Dont Engage in the Fight! Tips to avoid power struggles with students

Hey Friends!

This week my kids came back to school and although everything is happy go lucky at the moment, there will come a time when behaviors start to spread through the room like wildfire.

Last year I had two kids that were ‘tiered’ for behavior. This means that they had frequent outbursts and required support from a behavioral specialist. To be honest, it drove me to tears. Last year was the first time I ever cried in front of my kids because I was so hurt by what one of my little friends whom I love so dearly did and said.

This year is a new year and my wonderful amazing school counselor gave me some excellent ideas that I feel are too amazing not to share. As I write this post, I want you to reflect on any of your past kids that displayed some sort of unruly behavior.

Yes, it really is true. If a kid is testing you, with all your might and soul don’t engage. For starters, you might lose.

Take a moment… What is “that phrase” a student says that just gets under your skin?
What line has gotten you into an argument?
“I’m not gonna”
“I don’t wanna” 
*Lips Smacking*
“UGH this is boring”
Don’t retaliate with a comment such as, “This is mandatory” or any of the sort. 
These kinds of kids test the waters for numerous reasons: 
“Nobody cares enough about me to set some limits”
“The most powerful people in my life have given up on me”
“If the most powerful people in my life can’t make me behave, I must be pretty bad, pretty hopeless”
Do NOT put your emotions into what the student is saying.
Remember, they are only saying it as a result of the reason stated above.
Respond with only ONE line when a student begins to act like this. 
They are attempting to invite you into the fight.
Don’t engage!
When you are only repeating these one liners, who will eventually do all the talking?
The kid
That kid will become tired and end up dancing when themselves, not you.
I know you will feel so silly repeating these one liners over and over, but they work! 
This is something that to be honest, I did not implement. 
I gave a consequence when my tiered behavior kid was acting up.
I admit it.
That’s okay, I’m human
Are delayed consequences required for every instance? Of course not. 
However, a delayed consequence eliminates heated on the spot consequences
Let the kids calm down, think about it and possible learn. 
Have you ever received an email from the principal that just said, “Can you meet me in my office at 2:30pm?” I’m sure your mind went a mile a minute as you tried to pin point any rule you may have broken. By the time 2:30 rolls around, you had your mind set on the problem and a solution to fix it!
….Only to find out that you were getting an award! 
Instead of giving an on the spot consequence, why don’t you try:
“______, I’m going to do something about that but not right now, I’ll see you later”.
Now the worrying starts and they start thinking
They want to get out of it and to get out of it means they have to find a solution. 
Waiting time is important thought processing. 
If we provide immediate consequences, then we leave some holes. Children need time to calm down and so do you. Let’s make those consequences more meaningful. 
By delaying consequences, you are making them feel everything you want them to feel.
Allow students to look inside and learn from the consequence. 
It’s hard for a child to blame someone that feels your pain. 
Example: I am so sorry you made that choice, those that break this rule must lose a dojo point.

Hand the kids back the problem but in a caring way.

Student——> “Ms. Calderon the kids at recess are being mean to me!”
Teacher—–>  “Oh Sarah, I’m so sorry I’m sure that hurts your feelings”
Student——>  “Yes it does! I need you to do something about it”
Teacher—–>   “I can give you some ideas for how to solve the problem, what do you think?”

To be empathetic, you must MEAN what you say!
“Oh, I’m sorry that happened!”

It is so important that we watch our language when enforcing rules. 
Remember, the only person that can enforce is YOU
Instead of just giving the rule, let the kids know what will happen as a result of the expected behavior:

The more control you share the more you will have
Making appropriate choices is hard but it should follow some guidelines: 
Give your kid that can never get his work done a choice!
Would you rather have 5 minutes or 7 minutes to complete these two problems?
It is 100% likely that he will choose 7 minutes and 100% likely you will be able to spare 2 extra minutes for him.
Now he has made a choice (even if it’s small) 
This kid verbalized when he plans on completing this task
If he fails to complete he can’t lie for why he did not complete his work because YOU gave him the power. 
I hope these are tips will help you in the classroom when a child begins misbehave.
I look forward to hearing how you avoid the power struggle!
Leave a comment below 🙂
I would love for you to follow my Classroom Management Pinterest Board! 

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11 Comment

  1. Reply
    Deb Hanson
    August 25, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Wow!! What an amazing blog post!! Yes, we've all had those students who like to push our buttons- I will be bookmarking this post to refer to in the future! There are so many helpful solutions right here in this one post! THANK YOU!!

  2. Reply
    Sarah Cole
    August 26, 2015 at 4:46 am

    Amber! This are hands down the BEST!!! It it is always to put a positive spin on things!

    Thanks, Sarah
    Tales of Teaching with Tech

  3. Reply
    Third in Hollywood
    August 26, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Great tips!!!!

  4. Reply
    August 29, 2015 at 3:57 am

    This is just like Love and Logic! Thanks for the reminders.

  5. Reply
    Holly Day
    November 8, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  6. Reply
    Jazzy Jezzy
    February 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    These are very effective behavior management tips. Some of these I have used before.

  7. Reply
    Jerry Hillyer
    February 25, 2016 at 2:48 am

    A lot of good thoughts. I disagree that delayed consequences is ever a good idea. Most of the time they have forgotten by the time we remember. Better is that they know the consequences ahead of time and we can remind them in the moment.

  8. Reply
    March 27, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    We are trying to come up with some consequences. What are some consequences that you use? And I never take recess from a child because those are the kids that need to run!

    1. Reply
      April 2, 2016 at 2:10 am

      I totally understand not wanting to take recess from one of these types of kids. They really are the ones who need to burn energy. One way I get around this is by having them do some sort of exercise in the corner while the others play and enjoy social time. They might have to run in place for so many minutes or jump up and down. They burn energy but they have to do it alone so they are still feeling the consequences of their behavior. Just a thought. 🙂

  9. Reply
    September 24, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Thanks for the great ideas! I’m a 1st-year teacher in third grade…. with *6* students with behavior counselors. School gets pretty interesting some days! I’m excited to try some of these ideas 🙂

  10. Reply
    Angela C
    December 4, 2016 at 2:41 am

    You may have just saved my life as a new, first-year teacher taking over an inner-city 4th grade charter school classroom in the middle of the year! THANK YOU for sharing the amazing ideas you’ve come up with. I will be looking over much of your info in greater detail and will be a frequent visitor! Yay and thank you!

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