Working with Children
Dealing with Disruption
We would like to start by thanking you for your interest in this program and your willingness to help the lives of the children with whom you are in contact. In this sheet we would like to give you some helpful tips on dealing with your students, both in recognizing the strengths and understandings of your students as well as dealing with disruptive or difficult students.
There are several ways a child can be disruptive. Sometimes, there are students who will engage in witty banter with teachers as a method of disrupting the group. There are many reasons a child will do this, but what is important to realize is that these children have established themselves as leaders in doing so. We have found that a very useful way to handle these children is to bring them to the front of the class and, in a very light way, begin to ask them about what leadership is and how it is demonstrated in a practical way. Then, point out to them that they are leaders, and as leaders, have the ability to lead others into harmful situations, or situations which will benefit themselves and others.
The idea is to try and get a child who is clearly a leader on to your side. Disruptive children are, more often than not, more of a solution to a problem rather than the problem itself. If you can get them to see that it is better for them to lead others to more fruitful or beneficial areas, then they become an asset rather than a hindrance. Remember, it is always okay to move to another precept if a situation like this, or an opportunity to bring a problem to light, comes up.
This leads us to being able to recognize if the students are understanding the principles you are trying to teach them. The best way to start is to really emphasize on day one that these are their choices. They have control over these things and, as a result, they have responsibility for their actions. Then, ask for examples of how this has proven true. Interaction is one of the best ways to have them demonstrate, not only an interest, but an understanding.
Remember, the reward of apparent understanding will likely not be immediate. Be patient with your students and trust that they are retaining things and that the changes will often come over time.
Sometimes, a child will be disruptive because he or she simply doesn’t want to be there. Remember that they are responsible for the choices they make. It’s important not to force a child to be there. Emphasize that this is a club, not a class, and that we will be doing a lot of activities. Stress the fact that, as responsible decision makers, they are leaders and are therefore a vital part of their community. Hopefully, by focusing on the fact that they are capable of making major changes in their environments, they will get on board. Feeling needed and important is often enough to get them to at least try and give the program a chance.
Finally, we really want to emphasize that kindness is almost always the best policy. Most of these children have been around authority figures their whole lives and could really use someone telling them they are important and capable of positively affecting the area around them. If a child continues to disrupt and make poor choices, point out that his or her poor choice is currently having a negative effect on you. Ask him where he sees you going on the happiness scale as a result of his choice and remind him that there are consequences with any choice. Be patient and continue to refer back to the program. Hopefully, your work will be rewarded by the child realizing that he, ultimately, controls his environment and the way others relate and respond to him.