Transforming Aggression, Defiance, and Disruptive Behaviors with the Skill of Self-Regulation

All teachers understand that the most difficult part of the job isn’t teaching the content- it’s handling student misbehaviors. However, sometimes these misbehaviors are not simply kids being kids. Sometimes a deeper issue is at play. Aggression, defiance, and disruptive behaviors are difficult for parents and teachers to know how to handle properly.

In the classroom, teachers may notice an active defiance toward rules, excessive arguing, frequent anger and resentment, and amusement when others are punished. Students suffering from aggression or defiance may even harm others on purpose or intentionally destroy or steal school property. Students that are frequently disruptive may be suffering from a condition such as ADHD, anxiety, a learning disorder, or sensory processing problems.

Often, these issues are handled improperly. It’s important for teachers and school administrators to channel these behaviors into self-regulatory processes, rather than exclusionary punishments.

Exclusionary punishments are not ideal

Recently, the United States has moved towards more zero-tolerance policies when it comes to student misbehaviors. Often, these policies emphasize exclusionary punishment in which a student is either taken out of class for in-school suspension or is suspended from school entirely.

Students facing exclusionary discipline often miss valuable instructional time in the classroom, further separating them from academic success. Students suffering from aggression, defiance, and disruptive disorders are even more likely to face exclusionary punishment. These students are not only missing instructional learning time, but they are also missing critical time with their counselors and teachers who could make an impact and help them control their behaviors through self-regulation.

What is self-regulation?

Self-regulation strategies are those used by students to monitor and correct their own improper behavior using self-evaluation and self-management skills. The goal of self-regulation is to decrease the misbehavior, increase positive behaviors, and improve one’s own social and emotional skills. There are four common self-regulation processes:

  1.       Self-monitoring involves a student monitoring their own behavior and deducing if it is appropriate. If it is not appropriate, the student corrects their behavior and transforms it into the target behavior. The student is encouraged to document his behavior on a chart so that he can see his behavior performance over time.
  2.       Self-monitoring plus reinforcement includes everything involved in the process of self-monitoring and adds an additional reward for positive behavior. This reward can be anything agreed upon by the teacher and student, but its overall purpose is to increase motivation for positive behaviors and self-evaluation.
  3.       Self-reinforcement involves the student rewarding himself for positive behavior after he has met certain predetermined criteria. The important aspect of self-reinforcement is that the student is the one determining if he deserves the reward.
  4.       Self-management once again involves the student monitoring his own behavior, but with this process, the student’s evaluation is compared to the evaluation by a teacher or other adult. If the evaluations of the student’s behavior match, the student is rewarded.

All of these self-regulation processes allow individuals to take responsibility for their own behavior. Self-regulation strategies have been proven to increase social skills and decrease aggression, defiance, and disruptive behaviors in many students. These self-regulation processes can be an excellent tool to use in your classroom, regardless of the behaviors you handle in your classroom each day.

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