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Ruth Herman Wells

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Defiant Students: Interventions and Strategies
by Ruth Herman Wells   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2008

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Teachers and counselors: Here's ideas, methods, interventions and strategies for defiant students

Here's the absolute, no-fail way to win every power
struggle with every kid every time: Don't struggle
for power. Think about it. The minute an adult
wrestles with a kid for power, they've immediately
lost. And, the younger the child, the more true that
statement becomes. To give you an image, you want
to take your "sails" out of their wind, so to speak.
Here are some specific tips and tricks to use instead
of getting caught up in the "Yes, you will"-"No, I
won't" battles when everybody loses.   

How do we know what to recommend to you? This is
all we do. Our popular web site (
is your Problem-Kid Problem-Solver packed with lots
of creative ideas, along with books, workshops, and
much more.
 *** It's Fun to Torture Adults: For many youngsters,
 it can seem like sport to "trap" an adult in a power
 struggle. What better way to get out of doing what
 you are supposed to be doing than to debate it?  For
 example, if you run a counseling group, you may notice
 that it seems impossible to get some youngsters to
 come to group on time. Instead of taking group time
 to debate if "the bus was late" is a satisfactory
 excuse, turn it over to the group. The group may
 decide, for example, to have the latecomer clean
 up after the group is over, a natural consequence of
 inconveniencing the group members. Notice the issue
 switches from being an adult-kid issue to a
 kid-to-kid issue. Once your group has set a
 standard policy, never waste time debating again.

 *** BONUS TIP: Set an on-going limit on how long
  you'll discuss compliance issues. Your youngsters
  will know that they have only a brief time frame,
  and that this time can not be during group or class
  time, but on their own time.

 *** Meet the Bickersons: Teach kids about the "bicker-
 backs", when people get into a griping match. Teach
 them how to spot the "bickers" and to stop the
 "backs". They'll learn that you won't bickerback and
 will give up attempting to bicker with you. This
 is a great device to give to families.

  *** BONUS TIP: Teach kids "Ask once, you're assertive,
  ask thrice, you're aggressive." This saying can
  become a common comment that youth use with each
  other, relieving you of some of the chore of
  confronting coercive behavior.

 *** When Do You Let Them Have It?: We got that
 question recently in our workshop from a teacher who
 wanted to know a "really good put-down" to stop the
 bickering and clowning. This question was easy. You
 don't ever "let them have it." There is never a
 circumstance when it is okay to demean a child.
 Channel the child instead. For example, working
 with a class clown can be a battle as the child
 debates whether comments were "appropriate" or
 not. A fun approach is to ask the class clown to
 morph the comment for different audiences, such as
 for the boss on the job you really want. You are
 assisting the child to gain skill in adapting
 content to fit different circumstances, rather
 than focusing on squelching what could be a
 terrific asset for the long run. Successfully
 teaching the child to channel the humor can help
 the child become a wonderful team member in
 the work place, someone who can lighten up tense
 and difficult situations with appropriate humor.

  *** BONUS TIP: Have your class or group establish
  rules about the number of talk-outs per hour,
  and to create a standing policy about what to do when
  problems occur. Without a recommended number for kids
  to follow, some won't be able to discern a reasonable
  number on their own. Young people need practice
  providing self-governance; most adults don't need that
  practice. With this intervention, not only do you shift
  the problems away from being adult-kid to kid-kid,
  but you are aiding your kids to practice essential
  self-management skills.

 *** Defiance, Coercion and Acceptance: As you work to
 discern what to do in situations that could easily
 become power struggles, avoid coercing kids, and putting
 their backs to the wall so defiance becomes one of the
 few options left. The more you can use acceptance to
 find a mutually agreeable middle ground, the more
 success you will have with children and youth who would
 otherwise power struggle.

  *** BONUS TIP:  Be sure you know a lot about conduct
  disordered youth, your most hard-to-manage children.
  If you do not know this child "backwards and forwards,
  inside and out", and how to work with this youth
  completely differently than everyone else, you will
  be very vulnerable to being entangled in power
  struggles for control and safety. Because conduct
  disorders are very slick and manipulative, you may
  not even fully appreciate exactly what is going on.
  There is no quick strategy to just disarm this youth.
  You must take the time to learn about their
  operating system and acquire the special set of
  techniques needed. You need to ensure you know
  all about  this youth who may be 11-15% or more
  of your  population. Visit our huge web site for
  resources for defiant students  that can give you immediate help.

Web Site: Defiant and Problem Students: Interventions and Methods

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