Many children struggle with controlling their behavior and emotions because they have not learned the skills necessary to regulate their moods and to think before they act. For students with behavioral or emotional disorders, the task is not just difficult. These students have medical conditions that can lead them to anger, to act out with little provocation and to bounce quickly between moods. While there is no way to eliminate the classroom problems that this type of behavior can cause, teachers can assist the student and build a better class environment by making accommodations.
Acknowledge the Problem
As you begin to work with the child, take him aside and discuss his disability with him. Allow him to explain how his disability affects him and to tell you what he thinks you can do to help him overcome the obstacles he faces. By hearing the child out at the beginning, you create an atmosphere of respect and allow the child to see that he is valued and that you recognize that emotional control is challenging for him.
Set a “Cool Down” Zone
Many students who struggle with behavioral and emotional control can cope best by stepping away from the situation and cooling down. Make this practice possible for the child by establishing a preset “cool-down” zone for the child to visit when he needs to calm himself. A secluded corner of the room, distant desk or calm reading area can all be used effectively for this purpose.
Create a Silent Signal
Work out a means of silently communicating with the student so that you do not have to call him out in front of his peers. If, for example, the child's demeanor changes when he becomes mad, you could create a symbol that silently asks him if he needs to take a break and calm down. If you notice the child beginning to get angry, you can discreetly make the symbol to the child, he can nod in agreement or disagreement and move to the cool-down area if necessary.
Encourage the student to get in touch with his emotions by journaling. Present the student with a notebook and explain to him that, instead of having an outburst if he becomes angry or frustrated, he can open his journal and record his thoughts and feelings. If you notice the student writing in his journal, pull him aside after class and ask him to share his entry. Use the entry as a jumping-off point from which you can explore the things that are bothering him and help him solve any problems that he is having.
Students with behavioral problems tend to get angry easily if corrected. To avoid this, reward instead of punish whenever possible. Set up a system of rewards for the student and allow him to earn these rewards by following the rules, being a good class citizen and working hard to control his outbursts. As you reward the student, she will begin to see that her efforts are appreciated and try even harder to improve her behavior.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.