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School Behavioral Strategies to Deal With Disrespectful Children

by Michelle McFarland-McDaniels, studioD

Disrespectful students can wreak havoc on a classroom. They irritate teachers, distract their classmates, create a negative school climate and detract from the learning process. Worst of all, they cause precious instructional time to be wasted. It is a problem that is both disturbing and widespread. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that, on a daily basis or at least once per week, 6 percent of public schools have incidents of students verbally abusing teachers, 10.5 percent of teachers experience other forms of abuse from students and widespread disorder occurs in 4 percent of classrooms. Fortunately, schools have some tried and true strategies for effectively managing disrespectful children.

Classroom Management

If your child, or his classmates, behave disrespectfully in school, a well-run classroom is the first line of defense. A teacher who effectively manages her classroom will minimize both incidences of and the impact of disrespectful behavior. This kind of teacher will implement structure and establish routines and procedures from day one. She will communicate expectations -- behavioral and otherwise -- on the first day of school. Her rules, consequences and incentives will be clear, consistent, fair and equitably enforced.


Sometimes children behave disrespectfully at school because they are overwhelmed by problems that originate outside of school. Mental illness, emotional problems, cognitive impairments and learning disabilities can all cause children to act out. If a parent or teacher suspects that a child may have underlying problems that manifest as behavior problems, she should request assistance from the school's counselor, social worker, psychologist or nurse. These professionals can use their expertise to help identify the problem, recommend interventions and obtain supportive services.

Behavior Management Plan

When a child continuously engages in severely disruptive behavior in school that is resistant to corrective action, a behavior management plan may be indicated. If this is the case, the teacher will confer with administrators and the school's case manager to convene a team to develop one. A behavioral plan identifies negative behaviors, their likely causes and appropriate interventions. In addition to developing the plan, the team implements, monitors and, if necessary, modifies it.

Disciplinary Action

Repeated or extreme incidents of disrespectful behavior warrant disciplinary action. Most schools take a progressive approach that uses increasingly severe penalties that are commensurate with the seriousness of the infraction. Discipline can range from demerits to removing privileges to, in extreme cases, suspension or expulsion. Harsh punishment is never an ideal solution, but sometimes it is necessary, at least on a temporary basis, to create a school environment that is safe, supportive and conducive to learning.

About the Author

Michelle McFarland-McDaniels has been writing professionally since 1983. She has written for a variety of online publications including BET.com and MSNBC.com, as well as "College Outlook" and "San Diego Family" magazines. McFarland-McDaniels holds master's degrees in African-American literature and education.

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