Discipline of Difficult Children

For Parents and Servants

By Dr. Nabil Baki

I.             Attention deficit disorder (ADD /ADHD)

A.   Distractibility

  1. Have the children repeat your directions.
  2. Announce what you are going to say before you say it.
  3. Provide the children with a quiet place to work in addition to their regular desk.
  4. "Chunk" their work and provide frequent change.
  5. Have the child work with a non-ADD child (but not the same child all the time).
  6. Make frequent eye contact.
  7. Keep them busy but provide breaks.
  8. Seat the child close to the parent or the servant.
  9. Use extra motivation but think in terms of challenges, not bribes.
  10. Monitor progress often; they need frequent feedback.
  11. Teach organizational skills.
  12. Teach time management.

B.   impulsivity

  1. Actions of ADD children are impulsive because their thinking processes are so slow. They need structure, rules, routines, and adult direction.
  2. Preplanning is the opposite of impulsivity. Help them think through a situation and plan their actions ahead of time.
  3. Help the children to have an organized schedule for their daily homework and activities.
  4. Provide feedback to help these children become observant of their own behavior.
  5. Provide social coaching to help them deal with situations which could provoke problems.
  6. Prepare these children for unstructured times.
  7. Pre-teach desired behaviors.
  8. Handwriting is very difficult for some of these children. Consider alternatives, particularly keyboarding.
  9. With other children, stress preparation prior to going to school.
  10. Provide extra supervision.
  11. Train automatic behaviors, routines, and compliance.
  12. Use instruction; tell them what to do; have them repeat instructions; reinforce correct responses.

II.         Disruptive Children in Sunday School Classes

      In today's Sunday schools, servants are faced with extraordinary demands. To be successful, servants must be able to minimize any disruption within the classroom. To protect the integrity of the learning environment, servants need the following:

  1. Servants need to lead by example.
  2. Examine your seating arrangements. If you have arranged, children desks in a manner which stimulates conversation and interaction between them, then your classroom design is part of the problem.
  3. Attention-seeking is the one behavior which responds positively to being ignored. Continue your lesson while moving toward the attention-seeking child, using your physical proximity to subdue the behavior.
  4. When dealing with interruptions, consider the age of the children. Young children interrupt because whatever is on their mind is the most important issue in the world at that moment. They are absolutely convinced that you must be just as concerned about it as they are. At this age, they must be taught when interruptions are appropriate and when they are considered rude.
  5. For older children the key is to respond by an eye contact and a signal such as holding out your hand in a typical "Stop" motion. Then, at the right time, remember to ask them what they wanted to say.
  6. For children who throw objects around the room, remove all potential objects from them. Use physical proximity and supervision to limit the ability of students to engage in such behavior.
  7. When a child wanders around the classroom, work avoidance is one of the possible causes. Investigate whether or not the child is capable of paying attention. Redirect the child; some children need to move around every so often, especially those who are diagnosed as ADD or ADHD. These children should be provided with opportunities to have their needs met in non disruptive ways.
  8. If a child enjoys bothering others, move his desk to a location close to where you spend most of your time. If necessary, use isolation. Ensure you have the student practice his skills for sitting quietly and respecting the rights of others.
  9. Crosses and icons in the class room inspire children to the presence of our Lord.
  10. Some children love to play the role of class clown. Often, such a child will truly have a great sense of humor. Teach him how to choose the right time and place for inserting humorous comments, how to respond positively to signals from you, and how to judge the appropriateness of comments.

III.      Defiance

  1. Lower your voice and become more assertive, not more confrontational. Stay calm. Becoming agitated suggests the defiant student is winning.
  2. Do not allow the child to draw you into conflict. Avoid unnecessary confrontation. If necessary, deal with the defiance later.
  3. Defuse the situation. Humor is often a powerful tool to use in these circumstances.
  4. Do not challenge a defiant child, particularly in front of his peers. This would force the child to save face by doing something dramatic. When possible, deal with the child in private.
  5. Distinguish between "deliberate" defiance and "spontaneous" defiance. Only punish deliberate defiance. Choose a punishment which makes it absolutely clear that this behavior is unacceptable.
  6. When dealing with these children, it is important for servants to insist on compliance with minor behaviors such as greetings, please, thank you, pick this up, and put this away, and so on.
  7. Keep in mind that the biggest issue in dealing with an incident is what will be done to ensure the behavior doesn't occur again.
  8. Teach defiant children effective ways of dealing with any frustration or anger which may have precipitated their behavior.
  9. After an incident, watch for occasions when the child handles similar situations appropriately. Acknowledge the child's efforts in this regard.

IV.     "High Impact" Students

      "High impact" children are the ones who have a dramatic, negative effect on the classroom learning environment.

  1. Resist the temptation to offer bigger and bigger rewards in an effort to convince these children that cooperation is worthwhile. This type of program feeds their selfish attitudes. The children will happily go along with it, playing you to see how much they can get while simultaneously giving less and less. Never try to out-manipulate manipulators. You will lose.
  2. Apply higher levels of supervision, not because they deserve it but because they need it.
  3. Train small behaviors, including courtesy skills and entry routines.
  4. If rewards are used, ensure they are “shared” so everyone benefits from good behavior.
  5.  These children tend to be extraordinarily self-centered and selfish. Insist they do things for others, including the community at large.
  6. Create opportunities for difficult children to work with young children. They often display excellent behavior when they are engaged in these activities.

      Research indicates that difficult children only make successful transitions to positive behavior if they have something on which to “hang their ego.” Unless their pride comes from skills which we develop in them, it will come from association with a particular group. Hence, pay special attention to the need to identify a potentially great skill in each child and design opportunities to develop this skill. Be creative. There are many examples of boys being proud of their skills in hymns. Girls may likewise be proud of sports and debating.