How to Recognize and Manage Children with Defiance Disorders in Schools

I am not a special education teacher, but what I’ve done has worked. I have a student who is very defiant, and he does not like to be corrected. He is very hard to keep on task with a positive attitude, but this method is working for him and has worked for others.

The first thing you should do is make absolutely sure that you have taught your rules. If you do not tell the students specifically what you want, then you cannot expect them to do it.

Then continue to teach the rules by doing this: When a student is chewing gum, say, John, what is rule #4? He replies, Don’t chew gum. And what should you be doing now? I should be throwing it away. That’s great, John. Go do that now please. Then look away as if it is done with no more need to discuss it. With the pressure off, nearly all students will throw the gum away. But watch to make sure that John actually does throw the gum away. If not, go through the steps again. He will throw it away without conflict nearly every time. If he argues and says he needs it, say, John, what do I have to do with students who do not follow the rules? You send them to the office. John, you’re too nice of a guy for me to send you to the office. Please throw your gum away. Few children really want to go to the office, and he will comply.

With this defiant student, make sure that you get to know the student. Take him or her aside and talk. Ask questions about his or her life. Ask about what she or he likes to do. Take the opportunity to ask what he or she did over the weekend. Get to know the student.

After that, tell the student that you notice that he or she is having a bit of a problem paying attention, working or whatever it is that you want corrected. Say, I really like you as a person, and I want to help you be successful in this class. So because part of your grade is based on your participation, I want you to get that grade so that you can get a higher grade. Tell the student that you are going to remind the student when he or she is being disruptive or acting inappropriate because you want him or her to be successful. Everyone want to be successful, and these children are not less desirous of success. Choose one thing that the student does that is a problem, and tell the student that you are going to work on that problem. Explain that you will follow these procedures:

1. If the student does not like to be called out in class (and most do not), I will use a small sticky note or colored piece of paper. I will be putting that on the desk whenever you are being disruptive so that you know what I expect, okay?

2. If you continue to disrupt, I will put a copy of the class rules on your desk so you can remember them.

3. I will not call you out in class unless you continue to disrupt the class after I let you know that you are.

Another thing that you can add to this is have each student grade themselves for a certain period of time on effort, participation and independence. I find that a form where students can circle these items and get feedback from the teacher each day helps to make them think about their behavior. You can prepare a form like this with enough for the entire quarter on one page:


Student Rating: Effort 1 2 3 4 5 Participation 1 2 3 4 5 Independence 1 2 3 4 5

Teacher Rating: Effort 1 2 3 4 5 Participation 1 2 3 4 5 Independence 1 2 3 4 5

Believe this or not, most students who are disruptive do not realize they are being disruptive. They probably live in a house that everyone talks at once. They may live in a house that they are encouraged to speak up to be recognized. They do not see their outbursts in class as being disruptive, and they have come to resent people telling them that they are bad because, at home, they are praised for doing the same thing which they call socializing. They live that way, and they are being told that their way of life is bad. They need to be taught that certain environments require different actions instead of being disciplined.

Many students that are disruptive have become defiant because they don’t think that anyone cares. If you are a person in authority and only care about the authority, then you don’t care about them. They need someone to care, so they defy authority that shows them that someone doesn’t care. Get to know them. Most of the time, they will cooperate with you.

Finally, realize that some students defy teachers because they have their own agenda. If you must, then refer them. But try these steps first. They often will make a difference, and you won’t have to send Johnny off to the office every day for the rest of the year. It becomes a win win situation for everyone.