Managing Disruptive Behaviors in the Classroom

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on mars 13, 2012 9:49 am

The classroom is a rapidly shifting and volatile environment.   “It is essential to this learning environment that respect for the rights of others seeking to learn, respect for the professionalism of the instructor (teacher), and the general goals of academic freedom are maintained.  Occasionally, faculty members find that they can not provide effective classroom instruction because of disruptions.” (Butler University, 2012, Online)

When a child is disruptive in the classroom, this can cause other children to perform poorly, as well as, igniting other children to become agitated, emotionally distraught, and insecure in the safety of their classroom.  Unfortunately, disruptive behaviors act as a bong vibrating throughout the learning environment. 

Disruptive children may or may not recognize the repercussions of their behaviors, attitudes and perceptions. “Children who have habits of behaving in hostile and aggressive ways are almost universally disliked.  They are disliked by their peers, siblings, neighbors, teachers and not infrequently by their parents.” (Braman, p. 149, 1997)  Regrettably, disruptive children are often lost to their own negative behaviors, attitudes, and perceptions.  Leaving an impression upon the child that they are worthless, underserving, and alone.    “The habitually hostile child learns early that his (her) behaviors is not going to earn him (her) the love and affection he (she) so desperately wants.” (Braman, p.149, 1997) 

A child’s disruptive behaviors can detract from a child’s ability to thrive in the classroom. Moreover, disruptive children are often placed in behavioral modified learning environments, which only imprints the idea that they are incapable of functioning in a traditional classroom.  


1. Personal attacks in the classroom

2. The use of electronic devices such as cell phones, IPods, PDAs, MP3 Players, Gameboys, Laptops, etc.

3. Students leaving the classroom without permission.

4. Students talking while the teacher is talking or instructing other students.

5. Persistent tardiness to the classroom, school, or other academic related activities.

6. Students sleeping in the classroom

7. Ignoring a teachers direct and indirect instructions

8. Students questioning or arguing with a teacher or another academic authority.

9. The creation of unreasonable and controllable noise, sounds; a basic pandemonium in the classroom.

10. Students being aggressive, hostile, or showing haughty behaviors.

11. Students acting out through screaming, shouting, arguing, or being belligerent.

12. Any form of bullying by a student, teacher, parent, or another in an academic setting.


1. Know the policies and procedures of your school system.

2. Does your school system have a behavioral policy in place?

3. Are there training opportunities in place to manage disruptive behaviors?

4. Does your school system have a school counsellor or school psychologist for students? Staff? If not, do you have access to a therapist through an employment and family assistance program, EFAP?

5. Know the protocols for setting up a team meeting for a disruptive child.

It is not uncommon for disruptive students to have a challenging home life.  Get to know your student’s familial environment. While Statistics Canada will no longer be collecting data on divorce and marriage (The Globe and Mail, 2011, Online); children whose parents have divorced or separated have a higher likelihood of behavioral issues.  Moreover, familial environments that are inundated with abuse have a higher probability of affecting a child’s outlook, perceptions and behavioral responses.  “Before we can decide who to handle a problem we are having with another person, we first need to understand what the other person was thinking or why she (he) acted the way that she (he) did.” (Seligman, p. 246, 1995) Therefore, when we approach a child who is being disruptive, we should have a macro-picture of the child.


1. Respectful communication is key to de-escalating a hostile environment.

2. As a teacher, be assertive but respectful when dealing with a disruptive student.

3. Teachers should create and set healthy boundaries for all children.

4. Active listening is essential in the classroom.

5. All children need positive role models. 

6. When disciplining a child, offer positive praise, as well as positive correction. 

7. Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal communication. 

8. Always inform the child of their negative behavior and consequences that may follow.

9. Recognize your personal limitations.  Ask for help!

10. Consider using de-escalating techniques such as breathing and meditation. 

11. Avoid using aggressive communication both verbally and nonverbally. 

12. Acknowledge when a disruptive child is displaying positive traits, behaviors, and attitudes. Do not avoid complimenting a disruptive child.  Reinforce positive behaviors, attitudes and perceptions.

13. Be an advocate for all children. 

As a teacher or school administrator, we should work towards the best interests and outcomes for all students.  All-to-often, children who are disruptive are considered a nuance and a distraction. By the time a child enters disciplinary action, their teachers and school administrators are looking for strategies to curtail the child’s negative behaviors, rather than seeking to illuminate the positive in the life of the child.  We forget to acknowledge the child’s worth and goodness. It is important that both occur simultaneously, allowing for action to occur to correct the negative behavior, while uplifting the child’s worth and goodness.  Sadly, children who are problems in the classroom rarely gain “positive” feedback because of their disruptive behaviors.  This strategy frequently backfires instilling into the child a sense of worthlessness. 

Children thrive upon positivity. “The key to changing things often turns out to be interrupting the cycle by catching a disruptive child behaving appropriately and heaping on positive attention/rewards for even rare praiseworthy behavior.” (Brodkin, 2012, Online)


Braman, O. R. (1997) The oppositional child. Indiana: Kidsrights

Brodkin, A. M. (2012) Hot topics: Managing disruptive behaviors in the classroom. Retrieved March 10, 2012 from

Butler University (2012) Addressing classroom disruption. Retrieved March 11, 2012 from

Grant, T. (2011) Statistics Canada to stop tracking marriage and divorce rates. Retrieved March 11, 2012 from

Seligman, M. E. (1995) The optimistic child, A revolutionary program that safeguards children against depression and builds lifelong resilience. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company

The University of Wisconsin (2012) Addressing disruptive children behaviors: A guide for instructors Retrieved March 9, 2012 from

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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