HOT Button Kids: Managing Difficult Students

There he goes again. Tap! Tap! Tap!  He’s tapping his pencil.  Now he’s slowly meandering around the room (much like Billy from Family Circus). And… let’s definitely not forget the chewed up eraser pieces he’s throwing around the room thinking you aren’t noticing. Or perhaps it’s the child who just loves and loves and LOVES to talk—just at the wrong time! These are the Hot Button Kids! We all have these difficult students. They push our buttons nearly every day. They mean well, but they can quickly turn your smile upside down.

Do you have difficult students in your classroom whose behavior just pushes your buttons? Classroom management does not have to be an issue with these tips and ideas!

What Should I Do with Difficult Students?

What’s the best way to connect with these sweet darlings? Remember to RESPECT. I know; you’re thinking “Wait a minute here! I respect my kids. They’re the ones needing to remember respect!” I hear ya! But really, it’s just an acronym — or is it an acrostic? Shouldn’t I know this? Anyway, here it is:


Poster with the text "Connecting with HOT Button Students" "RESPECT"
The R means to remember to make a positive deposit. You can’t just withdraw without also making deposits. This can easily be done by greeting your students at the door each morning. It can also be done by giving one of the three H’s at the end of the day: Hug, High Five, or Handshake. Try to spend a few moments each day with each student. This makes a huge impact, especially on the more difficult students.

The E stands for establishing nonverbal cues. Consider what methods would work with the child to assist in reminding him or her of what behaviors are acceptable. Sometimes just moving in the vicinity of the student is enough. Other times you have to agree together on a cue, such as a slight tap on the desk, or a tug at your ear. However, remember to take note of the positive deposits listed above: try to have cues for excellent behavior also, such as flashing a gold card when the normally difficult students are doing well.

Oh, the S. System. We all have systems in place. But these difficult students tend to go beyond the typical behavior chart that most other students adhere to. Instead, system, in this instance, is referring to intervention data collections. Try noticing good behavior every 15 minutes or have a positive notice chart. You need something that breaks down time by hours (or chunks of minutes) and helps you and the student notice all the good he or she is doing — positive deposits!

The P is all about your voice and actions. We need to be positive when we speak. We must smile or at least give a half-smile. Fake it if need be. We need the child to feel that we are happy to be there and want to be there for him or her. There is nothing worse for a child than feeling like their own teacher does not like him or her.

Another E. Environment.  Think back to your school days. Which classrooms did you enjoy the most? The ones where the environment was inviting, comfortable, and relaxing. Sure, there were rules, but it wasn’t walking the line, life or death.

The C represents conferring. We confer in reading, writing, and math. We should confer with behaviors too. It gives us the opportunity to look the child in the eye, one-on-one, and really meets those individual needs.

And lastly, the T is teaching the behaviors. Every behavior is motivated by something. It may be a defense mechanism. Perhaps it’s for attention. Either way, it is our job to get down to the nitty-gritty and determine what’s really going on. What are this child’s needs? How can we teach them? How can we model them? There is always more than meets the eye with these difficult students.

While I know there are other variables that play into our daily interactions, it’s important to remember RESPECT.  At the very least, it’ll make that day just a little easier.

And… if you need additional ideas on how to help manage students? Be sure to check out my classroom management page.

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    This Post Has One Comment

    1. bev

      I really like this i have never had it all broke down like that .i try hard every day to give each one of my students one on one.this is really helpful

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