When dealing with challenging behaviour, it is important to step back and look at the ‘bigger picture’. Behaviour Matters discusses why this will have a positive influence“I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, toys not included.”  – Bernard Manning

Much of the advice, and many of the practical tips, given in the Behaviour Matters articles over the past 12 months have related to specific strategies and techniques. Challenging behaviour needs to be looked at within the bigger picture by teachers and student, as this article, the last one for this year, will hopefully illustrate.

Your thoughts, emotions, feelings and body language all drive your behaviour. Generally, only two aspects are actually visible to the student, namely your verbal and non-verbal language, and yet both of these tremendously powerful means of communication are being driven by what you are thinking and how you feel. Remember this is true not just of yourself, but also the student or colleague with whom you are dealing. In spite of what you might be saying, your body language could be saying something totally different. The message to the student or colleague could easily be: a) You don’t mean what you say. b) You are overreacting to the situation. c) You are feeling high levels of stress. d) You are in danger of “burn out”! e) Your attempts at self-control are affecting the sincerity of what you are saying. It is time to look at the “Full Picture” of yourself when dealing with, or being involved in, a challenging situation. Your thoughts have a direct effect on your feelings, your body language and your actions. Try to imagine watching and listening to yourself in real time, as the action is taking place. If you have ever had this often unnerving experience you will know how influential it can be. Those of us who have caught sight of ourselves in a shop window or mirror and have immediately altered our stance/posture, or heard our own voice on a recording or over a loudspeaker system will invariably make a mental note to speak more clearly/without that strong accent etc. The following practical tips relate to being able to put all of this “Full Picture” together and generate a positive influence on our ability to manage the situation.

Practical Tips Can you remember making any of the following comments to a student, (your partner!) or your own children?

  • “Just look at yourself!”
  • “Stop and think about what you are saying.”
  • “You don’t really mean that!”

We are obviously subconsciously aware of the impact of the Full Picture. “Just look at yourself!” clearly indicates that visible behaviour is not reflecting the relevance of the situation. “You’re not thinking this through”, equally indicates that actions are not in tune with thoughts. The Full Picture means being in tune with, and able to react, to all of the physical and emotional pressures affecting your ability to successfully manage a situation. The components of the Full Picture are: a) Your thoughts. b) Your feelings. c) Your body language. d) Your actions, including verbal language.

  • Give the students regular breaks in their work.
  • If the weather is hot and the atmosphere is “edgy”, take a break and go out into the playground or on to the field to complete the lesson.
  • Allow a period of time for free talk or chat for your students to let off some steam.
  • If the problem is with an individual student, consider backing off and allowing both you and the student some time and space.
  • Set shorter, easily achievable targets. Allow the students to work in shorter but concentrated periods of time.
  • Focus on rewards for achievement rather than sanctions for non compliance.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in December 2007

About the author: Dave Stott is the author of Behaviour Matters. He has nearly 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher level. He has worked in mainstream, special and Local Authority Behaviour Support Services, and is now a successful consultant and trainer.