Friday, February 24, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T...Sock it to me (but not literally)

“He is just so disrespectful!”

This is one of the most frequent complaints I hear from school personnel, teachers, and students alike. Yet, it can be one of the easiest behaviors to correct. Children (and adults) act with disrespect or defiance for two reasons. One, they don’t realize they are being disrespectful. Two, they are feeling powerless and are trying to regain some of their lost power. If a child doesn’t realize they are being disrespectful, then it’s a skills deficit and they simply need to know why what they are doing is disrespectful and what they need to do instead. However, if they understand that yelling at someone is disrespectful, then they are choosing, at some level, to be disrespectful.

Here’s the thing about respect, we all know what it is, we can all recognize it, but defining it in concrete, objective terms can be difficult. That’s why there are no concrete, tangible interventions for increasing respectful and decreasing defiant behaviors in children. WAIT…..don’t quit reading yet, you don’t need to quit teaching and become a Hippo wrangler at the zoo-there is hope!

Below is a list of interventions that when used consistently and with honesty, can be exceptionally effective at reducing or even eliminating defiant and “disrespectful” behaviors.

1. Adults must give respect to get respect. Always give respect, even when you are being “disrespected” by a student. Teachers must model the behavior we want to see in our students.
2. It is not about you. A student may be defiant or disrespectful for any number of reasons, none of which likely have anything to do with you as a person.
3. Keep objectivity.
4. If you are angry with a student who is being disrespectful, walk away, ignore, and give yourself a “time-out.” Return to handle the situation when you are in complete control of your emotions.
5. Keep your voice calmer, quieter, and have a softer tone than your students.
6. Don’t “pick up the rope.” If a student says, “No,” you can choose to argue or you can choose to give the command again, along with an “if you….then….X” statement.
7. Work on developing a positive relationship with the student. Students will work harder for and respond more quickly to adults with whom they have a positive relationship.
8. Have clear, consistent, realistic, and high expectations, be firm in enforcing them, and give positives when the child meets those expectations.
9. If a child says, “No,” but eventually does the task. Ignore the defiance and focus on their positive behaviors. Always do so in a non-sarcastic or fake manner.
10. Always, always start every day, class, and maybe every minute with a clean slate.
11. Pick your battles. You can choose to fight the same battle every day or you can choose to let it go.
12. Give good, logical reasons for your decisions. Explain them in a non-condescending manner to your students.
13. Give choices when a student is being defiant. Students are defiant to gain power, giving them choices allows them to feel more in control and they are less likely to be defiant.

I know it sounds odd, but I really enjoy working with students who engage in defiant and disrespectful behaviors. They keep me on my toes, keep me honest, and remind me that true power is gained through respect.

And, at heart, I belong to the “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” club. I’ve just learned to hide my oppositional nature better than some;)