My top tips for challenging children



I’ve taught a lot of ADHD children. Probably twenty, which isn’t quite an entire class but is getting on for that. Imagine the fun of teaching a whole class of ADHD children? So I’m no expert, but in my experience most ADHD children are boys. Also some of them (remember this isn’t representative) are, in my opinion, suffering from DDD (Dad-deficient disorder) and are desperate for a male role model in my lives.


  1. Speak to them often. Tell them what’s coming up in the next lesson. Talk to them about how they’re playtime was. Tell them when you’re next going to talk to them.
  2. Ritalin sometimes works. It often doesn’t. Sometimes it makes things worse – or weirder. If parents are thinking of medicating, it’s important to be in close conversation with them about how things are going.
  3. Give them space and physical activity. Allow them to write standing and sitting. It seems to me that ADHD children are often very kinaesthetic.
  4. Find a male role model for them – preferably a class teacher – I don’t know how this works out in secondary (where it may be counter-productive), but in the primary schools where I have worked this has been successful.


I have many funny stories about children with different levels of autism, but I need to tell them in a pub, not in this medium. As a teacher I relied on a good TA or integration assistant to support children with autism. As a BeCo (Behaviour Co-ordinator) I rely on the Educational Psychologist and LA support services (which in Birmingham are excellent) to tell me what to do.


Quiet Children


These are sometimes the worst – they won’t willingly engage with any activities. At earlier ages they may have been elective mutes. I’ve taught a few, including a Polish girl who returned to school a few weeks to visit, but still wouldn’t speak to me. Suffice it say, I find them very challenging.


  1. Analyse what their self esteem is like using the BASIS approach.
  2. Do lots of team problem solving and challenges where they have to engage with their peers.
  3. Take them to a field and make them practice SHOUTING!
  4. Talk to their parents.
  5. Find another adult that can work with in smaller settings than a whole class.
Whole School


Sometimes you need a whole school approach – the methods being used in the individual classrooms aren’t working, the challenges are coming thick and fast and everyone is struggling. We’re about to launch one at my school where every child will score themselves out of 10 at the end of the week in a circle time session. The criteria will be quite rigid – 7 will be normal. 10 will be role model, handing in all homework and generally being perfect. 5 will be a couple of warnings and 1 will be an exclusion. As will score it on Google Spreadsheets, the scores will then come to me as BeCo and I will present a ‘class’ of the week prize in Monday assembly. After that I will begin giving prizes for class that make progress from week to week (so our nightmare Year 4 class don’t miss out) and also give prizes for children that get a whole loads of 10s. This system isn’t for everyone, but we need it at the moment. We may not need it for ever either. – I’ll report in a few weeks on how it’s going.

Smack the naughty child

It was about eight years ago.


A parent ┬ácame to see me about his son’s behaviour and said, “I give you permission to smack him when he’s naughty.”


Of course I had to explain to the parent that even if that permission could be granted, I would not be able to use any physical punishment on the parent’s child. It’s not the only time it’s happened either.


I’ve had many experiences of ‘difficult children’ over the years. I’ve only taught in ‘difficult’ areas of Birmingham – areas of high deprivation, low expectations and often multi-ethnic. In one school of only 180 children, 22 different home languages were spoken. In another, some of the families last legal employment could be traced back 6 or 7 generations to some great, great, great grandfather who had helped build the canals. Why am I saying this? Credibility? I suppose so. While I’m a relative newbie to blogging, Twitter and behaviour management, I’ve spent my whole career dealing with challenging behaviour.


So what’s my top tip for dealing with challenging children? Treat them all as children. All different, all unique, all special and all with some growing up still to enjoy.


When I was a full-time teacher I encouraged my class to have a sense of class-ness. I used aspiration walls to engage children with their future and circle time to encourage a sense of openness and teamwork. I used the BASIS approach to analyse children’s self esteem and plan interventions for children or groups of children with particularly low areas. I use day planners and a weekly diary so that children can approach each lesson without any sense of surprise and then reflect on the highs and lows of a week of learning. All these strategies create a sense of unity that is difficult to fight against, but still there are challenges and when they came I would use other adults – teachers, senior leaders and parents to support. The most difficult situation is when a parent isn’t supportive. I’ve had parents threaten and swear at me and when this happens I’ve needed colleagues to support me, time to sort the situation out and a good cry.


I’m BeCo (Behaviour Co-ordinator) now. I spend a good amount of my time dealing with challenging behaviour from around the school. As a leader, it’s often tempting to question what strategies were being used in the lesson? Was the learning appropriate? Were the children bored? But it’s unfair to point the finger at any teachers. The strategies are good, the lessons are good and the majority of the children are thoroughly engaged. Actually I’m more and more pointing the finger at myself – my intervention wasn’t early enough, my support level wasn’t high enough, my engagement with both the pupils and parents wasn’t deep enough. I’m new to the role and learning as I go, but I’m sure I’ve dropped more balls than I’ve caught so far (sorry colleagues!)


The thing is, it takes a whole village to raise a child, or in our context – in the UK – a whole school community. We all need each other to raise these children right. That’s why parents needs teachers, teachers need their leaders and the leaders need the parents. If you’re wondering how you can sort out the naughty children by yourself (remembering that smacking isn’t allowed), then maybe you’re thinking the wrong thing.
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