4 Challenging Student Behaviors (2/4): NEGATIVE



Negative or insensitive players are similar to show-offs in that they are usually rejected
by others and do not understand why. They differ in that their clowning brings no
laughter, and they have great difficulty in making friends. They tend to reject the ideas
of others and criticize others’ efforts, often harshly. Sometimes these behaviors are
linked with low self-esteem and/or abuse at home.
The negative/insensitive child says things like “I’m bad at drawing”, “this is stupid and
boring”, “everybody hates me”, and “I don’t care”. They may frequently show apathy
toward activities, refuse to participate, and put down themselves and others. They roll
their eyes, give dirty looks, and frequently complain. They may crowd others’ space,
be indifferent or unaware of how they hurt others, argue for the sake of arguing, and
be very dramatic about any challenges they face. They can noticeably affect both the energy and engagement of a group.
Playing a variety of roles may cause them to gain insights and develop an awareness of
the feelings of others. Patient attention to their problem in human relations may, in time,
help them to listen and learn to accept suggestions from their peers. Theirs is a difficult
problem, but once they have begun to feel some small acceptance, these children
will prefer belonging to going it alone. Again, we are not talking about an extreme
personality disorder but about the human being who is experiencing difficulty in working
cooperatively with others. Above all, let them know you care about them and do not
allow disrespectful behavior and speech in your classroom.
● Positive Check-Ins: “Something you are grateful for”, etc.
● Be consistent with classroom contract and creating an environment of respect
● Be clear about not tolerating put-downs or disrespectful speech/actions
● Know your students: what they are comfortable with/good at, and ask them to
lead related activities
● Teach conflict resolution skills. Use improv or puppets!
● Take time to ask questions and listen
● Teach communication skills, particularly how to rephrase speech neutrally/
● Consistency with expectations about participation (all or nothing, refusing
selecting participation)
● Teach the golden rule; reiterate it and ask for examples
● Believe in them! Stay positive despite their negativity.
● Assign them a task that allows them to participate in a different way
● Ask them what they want/need and find ways to accommodate them if it adds to
their motivation and doesn’t negatively affect the group
● Give them opportunities to reflect, particularly in ways that may be personally
cathartic and neutral to the group morale
● Empathize with them in that they are probably most critical of themselves and
may be subject to a lot of negativity elsewhere in their life
● Find stories to read with characters that are also having difficulty with their
perspective or moods
● Teach and discuss how words can hurt others, even their teachers
● Don’t patronize them. Treat them as adults; be frank and honest
● Find ways to help them experience what it it’s like in another’s shoes; explore
different perspectives and explore empathy
● Refuse to participate in arguments with them
● Give them choices and opportunities to do activities in ways they enjoy● Keep a positive and negative tally sheet for the class or individual student


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