Getting to the Root of the Problem: Physical and Psychological Causes of Student Misbehavior
Managing behavior in the classroom is one of the factors that new teachers find the most frustrating. Although misbehavior is easy to identify, finding the solution to effectively deal with it by finding the causes may be more difficult. Get to the root cause of problem behavior as soon as possible, because the misbehavior will continue and may get worse, if not dealt with effectively. Teachers should look closely into students’ behaviors to find the influential factors that are shaping their behavioral patterns.
Although differences in the behavior of students are linked to age, many physical and psychological factors can have an influence at different stages of their school career. Children can’t make adult-like choices in behavior but are often trying to communicate a need or desire. It’s important to be able to determine whether their behavior is under their control in order to determine whether you can assist in addressing a need or desire.
It would probably be unwise to determine that misbehavior is the result of a physical or psychological problem in a child who commits a single act of undesirable behavior, but it would be as unwise not to consider these factors in a repeat offender. Sometimes students will simply be acting on the desire to break any rules that have been imposed on them. Some students, however, are subject to various medical conditions or are exposed to environments that have severe effects on their ability to function normally. Enlisting the assistance of a school nurse or school counselor is crucial in ensuring that these students also receive the same standards of education as their peers.
A commonly encountered disorder is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children who are diagnosed with this disorder will commonly have a reduced ability to control their impulses and suffer bouts of hyperactivity, which are disruptive to both themselves and their peers. Less common are autistic spectrum disorders. Children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with social interaction and perform compulsive, repetitive behaviors that may equally be perceived as disruptive to themselves and their peers.
Children also have mental health problems that are more commonly encountered in adults and that may present during later childhood years. For example, children with oppositional defiant disorder have severe difficulties in interacting with other people due to their excessive and sometimes unprovoked aggression. These students will often be a source of extreme frustration to teachers but may also be so aggressive that they cause physical harm to teachers, and teachers may be simply afraid of them. Other mental health conditions include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorders, all of which are much more difficult to diagnose in children than in adults. It’s imperative that you consult with your school counselor or a similar mental health professional in order to determine if your students are suffering from any of these disorders.
Behavior changes may also result from the intake of substances that may be narcotic or simply unfamiliar to the body. Students who are taking medication for any condition, including antibiotics or antiepileptic medication, may show changes in behavior. The use of prescription medication will be more easily disclosed to a teacher than the taking of narcotic or illegal substances. You should maintain a certain degree of suspicion with regard to children whose behavior changes drastically during the course of a school day. Keep written notes regarding their behavior, and report any recurrent patterns to a higher authority.
Medical conditions such as viral infections and meningitis may also cause changes in a student’s behavior. Some medical conditions are so subtle that children may not even realize that they are sick because of the lack of obvious symptoms. In many cases, however, they may be feeling quite pronounced symptoms, which have either not been addressed by their parents or caretakers, or they are ignoring these symptoms out of fear.
While longer-term psychological issues can be difficult to rout out, changes resulting from medical conditions have the advantage of being easier to detect, because they are more likely to occur suddenly, giving a clue as to their cause. With experience, you’ll learn to identify different behavioral problems effectively.