Did you know there is DNA of misbehavior?   In my teaching practice, I have found the only real way to implement effective strategies with children with difficult behavior is to understand the deeper levels of their misbehavior.   Sounds complicated.   But actually, it is not when you understand the DNA of misbehavior.

You can break it down into three simple elements:


So let's break this down even further.  Each piece of this “DNA” is critical to understand.

  • A trigger is a thought about an event that activates an inappropriate response.   So when a child is triggered there is the stimulus that sets in motion a thought and then they are triggered. It takes it from off to flipped on!
  • A stimulus can be a time, place, a request, comment, body language, their nervous system, or chemical reactions – we could list and list and list what those stimuluses are.  It is what sets off a thought that triggers the inappropriate response.

The thing to understand is that the trigger happens before the behavior. Repeat it with me. It happens BEFORE the behavior.

This is important. This is where we can actually find lasting and real strategies to working with Challenging and Difficult Behaviors.

But we can begin to get an idea of what might be triggering it by observing the behavior unfolding by what we see, what we hear, what we feel. And when I say feel – I am talking about the physical tactual realm.

These behaviors serve a function for the child. There are two basic motivations – to obtain or get something such as attention, materials, a beloved activity or they may be trying to avoid or escape something – again attention, materials, activity.

There are two outcomes after an inappropriate behavior:

  • What you do as a teacher – you can do nothing, you can issue a consequence, or punishment and that has a very impactful place in how the child responses.
  • What the child does – did your response reinforce the inappropriate behavior or diminish it?

So what we are looking for is- is your response reinforcing the inappropriate behavior or does it help to diminish it over time.

This is where classroom management succeeds or fails. Your response is either going to reinforce the misbehavior or diminish it.
Here’s the deal! Many times teachers don’t even know they are actually reinforcing the behavior they do not want! They have no idea that’s what they are doing.

The first step is to observe the trigger.  This means noting what was happening just before the behavior began.

In my next post, I will share how to see the DNA of misbehavior clearly.

If you want to learn more about my complete system for dealing with Challenging & Difficult Behaviors Click: here.