What’s behind bad student behavior?

By: | May 12, 2016

Students who end up in detention more than just once or twice may be hungry for any kind of attention because they crave a relationship with a teacher or are neglected—or worse—at home, says Fred Hanna, author of the book Therapy with Difficult Clients.

“You will settle for bad food sometimes if that is all you can get,” says Hanna, who has taught classes about challenging teens at Johns Hopkins University. “For some kids, poor-quality attention is better than none at all.”/p>

Hanna recalls a young girl who had been in several foster homes who repeatedly challenged him in a group counseling session at an alternative school, but her behavior improved greatly as he developed a one-on-one relationship with her and gave her leadership opportunities. She helped him run the group and mentored younger students.

Off-task students may also be expressing frustration with their inability to succeed or even inciting a power struggle because “they worry that they do not really matter, so they are constantly doing things in an effort to influence others,” says Richard Curwin, author of the book Discipline with Dignity./p>

Detentions and suspensions have functioned as “rewards” for some students, according to a 2002 paper, “Suspensions and detentions in an urban, low-income school,” published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

The paper notes that students who receive detention—typically those exhibiting bad behavior or lack of effort, and more likely to be from low-income and minority families—may want a change of scenery from their classrooms.