Help- I can’t cope with this child!


I think every teacher has felt like this more than once. There are all sorts of reasons why a particular child may start to overwhelm a teacher. The most common are:

It’s not you , it’s me

You’re tired, you’ve got a headache, your toddler won’t sleep and you’ve fallen out with your other half. For whatever reason your emotional reserves are low and you just can’t cope with the demands of a child.

It’s not you, it’s them

As in SLT, the management, the bis boss, OFSTED. You’ve been up planning the most amazing, three-part, multi-sensory lesson ever seen and the Child won’t even sit down, they won’t try, they won’t engage. As the minutes tick your aware of the pressure to make progress and how this is impacting on your performance management. It makes you short and snappy and you start to spiral downwards.

There’s something about

There’s just something about this kid. You can’t decide what it is but they just put your back up. Other staff seem to think they’re lovely, cute or ‘cheeky’ but you think they’re the next Genghis Khan. The problem here is often that they remind you of someone else- the child that picked on you when you were in Reception or perhaps some unpleasant part of yourself- personally I can’t abide sneaky kids, give me a flat out aggressive kids any day. This probably stems from my own experiences in school when I was picked on by a group of sneaky girls.

All three of these reasons lead back to one thing


Someone once told me that the only thing you can control in the classroom is yourself, and they were completely right. Now I don’t mean that every behaviour problem is your fault and if you just tried harder every student would become a model pupil, get 11 A*’s and cure cancer, but if you’re really struggling with a particular child there’s only one person you can work on- you!

What do I do?

I’ve found the following helpful:

  1. Take care of yourself physically- drink enough, eat enough, take your vitamins and get some sleep.
  2. Take care of yourself mentally- relax and unwind, go for a quick walk, slob out in front of Bake off or soak in the bath- whatever it takes
  3. Let it all out- tell someone how you feel- a non-judgemental colleague, partner, friends, twitter or a shrink. Just let it all out and don’t self censor!
  4. Seek help before you crack- it it’s all getting too much on a regular basis you need to talk to SLT and the professionals. I can recommend the teacher support network, you union or council may be able to provide counselling and support
  5. Watch and learn- ask around, how do other people deal with this child? What do they do that works? Ask to watch them and see if there’s anything you could try. If they have a favourite member of staff try name dropping them into conversations
  6. What’s your view? Ask colleagues what they like about that child and try to see it for yourself. I love a cheeky, feisty, scrappy kid whilst other are drawn to the quiet, shy types.
  7. A change is a good as a rest- Shake up the routine (unless this is likely to cause distress) go outside at lunchtime and chat to them, engage them in the lunch hall, track them down in different situations and see what happens. Outdoors is always a great time to make and mend relationships with children.
  8. Fake it till you make it- act like you like them. Praise them, compliment them, repeat all their good points to yourself. Eventually you might begin to feel it for real.
  9. Walk a mile in their shoes- why does the child act like this? What are the reasons? Try to see the world from their perspective and remember behaviour is always the tip of the iceberg, what’s underneath is what matters and it’s rarely personal
  10. Look it up- read around behaviour, attachment, social and emotional wellbeing, sensory integration and anything else you think might be a factor. Knowledge is power and as well as giving you strategies it can help you empathise with the child.

photo credit: Amy McTigue via photopin cc


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