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How to Eliminate Disruptive Behavior and Maximise Engagement in Learning using Positive Pedagogy

How to Eliminate Disruptive Behavior and Maximise Engagement in Learning using Positive Pedagogy

This article will suit you no matter whether you are a teacher or a home schooling parent as the principles we share here apply to both contexts.

So, you prepared another exciting learning experience for your students or your home schooled children packed with activities, discussions, interesting projects and resources but the only person really excited is yourself.

And then even your excitement soon drops significantly and turns into frustration as your perfect plan is ruined by misbehaving students or your disinterested child. The activities do not work as you planned and the whole lesson/experience is one big chaos. Does it sound familiar?

Every single teacher or a home schooling parent at some point have at least a few similar experiences, which is only natural. Behaviour management, maintaining children’s focus and involvement has always been one of the most challenging issues. Keeping children’s attention and motivation is one of the most difficult aspects of teaching and facilitating learning processes. However, it is definitely doable and with some practice and a bunch of useful tools at hand it gets easier with time.

Appealing hands-on projects keep children engaged and motivated.

Why children misbehave

No matter how hard you try you will not achieve long lasting results if you don’ t understand the nature and the true reasons behind disruptive behaviour and disengagement. They are universal and you need to consider all of them when trying to deal with misbehaving children. Naturally you will need to consider individual cases before deciding on the best approach but the following should help you get the bigger picture of what the misbehaviour is really about.

Children misbehave because:

  • they need positive attention – As children need positive feedback that boosts their confidence and is necessary for harmonious growth their misbehaviour during any activity/learning context you offer might be a sign that they receive little or not enough positive attention or feedback. If this is so they will ask for whatever attention they may receive even if it means negative attention.
  • they find it hard to fully express themselves – Children are active by nature and their need to constantly let go of the energy they accumulate during the day and express this energy in the way that suits the best. They will do so by finding the best ways to express themselves and channel the energy into something they particularly like. If there is no enabling environments to do so they will need to use whatever is available to regulate their energy and these might be the things that disrupt what you planned for them
Children are always ready to work in partnership.
  • they want to be treated as partners – Children instinctively know that their voice should be heard and in harmonious conditions they quickly become aware of their individual needs and they wish to be respected. Too much discipline, authoritative teaching/parenting style and lack of consideration for their needs quickly leads to disruptive behaviour. 
  • they are expected to do more than they are ready for – Too much pressure can create fear of failure and frustration which might easily lead to anger, felling of being inadequate or and losing self-confidence which might result in disruptive behaviour.
  • they are bored – Children get absorbed in things they are excited about very easily and when this happens they are hardly ever disruptive. It’s when they are bored they look for things to do and get busy with as this is part of their nature and these can be the things that you don’t necessarily want them to do. 
Children get easily absorbed in experiences that excite them.

Eliminating disruptive behaviour

As teachers we have worked with all age ranges starting from early years, through school children, teenagers, university students, adults and the elderly and after 20 years of hands-on practice and training our observation is still the same – our students’ misbehaviour means we need to reflect on our teaching/parenting style instead of blaming them for being disruptive. Yes, there will be individual cases when the misbehaviour is related to personal issues, abuse or other individual circumstances but in general we as teachers/facilitators/parents will still be responsible for making sure we do our best to reduce disruptions. This attitude has nothing to do with blaming ourselves but rather with being reflective and trying to find the most effective ways to appeal to our students/children’s needs as individuals and as a group. 

To be honest there are no magic tricks you can perform to eliminate misbehaviour if you don’t try to understand its nature first and the fact how your own teaching/parenting style and attitude in general contribute to children’s misbehaviour. However, assuming you take on board the fact the entire misbehaviour issue is strongly related to your teaching/parenting style then you can adopt the following techniques and see how they can positively affect your children:

Build partnerships

Positive relationships built on mutual trust and respect means children students know that you are always on their side trying to understand them instead of imposing things of them and requiring obedience. Be honest, ask for their opinion, don’t be afraid of showing who you are as a person.

Offer variety of appealing hands-on and multi-sensory experiences and plenty of flexibility for children to decide about the nature of their learning.

Offer variety

Work on your classroom/house/group dynamics by introducing various types of activities that promote movement, encourage team work, offer hand-on learning and project work, appeal to senses and different learning styles.

Appeal to interests

Know your students/children and offer them activities and topics that interest them the most. Observe what types of activities motivate them to work and plan more of them. If they are musical play background music during study time and incorporate musical theme into your planning. The same applies to other talents. Your students might prefer team work in general, they might be science oriented or extremely active so they need a lot of movement and action. 

Offer opportunities for collaboration focused on children’s strengths.

Introduce rules

Agreeing on basic rules and expected behaviour helps introduce boundaries and might offer sense of security. It also encourages self-discipline and reflection. Remember to discuss the rules with children instead of just imposing them and expect yourself to obey the rules as well.

Involve children in planning

Discussing learning experiences with children helps you to plan the right types of activities for them, use the most appealing tools and approaches. Apart from that it is a great way to empower your students/children as they will feel trusted to decide about their own learning. 

Dealing with misbehaviour as it happens is a relatively difficult task. It is much easier to prevent disruptive behaviour by knowing what causes it and planning the right kind of experiences for children. It requires great flexibility as there are no fixed rules that will work for every one. Knowing children’s strengths and offering them personalized learning paths even within a group is not only always possible but also relatively easy to accomplish. Definitely it is one of the most effective ways to promote positive engagement and support individual students.

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