERRY’S LESSON PLANS OR SEE HIM TEACH OR DID YOU JUST THINK “WELL, I NEED TO SAY SOMETHING HERE, SO…?

There. I feel better. The truth is that principals generally know less about using specific and explicit classroom management skills than teachers do because they are not in the classrooms dealing with negative behaviors in real time as they happen. Even when I was a principal, my preventive interventions got rusty because I wasn’t using them full time, and I am great at using this stuff. Oh, man. I’m starting to get worked up again. Oh boy, here it comes…

…”HIS LESSON PLANS AREN’T ENGAGING ENOUGH?” REALLY? IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THIS IS YOUR ONLY ADVICE BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONLY PART OF EDUCATION THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT? I BET IF WE ASKED THE CUSTODIAN HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS PROBLEM, HE WOULD TELL US THE ROOM NEEDED TO BE CLEANER. THE LUNCH LADY WOULD SAY THAT TERRY NEEDS TO EAT MORE FIBER. ETCETERA, ETCETERA, ETCETERA. JUST SAY “I DON’T KNOW”!!!!!!

OK, I think I said that twice, but I thought that it needed to be repeated.

Alright, now that that is out of the way, let’s do this. Let me show you how to take your classroom and sanity back. This WILL work because we are not going to leave anything to chance. Right now you are depending mostly on the power of prayer to deal with this kid, as in “Please Lord, don’t let the devil child show up today.” By the time you get done reading this, and put the plan in place, you will be looking forward to her next freak out!

I’m serious!

Before you carry out this plan, I am going to suggest that you change whatever the rules in your classroom are. For how to do this go to my blog entry “How to Set Limits with Only One Rule”. It is for parents, but you can adjust the process to fit your classroom setting.

This is my Love and Logic™ response to your question.

I will be writing this as if I was in your situation. My first step is that I will have a meeting with my principal to give her the details of this plan and have her sign off on it. Maybe I don’t show her the first part of this response. If she refuses to support this plan, I ask her to 1) Come up with a plan of her own, and 2) Ask her to personally demonstrate the use of this plan. If she doesn’t want to do this, I ask her to sign a document saying that she acknowledges that she is unable to figure out what to do with this situation and is unwilling to allow my plan.

Next, I communicate the plan to my para.

Once the children arrive, I get excited, because I know that I am going to take my classroom back. Not through a long process, not once I get a kid removed from school sometime in the future. I will be taking my classroom back TODAY.

I greet each child at the door and I give each kid three things as I do EVERY SINGLE DAY.

  1. Eye contact

  2. A smile

  3. Physical contact

That’s a strong handshake or a hug, if that is line with my school’s policies, and a smile while looking them in the eye.

When everything is going well, and I want to do this ASAP before she freaks out, I sit down in front of her and say this with my para present, if possible while holding her hand, or having some kind of safe, loving touch.

Kid Whisperer: Hi, hon. We owe you a huge apology. We talked and we think that we have confused you by giving you a bunch of confusing rules and then we have let you break those rules and then we allowed you to stay here even after you broke them. We realize now that this was too confusing. Do you except our apology?

Kid: Uh, I guess.

Kid Whisperer: Thanks. Yesterday, do you remember when everyone decided that we should only have one rule? Let’s look at it on the wall. Remember how you guys wrote your new rule up on the wall? It says “We may do anything we want as long as it does not cause a problem”. Honey, from now on, you can be in this room for as long as you don’t cause a problem. We love you and we want to you to be here for as long as you can be pleasant and not cause a problem. Good luck and we love you.

Kid: Uh, OK.

To be clear, ABSOLUTELY NO PART OF ME EXPECTS THIS CHILD TO BE COMPLIANT AFTER THIS CONVERSATION. In fact I don’t want her to be compliant! The shock of the talk may buy me five minutes in order to prepare for what is coming next. You are already doing a good job of ignoring the walking around. I have tons of interventions for this, but I won’t use them yet. Remember, she is now allowed to do anything she wants as long as she does not cause a problem, and walking around does not cause a problem. As soon as she causes a problem, I thank my lucky stars and think to myself that I am now going to take my classroom back.

Kid puts her hands on another child’s desk.

Kid Whisperer: (with empathy) Oh, man. This is sad. Can you follow our rule or do you need to take a break?

Kid rolls her eyes and continues to wander around the room. After a few minutes, she jumps on top of a child’s desk, and puts her finger in his face.

Kid: THAT’S WHY YOUR MOMMA’S A BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kid Whisperer or Para: Oh, man. We have a spot for children who don’t follow the rule in the back of the class and in the room next door you can go to either one. Come back as soon as you can follow our rules. We want you to be with us. Would you like to go there with your feet on the ground or your feet in the air?

Kid: I’m gonna lose my mind!!! I am going to go off!! AAAAAAGHGHGHG!!!!!!!!!

Para: Oh, man. Feet in the air it is. Para safely picks up Kid and walks her to a chair in another room, preferably an out of the way place where she can be supervised by the para without the para or anyone else giving her any attention (not in the hallway), and sits her in the chair.

Note: An alternate strategy, depending on the child’s size, your comfort level, the wishes of your administration, and your own physical strength is to give the choice to either walking backward or forwards. If the child goes on their own, they will walk forwards to the chair, if they refuse, you put them in child’s control restraint and walk them backwards according to CPI’s guidelines for child’s control position. In that case you will simply say “Oh, man, walking backwards it is.” before putting her in the restraint.

The child is allowed to come back at any time as long as she does not cause a problem. In my room, good seconds are spent in class, bad seconds are spent in recovery (in the chair). NO attention is given to the child in recovery and no work is provided.

Of course, the child is going to spring off that chair like it’s on fire if she has been carried there. At that point, the job title of the Para changes to Goalie. While I am teaching in my new obnoxious kid free classroom, the para allows the child to come back only if she is not causing a problem. If she runs back, is yelling or doing anything that causes a problem during her reentry into the class, the Goalie says “Oh man”, picks the child up and returns her to her to recovery. As soon as the Goalie becomes too tired, bored or annoyed with having to do this, she puts the child into child’s control position and stays in the recovery area restraining her until the child falls asleep or says calmly that she is able to return to the group. If she can return to the group and not cause a problem, terrific. If not, she is asked to go to either recovery area using the exact same script as was used earlier. If she refuses to go, the “feet in the air” script is repeated. When she finally does decide to return on her own, she is not lectured, warned, or threatened. She is given a smile with no acknowledgement of what just happened.

Be ready for your para to have to restrain to the point of Kid falling asleep. COUNT THIS AS A SUCCESS!!!!!!! You have only three goals here:

  1. The other kids can learn.

  2. You can teach.

  3. Kid learns, through much suffering, that she can be pleasant in the classroom or unpleasant outside of it.

Notes:

  • Allow her to go to the recovery area in the classroom only if she goes there willingly. This will encourage compliance and better maintain your learning environment.

  • Allow her to go to the out of room recovery area if she wishes. If possible, Kid should be able to be monitored without her realizing it. NO ATTENTION IS PAYED TO A CHILD IN RECOVERY.

  • Remember your three goals and concentrate only on these goals. Even if she ends up falling asleep in a restraint every day for a week, you have still achieved your three goals. She will eventually become compliant.

  • This recovery process can and should be used with all of your students.

  • This MUST BE DONE WITH EMPATHY OR IT WILL NOT WORK!! Saying “Oh, man” in exactly the place where I told you to do it IS NOT OPTIONAL.

  • DO NOT INSTITUTE THIS PLAN YET!!!!! Talk to your para and your other colleagues. Try to figure out every possible logistical issue. Where will this recovery room be? It can be in another classroom if need be. What else may go wrong? Once you have problems which you feel can’t be solved, message me and I will solve them.

  • Kid is able to control these outbursts because she is now waiting for your para to leave the room before she has them. In preparation for this, have an independent assignment ready for your other students. Follow the script and be ready to be restraining Kid in in-room recovery. It isn’t optimal, but it may be all you can do. If your para is flexible and is able to be “on call” during her lunch for a week and you can text her to come back for the outburst, this should stop Kid from being able to take advantage of this chink in your armor and she will eventually stop manipulating in this way. Your para could perhaps finish her lunch later.

  • If your principal and you deem it necessary, talk to her parent or parents about this new plan but tell her or them not to say anything to their child about the plan.

  • This plan does not need a parent’s involvement in order to be successful. In fact, parental support is irrelevant. You don’t need it.

Good luck, Terry, and congratulations! Your school year is about to improve. Again, keep me in the loop!

-The Kid Whisperer