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How to Support Students with Difficult Behavior Problems

In an ideal setting, a classroom should have a teacher facilitating lessons, while the students are carefully listening, learning, and collaborating about a particular subject. But in reality, that scenario may be different from what’s happening in many classrooms.

Grumpy female student

Usually, teachers have students with difficult behavior problems in their classrooms. These students engage in behaviors that can be disruptive to the whole class. It can set off a chain reaction, affecting not only the teacher but other students as well. Educational consulting and professional development can help educators develop skills on how to address this issue.


  • Be patient – The most important thing to remember when dealing with this situation is to have patience. Take some time off before saying or doing something that you might regret later on. Wait for the right opportunity to talk to the student involved. It could be during recess time, after class hours, or any time when you can speak with him in private.

  • Understand the reason behind it – To resolve the problem, a teacher must first figure out why the student is misbehaving. Is he/she angry? At what? Is the student bored or trying to get attention? What is the function of the behavior? Is it attention seeking, avoidance, or access?

  • Make students feel that they belong – If a student feels alienated or does not belong to the class, he/she may do things that others might find disrespectful or arrogant. You can help the student feel more at home by having a sense of “family” inside the classroom.

  • Show empathy – On the part of the teacher, showing compassion can make the student feel understood. This approach is crucial so that a teacher can reach out and relate to the student.

  • Control your emotions – If you let your students get under your skin, you will lose your effectiveness as a teacher. Instead of solving the problem, it can just add to the tension inside the classroom. Having a violent reaction or outburst in itself can also be disruptive.

  • Build a positive teacher-student relationship – Teachers who have high-quality relationships with their students have fewer problems with student behavior and discipline. An important component of developing relationships is to know and understand the student concerned.

  • Don’t be bossy or egotistic – Although the teacher holds a higher position than the student, being bossy can just lead to more resentment. Some students may even think of revenge, by escalating the situation or challenging the authority of the teacher. The best thing during this predicament is to have the student on your side so that you can have his/her trust.


  1. Physical

  • Illnesses – A student who has an illness may be irritable, inattentive, or aggressive. Teachers seldom know the medical history of their students, so it’s hard to guess what’s going on. Some may have psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression. Others may have personality disorders, such as narcissism or being paranoid. In such cases, it’s best to refer the student to the school counselor so that he/she may provide a deeper level of support in and out of school.

  • Fatigue – Let’s face it, being a student is not that easy. Aside from travel, students also have to sit for hours, listen to the teacher, and do their assignments. Some may not be physically fit or lack the mental concentration to do this every day. You may notice a few who are not listening, sleeping, or daydreaming. Fatigue can play a big role in the lives of low-income families.

  • Discomfort – Sometimes, simple things can lead to a student being uncomfortable and redirect their displeasure toward others. It may sound trivial, but uncomfortable seats, hot or cold classrooms, or overcrowding can trigger a reaction from students who are impatient, impulsive, and abrasive.

  1. Emotional

  • Redirected aggression – A student may be upset over an event that is entirely unrelated to the classroom. Sometimes, frustrations in school can add to the “burden” a student is already feeling. He/she needs an outlet to express his/her emotions. A simple thing can serve as a catalyst and lead to an outburst.

  • Maturity level – As young kids grow, you may expect them to mature according to their age. However, not all students are able to achieve this. Some may show signs of immaturity, such as being childish, clowning around, or not taking things seriously.

  • Attention seeking – Some students want to draw attention to themselves. They may have been spoiled at home, an only child, or they may be from a wealthy family (where they get everything they want).

  • Grief – Loss of a loved one can be a life-changing experience for a student. Grief can be expressed as restlessness, anger, guilt, anxiety, depression, and withdrawal. This emotion can also be due to other factors, such as financial difficulties, moving to a new neighborhood, or family problems.

  1. Environmental

  • Culture – Values and customs can vary, depending on one’s culture. Although a student’s racial background should not be a hindrance to learning, sometimes, there are instances where the cultural background can be a trigger of student misbehavior. Aside from race, economic status can also be a source of conflict within the classroom.

  • Class size – It is more challenging for a teacher to handle a large class size compared to a class with fewer students. An overcrowded environment means it is harder to focus on the lessons. Invasion of personal space can also lead to conflict. When students find it hard to concentrate on the lessons, they may resort to disruptive behavior. They lose interest and search for other things to do with their time (chatting with a classmate during class or playing games while the class is ongoing).

  • Stimulation and boredom – There’s nothing wrong with being consistent, but sometimes, predictable or monotonous teaching methods can lead to a lack of stimulation. Boredom can encourage students to “entertain” themselves, causing disruption in the class. A teacher can use different instructional techniques to see what works and what does not.


Teachers can find it challenging to support students with behavior problems. Disruptive behavior can affect not only the teacher and the student involved but the whole classroom as well. It will create a tense and poor environment for learning.

As discussed above, there are things that a teacher can do to solve this problem. Educational consulting and professional development can make it easier for educators to overcome these challenges and be successful inside the classroom. If you need additional help with classroom management, especially with the most difficult behavior needs, Mandy Rinehart can help. Contact us at



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