10 Strategies to deal with Difficult Students in Classroom

Blog 4973

“I like to encourage people to realize that any action is a good action if it's proactive and there is positive intent behind it.”
-Michael J. Fox

As a teacher, you will come across different students with different strengths and weaknesses. Some students may have behavioural problems, making them difficult to deal with in class.

We all have those students who are habitually in trouble or are making trouble. Behavioural problems at school interfere with lessons and disturb other students as well. These problems often bother teachers, particularly new teachers, and some consider them the most difficult aspect of a teacher’s work day. Children who exhibit behavioural problems invariably require extra attention, which places strain on teachers and slows the pace at which lessons are offered and completed.

Here are ten classroom management suggestions on how to deal with these difficult students:

  • Stay in contact with parents and communicate openly
Frequent communication with parents is essential for managing challenging behaviour. Keep them in the loop when their child has misbehaved, and ensure that they establish similar rules at home to the ones you have in school. The student needs support from both home and school in order to understand his problem and to take essential steps to face the challenge.

  • Search for Positives in children
The teacher should make an effort to step out from her circle and look for something positive in the child who misbehaves.
Often, you find that these children lack belief in their abilities and require teachers to assist them in seeing that they have the ability to become constructive. At all possible times, place the student nearest you, or stay within close proximity to him.
Always ensure that you communicate clearly and consistently. The way you phrase your comments can have a big impact on the way children perceive them. 
Information and commands sink in better when we’re told what we should do, rather than what we shouldn’t. Construct your instruction positively, as negative statements will only result in opposing reactions.
Furthermore, when a child behaves in a typically ‘negative’ way, identify their reasons for acting that way instead of just punishing them. Then, discuss alternative ways that they can achieve their desired outcome. There could be many reasons for their misbehaviour. For example, if they misbehaved because they are craving for attention, provide opportunities to speak or be active in class. Children will soon learn new behaviours when it helps them get what they want without punishment.

  • Model the Behaviour You Expect from children
If you want your students to behave in a positive manner, first you a teacher should model the act. Be a positive role model and behave in the same way you expect your students to. For example, if you ask your students to always be on time, make sure you demonstrate good time management and be punctual to school/class. Similarly, if you ask students to be organised, ensure your organisation matches it.
This holds good for feelings or emotions being demonstrated by your students.

  • Establish a Class Code of Conduct
At the start of a new school year, both you and your students should work together to establish a good rapport with each other. Discuss with your students, the class rules and class code of conduct. Put up a poster and display it in the classroom so students can always see it and follow.
Involving students in this is important, as it gives them a sense of ownership and in turn greater commitments to following the code of conduct themselves.

  • Try to empathize with the students who are misbehaving
Take time to get to know each of your students and proactively develop relationships with them. Talk about common interests, open a casual conversation, and always ask them how they are feeling. Discuss their family members, their past time activities etc., You could even ask them for advice and recommendations on something, such as good books /toys etc.,

  • Identify any underlying problems
“Most bad behaviour comes from insecurity.” - Debra Winger

More often than not, students are acting out for a reason. You want to make sure you identify underlying problems so they can be dealt with appropriately.  
A student who is behaving poorly may have a health problem, an issue at home, a mental health issue, or may be acting out due to academic difficulties. If a student's behaviour does not improve with regular intervention, there may be something else going on.
You may have to have a sit down and talk with a student whose behaviour is not improving. Ask him or her open-ended questions, like, "Is there a reason you're having trouble concentrating." This gives the student the opportunity to open up on what is preventing him or her from achieving academic success. The child might open up with his problems viz., personal, health, emotional, etc.; accordingly, the problem can be viewed, discussed and solved.

  • Handle gently
When you need a student to be called for his misbehaviour, ensure you do it in a way that minimises class disruption. Shouting at a student in front of the class will likely make them feel embarrassed about their behaviour. As a result, they’ll likely feel annoyed and insulted and will even worsen the condition. Instead, use a simple glance or a directed question to let them know that you’ve noticed their behaviour and they have to face the consequences.

  • Build on common ground
Reflect on your relationship to see if there is any way you can relate to the student. Find out if the student is interested in sports, good at Arts etc.
Establish a time out/quiet area in the classroom that students can go to when they’re displaying challenging behaviour. Utilise this area for calming down or diverting them to another activity.

  • Other support
Talk to your colleagues; has anyone been able to reach this student? If so, set up a meeting with the student and the teacher.
Do not make the classwork or homework a greater issue, till you settle down.
Find out if the student is good at any subject in particular so that he can tutor his fellow classmates. This way, he can utilize his energy in a constructive manner.

  • Recognise Good Behaviour and Achievements
It’s just a fact of childhood that most children misbehave from time to time. However, they also learn new things and make magnificent progress every day, and that’s an achievement in itself. When a child behaves well or completes a good piece of work, publicise it in class and school assemblies.
The child would feel very elated and proud and understand that he can recognise his potential.
Praise and encouragement for the appropriate conduct or behaviour will definitely change the attitude of students.


  • The teaching profession is excellent in a vast array of ways with the highlight of it all being the power you are given to shape the lives of the students entrusted to you. 
  • However, it is important to note that it is not always smooth sailing due to the various challenges that you are bound to face especially when dealing with children.
  • As much as these problems could be overwhelming, you should know that there is always a way to solve them.

- Dr. Sreepriya Ashok, Academic Consultant, CEP Global.