When a Child Yells at You: A Behavior Plan

This American Life, a weekly public radio show broadcast, always presents thought-provoking and enlightening content. Number 538, entitled “Is This Working?” is all about education with lots of food for thought! I could talk about any of it for hours but there was one section that really struck me.

Two teachers from Lyons Community School spoke with This American Life's Chana Joffe-Walt about a time when a high school student was disrespectful (this part comes in around minute 40). The student used harsh language with the teacher and then walked out of the room. The teacher recounting the story was not angry and did not feel disrespected by the situation. The teacher went on to say, “I did not have it in me to get mad at him.” To him, the behavior was more like a performance than an actual personal attack. The other teacher chuckled and agreed, saying he had received that particular statement several times from students and it was never personal. 


There was no anger or resentment or frustration coming from the teachers. They did not blame the student, say he was a bad kid or punish him. That is not to say that the behavior was ignored. After the incident several meetings occurred, which is part of the culture of the school and how all behaviors are addressed. 

This is an incredible behavioral example of a small or medium being having bad behavior and the big beings staying calm to move through their behavior plan. The school has a clear policy in place about how to handle these situations.

Remarkable! I wish all teachers and all people who interact with small beings were taught the two behavioral elements presented here.

First, behavior is not personal, it is a response to a need. If a small, medium or big being is acting out, it is because it is the only way he knows about how to get that need met. Understanding that behavior is not personal allows you to see what could be hurtful words to the challenges underneath.

Second, having a plan in place about how to handle challenging behavior allows you to stay calm and collected in the face of challenging behavior. It also allows you to know what steps to take. These teachers had a solid and consistent plan in place that was dictated by the school. Other teachers may not be in the same situation. My wish is that all schools take the time to create such policies, so that teachers can be empowered about how to approach various behavioral situations in their classroom.

I also wish that teachers learned the basics of behavior, so they don’t just passively apply school policy but understand the reasoning and logic behind it. This would help them adapt the policies to any situation in their classroom. Behavior is not a mystery - it does not need to be something that is handled only by experts like me. (Tweet) For those teachers who work in school without behavior policies, I suggest making up your own plan so that you a ready when a small being acts out. This will benefit both you and the students!

Ideas into Action!

The next time a small being has “bad behavior” can you remember to not take it personally?  Tell us about it!


Leave your feedback, experience and thoughts in the comment section below this post or email directly at DrMarcie@BehaviorAndBeyond.net with your behavior insights!

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