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Challenging Kids? Yeah, I Got A Couple of Those

Yep, I've got one of THOSE kids this year.

A doozy.  A handful.  High maintenance.  A kid who not only requires my extra attention and support, but often demands it in her her own special way.  A kid who needs my hand on her shoulder, my presence near her desk.  Redirection, reassurance, praise, consequences, love, tough love, compassion, aggravation.

We all have at least one kid like that every year.  And Lord help us during those years when we have several (or lots) of THOSE kids.

Now before you get upset with me for being insensitive in calling out kids with issues, you must know that not only do I teach kids who are super needy, I gave birth to at least one amazingly high maintenance kiddo.  He is a doozy.  A handful.  Sometimes disruptive.  And definitely requires extra time and attention from his teachers.

And I send him off to school each day knowing that his teachers now have at least one of THOSE kids.

Now, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. I get so aggravated that I have a kid in my class who monopolizes my time.  I also get how important it is to challenging kids and their families when teachers invest that extra bit of time, love, and patience.  But, I have two other 'typical' kids who go to school, don't cause any issues, are well behaved, do their work, and get along just fine.  I feel for them, too.  The ones who have to wait while the teacher once again stops to deal with the kid who is melting down or disrupting class.  Trust me, I get it on all fronts.

Now What?

This leads me to the ultimate question - what do I do about it?

For my son, I have tried to be a partner to his teachers and provide as much support as I can.  I do what I can even though I got an email today that said, " Jonathan is sharp with his computational accuracy and number sense and can solve most of the problems we are doing quickly.  I have tried to explain that the goal of the lessons is not only that he can determine the numerical answer but that he understands the process to solve more complex and abstract problems that he will see in high school math courses.  A couple times he has become argumentative about writing his work and refused to do it on the assignment despite  working with him." 
Now, I know enough teacher speak to read right between those lines! :)  All I can say is Bless that teacher's heart!
(If any of Jon's teachers are reading this - THANK YOU! You are appreciated beyond your wildest dreams:)

For my other boys, I have tried to teach them to be tolerant, patient, and kind when others are having trouble.  And always keep a book handy just in case it takes a while:)

And in my own classroom, I must find a way to balance the need of my special kiddo with the needs of the rest of my class.  How can I help her find success and make progress while being there for everyone else?  I don't think there is any one right answer to that one, but I do my best to make it work.

Goal Setting Focus

One way I have found helpful is with personal goal setting and systematic praise.  I use very simple, fairly open recording sheets to help kids focus on a specific target goal and keep track of each time he or she met the goal.


The one piece of this that I have found to be the most helpful, the most powerful, is that nothing is taken away for not meeting the goal, only praise for success.  The child soon begins to feel those happy, warm feelings of success without the sting of failure clouding the focus.

There is definitely a time and place for noting when kids don't do as expected, but this isn't one of them.  This is only for helping kids to internalize a new target behavior.  Here are a few helpful guidelines that I have discovered to be very effective.
Using individual goal setting to balance the needs of students with behavior challenges with the needs of the rest of the class.

I have seen this work wonders with a kid, even in as little as one day.  They can't wait to fill in those circles and fill up that sheet.  It may take an hour, or a day, or a couple of days.  It all depends on how often you see the desired behavior.  And once that sheet is filled in, start another one right away with the same goal.  Keep going until you see that the goal has been internalized and will be met without constant reinforcement.  Then, you can start on a new goal.

In terms of rewards for completing a sheet, you just have to look at each individual kid for that.  I do not give tangible rewards to kids as a rule, but there is always one kid who responds really well to that, so just be open.  Last year, I had a kid who wanted to call home.  The student I am using this with this year really likes a note home to mom or lunch with me and a friend in the classroom, or even a couple of fun pencils.  She has an amazing voice and once her reward was to sing the National Anthem on the morning announcements. 

I hope this can help with some of your challenging little people.  They're the ones who need us most:)

If you are interested in the goal setting and behavior sheets, they are available HERE.



  1. Yeah you are right that every year there is at least one kid in my Phoenix preschool that is challenging. But I like it as I love kids. They want love and extra attention. They may cause lots of troubles too but I am used to it. I can handle them easily.

  2. I like this idea and have a student in mind that I could have used this with last school year. Do you put it on their desk? I keep picturing marshmallows or counters being played with or flying everywhere.

    1. LOL! :)
      No, we glue them on. Most of the time stickers will do, but sometimes I have a kid who needs a little motivation and gluing down a marshmallow seems to work on occasion:)