The Challenge of Challenging Behaviour

The challenging behaviours of students can be challenging at all times. And to top it all the pandemic has brought a range of challenges to the educational landscape, with one of the most pressing being the issue of challenging behavior among school students. As educators, having discussed and shared experiences with educators around the world, teachers are reporting a marked increase in student behaviors that disrupt learning, cause stress, and also at times threaten the safety of everyone involved. These behaviors, which may include aggression, non-compliance, and verbal outbursts, can take a significant toll on teachers and students alike, and may even lead to disciplinary action. The solution to this challenging issue would begin with identifying some of the possible causes and patterns of challenging behaviours of students. The final aim of every educator is to be able to address and resolve these issues while supporting student growth and dignity.

Possible Causes and Patterns of Challenging Behavior

The causes of challenging behavior are complex and multifaceted, and can vary widely depending on the individual student and their circumstances. However, some common factors that may contribute to challenging behavior include:

1. Emotional and Mental Health Issues:

Students who are struggling with emotional or mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma, may exhibit challenging behavior as a way of expressing their distress. These behaviors can also be a way of seeking attention, control, or power in a situation where they feel helpless. In my own experience, after the pandemic some young students on returning back to physical school, faced anxiety in climbing a staircase! Some other experiences were the anxieties students faced everytime they came near someone in school without a mask.

2. Learning Difficulties:

Students who are struggling academically may become frustrated and act out as a way of avoiding difficult tasks or getting attention from their peers or teachers. After the pandemic a number of students felt evasive towards writing using a pen and paper.

3. Environmental Factors:

Classroom or school environments that are chaotic, overcrowded, or lack structure and routine can also contribute to challenging behavior. Poor relationships with teachers or peers, or experiencing bullying or discrimination, can also lead to feelings of isolation, anger, and frustration.

4. Family and Home Environment:

A student’s home life and family situation can also have a significant impact on their behavior in school. Students who come from unstable or abusive homes, or who experience poverty or neglect, may struggle to regulate their emotions and behavior in the classroom.

5. Developmental Factors:

Students who are experiencing significant changes in their physical, emotional, or cognitive development may also exhibit challenging behavior as they navigate these transitions. Over the years, it’s a known fact for adolescent students to feel emotional and stressful to go through these years.

Addressing Challenging Behavior in Schools

Addressing challenging behavior in students is crucial for creating a positive learning environment and promoting student success. Challenging behavior can be defined as any behavior that interferes with a student’s ability to learn or the ability of other students to learn. This behavior can range from minor disruptions, such as talking out of turn, to more severe behavior, such as physical aggression.

Challenging behavior can have a negative impact on student learning and achievement, as well as teacher well-being and job satisfaction. In addition, challenging behavior can contribute to an unsafe and unsupportive learning environment, which can lead to an increase in absenteeism and school dropouts.

Addressing challenging behavior in students requires a multi-tiered approach that involves prevention, early intervention, and intensive support. Prevention involves creating a positive school climate, setting clear expectations for behavior, and teaching social-emotional skills. Early intervention involves identifying and addressing challenging behavior as soon as it occurs, using evidence-based practices such as functional behavior assessment and positive behavior support. Intensive support involves providing more individualized support for students with more severe and persistent challenging behavior, such as individualized behavior plans and access to mental health services.

To effectively address and resolve challenging behavior in schools, educators must adopt a whole-school approach that involves collaboration between teachers, administrators, and support staff. Some strategies that can be effective include:

1. Positive Behavior Support:

A proactive approach that focuses on teaching and reinforcing positive behavior rather than punishing negative behavior. This may involve implementing clear expectations, using positive reinforcement, and providing consistent consequences for inappropriate behavior.

2. Restorative Justice:

A process that focuses on repairing harm and restoring relationships between students, teachers, and the school community. This may involve facilitated conversations, mediation, or other interventions that promote accountability and empathy.

3. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL):

A framework that teaches students the skills and knowledge they need to manage their emotions, build positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL can be integrated into the curriculum and classroom culture to promote a positive and supportive learning environment.

4. Trauma-Informed Practices:

An approach that recognizes the impact of trauma on student behavior and seeks to create a safe and supportive environment for all students. This may involve providing support services, offering trauma-informed training for staff, and using strategies that promote emotional regulation and self-care.

5. Individualized Support:

Some students may require more intensive or individualized support to address their challenging behavior. This may involve creating a behavior plan, providing counseling or therapy, or working with outside professionals to address underlying emotional or mental health issues.

In conclusion, addressing challenging behavior in students is essential for creating a safe and supportive learning environment and promoting student success. By using a multi-tiered approach that involves prevention, early intervention, and intensive support, schools can support all students in developing positive behavior and achieving their full potential. This requires a whole-school approach to effectively address and resolve.


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National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention. (2014). Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS). Retrieved from
Wolpow, R., Johnson, J., Hertel, R., & Kincaid, S. (2016). Transforming schools through restorative justice. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 24(3), 43-49.

Lane, K. L., Pierson, M. R., & Givner, C. C. (2004). Teacher expectations of student behavior: Which skills do teachers deem necessary for success in the classroom? Education and Treatment of Children, 27(4), 364-377.

Author Name : Sonia Singh