Dear Ask a Montessorian, what would you do with a sixth grader that is “too cool” to follow classroom procedures, use materials appropriately, respect her classmates and teacher, and generally doesn’t seem to care that her bad behavior, like throwing food at peers at lunch? She is the class president as well. Her behavior is rubbing off on the younger students.
Dear Renée, sixth year students are often in a transitional period of life….and what so many call tween age. The young girl in your classroom seems to be exhibiting behaviors that are extreme and since she is class president, the other children apparently look up to her. At the same time, she’s old enough to understand being class president is a role requiring her to be a role model and leader.
Whenever a child is behaving as you describe, it looks like someone who is challenging authority. But, likely there is much more to the story. I’m wondering what interventions and strategies you’ve already tried?
How can you find out what is at the heart of this challenge? You’ll need to hone your observation skills and refer back to your training in Positive Discipline. Examine your feelings when you see this behavior and through observation, see if you can determine what her motivation is- attention, revenge, inadequacy, etc. Understanding her motivation for the behavior along with your reaction (how you feel) can guide you in developing interventions to help change the behavior.
Remember, some behaviors such as throwing food at peers are non-negotiable and require you to intervene immediately because this is actually a safety issue. Removing the student from the situation and offering her another place to eat her lunch where there would be no peers (like having lunch with you) is advisable. Using the time together at lunch for a heart-to-heart talk about the behaviors and their consequences may be helpful.
I believe every student does care about how they’re doing and their behavior. All children really want to do the right thing, and sometimes they just need some guidance and strategies to learn a new behavioral skill. In addition to checking out the Positive Discipline website: https://www.positivediscipline.com, you might want to check on the work of Dr. Ross Greene: https://www.livesinthebalance.org/
CGMS Director, Elementary Program
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