June 27, 2013

Why Do Kids Misbehave?

I want to focus on Peace Building through the arts, but first we need to look at why we're here!?

I didn't have time in the 10 minute AOE presentation to focus on this, so today we will focus on the #1 reason why you are probably interested in Peace Building.


Have you had it with bad behavior showing up in your classroom, are you feeling discouraged, are you not sure how to extinguish these behaviors so you can teach?  As educators, we have all experienced these feelings and more. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but let's get one thing straight, you are not going to extinguish bad behavior. Believe me I've tried. I see teachers trying using a variety of methods all day long. You are human, not a miracle worker. When one behavior stops, another will creep up in it's place. What we need to do is not try to change it, but transform bad behavior through meeting students needs. Changing it would create resistance. But, transforming offers something new and better in it's place. 

First, we need to focus on understanding what motivates this bad behavior.

You are probably thinking, "APG you are crazy! How am I supposed to figure out what motivates my 600+ kids behaviors?" You are absolutely right! I am crazy and this is impossible, but so is giving 25 Kindergarteners scissors for the first time, or buying art supplies with less then a dollar a kid, if we were sane, we would not have accepted this job in the first place!

But there IS a way to begin to find the root of their behaviors. It starts with their basic human needs.

We all have four needs (shout out to Lisa Huber for introducing me to this) 
If we really listened to children we would hear one of these needs or more.


To be SEEN




I'd like to add two more basic needs that play a huge role in children's behaviors.

I am HUNGRY . . . I NEED Nutrition
I am TIRED. . . I NEED Sleep

Sleep is something that people from every economic level can afford. As teachers there is not much we can do to control children's sleep, but we can report to parents what we see in the classroom and compassionately bring up the subject.

Nutrition is an issue that we can control in schools, but most do not. Our school is working on nutrition education with a team, so that when eventually school lunch is changed, the students will actually try it. (We just got back from watering our school garden!) Simply giving students healthy food does not mean they'll eat it. We are working on changing the food culture. Many of the foods children are fed at home and school are highly addictive. Nutrition is a huge element that leads to misbehavior.

As an aside. . . A person very close to me, had difficult childhood with very destructive behaviors. This is the reason I am very compassionate to the kids I teach. He was lucky enough to get to go to a therapeutic wilderness program. This is something that only the top one percent earners of our population can afford (which is a terrible tragedy.) At the program for months, they only ate a diet that Native Americans would of fish, berries, nuts and vegetables. This in itself changed behavior. Because of this and people caring, he is the most compassionate person I've met and gives that gift to everyone who crosses his path. If you've ever loved a child who had destructive behaviors you know what a miracle it is to see them become the person who they are supposed to be. I often look at this program and the Native American teachings he learned there for myself and the students I teach. 
Simply considering these needs when a student is misbehaving is a step in the right direction. It does not mean that we don't have any consequences, but it does mean we are working in the child's best interest and with compassion.

By the end of all the posts this summer I'm hoping to address ways to recognize these needs and fulfill them. It is a huge topic.


Please share your thoughts. Any stories? Please share (omit names)  to help us understand how these needs drive behavior in real life situations. 

DISCLAIMER: There are behavior strategies that work quicker and produce change. Most are based on fear. Don't be fooled by fear based strategies. The strategies I will present to you this summer will take more work, are not fool/human proof, but in the end it is worth it. Fear of the teacher does not allow for risk taking and a collaborative relationship that creates great artists and thinkers. I do believe fear has it's place. For example, I think children should have a healthy fear of strangers and the principals office. But everyday fear has never made a great artist. 


tishalou said...

Thank you so much for discussing this topic. I think every year one of the things I say I want to do is to be more patient and compassionate - think about where the students are coming from - then I get caught up in the schedule and the 40 minute classes and everything is rush, rush. I look forward to reading about your strategies.

Unknown said...

Wow Tisha! Over a hundred views on this post and you are the only one who responded. That is saying something. The fact that you recognize the need for more compassion and patience with the kids we teach is a huge step. I get the feeling you work in a district like mine from knowing you through the blogs all these years! So it is a challenge that we have to give to ourselves almost daily. And we have to be kind to ourselves when we fall short. You aren't alone in feeling rushed and lack of time is our worst enemy when trying to build relationships to be an effective teacher.

Sometimes I envy classroom teachers because they have the same children all day and can build relationships easier. Then they tell me they envy me because I get them for just one hour a week. I think there is a lack of understanding on both ends! Wouldn't you just love to switch jobs for a week and see if that makes us work better together as a whole school.

Staci Nofziger said...

I am so excited to keep up with this topic... I sometimes feel like my job is to discipline, not teach. And the needs that you listed are, I'm sure, the very reason for most of the behaviors I deal with. But when teaching 500 kids, it's hard to slow down and focus on those needs. Can't wait to see your suggestions.

I also agree with the fact that seeing them so much less is a factor in keeping behaviors at bay. It's SO hard to establish and continue a routine - I feel like I have to repeat myself constantly in 40 minutes, and by the time they come back, they're out of practice, and it starts all over again. And this coming year I will be seeing them 6-7 times in a 9 weeks... so even less than every week. Definitely need some new strategies in place. :)

Sabriel said...

This post is great. Thank you for addressing hunger and sleep deprivation! I also appreciate the 4 "needs" list. I agree hunger and sleep should be added.

The state of school lunches/food, even in more "wealthy" white suburban schools (I know because I've taught there) is atrocious. Terrible quality, terrible choices. And no one seems to even think twice about it. It doesn't matter because the teachers overall seem to also eat terribly (hint: microwaved Lean Cuisine and a diet Coke isn't good for you) as well as the parents. I have never seen so much sugar and sugary foods as I have since I started teaching at the elementary level. It is everywhere and no one thinks twice. And if it isn't sugary it's majorly processed (the meat, the chips, etc.)

I have been eating a Paleo diet since September 2011 and have never felt better. It sounds a lot like the Native American diet you have described here. I wish everyone realized how much their diet and the food they eat affects their everyday behavior. In fact if there were some way I could go into schools and work with the kids regarding nutrition (ala Jamie Oliver) I would love this. Perhaps an idea... anyway Thank you THANK YOU for posting this. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Where did this resource of needs come from exactly?

Unknown said...

I believe I got this from The National Peace Academy's director Dot Maver. I checked with a couple of my colleagues and we couldn't trace it back any farther then that! I wish I had better news:)