modification programs need an understanding of some of the basic
principles and a willingness to persevere. Good communication skills,
especially reflective listening, are really important. These programs
are based on an understanding that the only person who can change your
behaviour is you.
Each person brings to every situation a background of experiences,
learning and relationships and a set of basic human needs for safety,
love acceptance. This background determines our concept of self worth
and our self-esteem. It establishes our attitudes and values and
directs our life goals. In any given situation our feelings and
emotions rule and simply telling us what to do has little effect.
If behavioural outcomes are to change and feeling and emotions
controlled, individuals needs to think differently about themselves,
others and situations. Feelings and emotions need to be controlled by
rational self-talk. By changing the way we think about a person or
situation we can control feelings, change our behaviours and change the
outcome of those behaviours.
student is easily upset and reacts aggressively to taunts by other
members of the class resulting in a verbal slanging match and a fight.
The teacher needs to act to stop the students providing the verbal
taunts. Stopping the stimulus will help, but the student on the
receiving end needs to learn how to deal better with the situation.
might be attempted:
1. Help the
student to recognise the feeling that have led to the behaviours.
He/she will always feel hurt so there is no point telling the child to
ignore the taunts or to stop reacting aggressively.
2. Help the student to recognise what they are thinking when the taunts
are being made. (I want to
get back at them and hurt/hit them.)
3. Help the student to focus on the consequences of their actions of
retaliation. (I might get a
detention or a letter sent home or, if I hit them hard enough,
4. Help the student to focus on what is best for himself/herself. (I'm
not going to be sucked in and
let these students get me into trouble.)
5. Help the student consider appropriate assertive and avoidance
behaviours to deal with the
What we are trying to teach students is cognitive skills of talking
sense to themselves. Teachers need to help, even rehearse, the basic
what I am going to do going to help me?
I am thinking going to help me?
angry (irrational) or is it sensible (rational)?
questions help the child to establish STOP goals (do not continue with
this thought) and START goals (think of the consequences and about a
way that will help you). There are three broad areas that can be worked
on to change negative thoughts:
Consequences – concentrate on the consequences of continuing
to think the way you are and what feelings, behaviours and outcomes
Calm thoughts – concentrate on a series of predetermined calm thoughts
that have been rehearsed and even written down and kept in a pocket for
easy reference. Relax, calm down. Count to 10, it’s not worth it.
Control and confidence – keep saying to yourself: I can handle this,
I’m not getting sucked into this problem, I’ve kept my cool before and
I can keep it now.
Sometimes cue prompts can help a student when undesired behaviours
occur in social situations like the classroom. It might be a look,
comment or action that has a predetermined message – you’re heading the
wrong direction, stop and think about what you are doing.
These cognitive skills can be further developed and rehearsed with the
teacher for particular areas of difficulty:
Assertiveness – being yourself and standing up for your
rights. Teaching students to be polite and persistent in seeking what
they believe they have a right to is important for all areas of life.
This is not about being aggressive (dominating others) or being a wimp
(being put down by others).
Private verses public – some behaviours are alright at home or in the
playground but not the classroom. Some students need careful
explanations about these differences to help them modify their
behaviours for the situation they are in.
Situational rehearsal – students sometimes find particular situations
threatening or embarrassing and need help to manage them. Rehearsing
what to say and how to react to questions can help. (Similar to
rehearsing for job interviews).
Resisting peer pressure – saying NO is an important skill for all
students for many social situations, especially those associated with
risk taking behaviours related to drugs, driving, sex, inappropriate
attention. Practicing how to say NO is helpful.
Organisational checklists – Some students get into trouble because they
are personally disorganised.
students to develop checklists about what they bring to school and how
they organise their homework can take away some of the circumstances
that cause these students to get into trouble.