Tag Archives: emotional

The Most Emotional Part of Parenting?

There was a day when your parents put you down and never picked you up again.


Top 10 Tips for Disciplining Children with Challenging Behaviour

When it comes to teaching and parenting, one of the most talked about topics is discipline and behaviour. Most of us expect children to behave in certain ways – with respect, listen and respond appropriately, have infrequent tantrums, etc. Getting children to behave in these ways is not always easy. Even though a lot of children respond to our unique ways of disciplining, a few of them may display more challenging behaviours that are persistent and could seem uncontrollable – from theirs and your point of view. Below is a list of strategies and tips that has worked for me in schools and different settings over the years.

(It may be usefult for you to read Understanding Children’s Behaviour as well)

10. Know what the triggers are – Every behaviour is triggered by something. Find out what it is.

Potential triggers:

  • Medical diagnosis  (Autism, ADHD, etc.)- Please note that I am not saying that having a diagnosis is an excuse or a ticket to behave badly. What I am saying is that a diagnosis provides a signpost on what interventions you could use.
  • Medication – some kids on Ritalin could become hyperactive as the medication wears off
  • Sensory Stimuli such as noise, certain smells, bright or dim lighting, temperature– Some children are very sensitive to sensory stimuli and tend to react in unconventional ways when they encounter an unbearable one. If they are not able to communicate this discomfort through words, they may act out.
  • Change in routine (substitute teacher/Teaching Assistant, cancelled or swapped classes)- This is not specific to children with Autism. I have encountered children with no diagnoses who were unsettled by changes in routine.
  • Home life- problems and/ or changes at home
  • Bullying– It is worth investigating whether your student in question is being bullied by others when you are not looking. Not all children will report bullying.
  • Relationship with classmates– Investigate their relationships with other children. Are they getting enough attention, and if so, what kind of attention are they getting? If they are not getting any attention, make sure that you find out why.

9. Find out what the student’s receptive and expressive language skills are.

A lot of our behaviours are forms of communication. If children are not able to verbally express what they are feeling (see above), there is an increased chance that they would ‘act it out’. This can also happen if they do not understand what the others are telling them. Some children struggle to read body language, understand people’s tone of voice and/ or metaphors. If this is the case, you can organise for them to have lessons wherein you or other professional(s) will explicitly teach them these things.

8. Give them chances to succeed.

Give small targets that are achievable by the students. Set them up to succeed. For example, instead of asking them to ‘be quiet inside the classroom at all times’, you could start by asking them to ‘try to be quiet during carpet times’ (Primary school) or ‘try to be quiet when the teacher is talking’.

7. Give praise that is specific, well-explained and well-earned.

Never give blanket praises such as ‘good job’, ‘excellent’, ‘well done’, unless they are followed by a brief explanation of why you said what you said. Let them know why and which part of their work is amazing. You could say for example: ‘well done for colouring within the lines’ instead of ‘good work’.

6. Approach them positively.

Try not to shout and try not to be negative. Humour definitely helps. If the children understand figures of speech and metaphors, sarcasm can be an excellent tool. I found that students of any age are more likely to listen and change their behaviour if I approach them positively.

5. Tell them what to do instead of what not to do.

There are a lot of research that suggests that if you tell someone to ‘not play on the stairs’, they would. This is because what registered in that person’s brain is ‘play on the stairs’. Even though some children will hear you loud and clear, chances are, they will not know what to do instead of the undesirable behaviour. Quite a lot of teachers always tell students ‘not to fight’, but a lot of these children may only know one way to behave. If this is the case, how can they behave appropriately if you are not telling them what tappropriate behaviour is?

4. Be consistent.

You should be firm and fair all the time. Punishments and rewards should be handed out consistently – not only when you feel like it.

3. Remember that behaviour can be changed.

The whole point of your efforts trying to make your students behave appropriately relies on your belief about behaviours and attitudes. If you believe that we were born with a set of attitudes that make us behave in a certain way which cannot be changed, you need to think again. Although genetics play a part in the development of our attitudes and behaviours, the people around us and our experiences also have big contributions. We should keep in mind that everyone is capable of changing, especially our students.

2. Communicate effectively with the children’s parents/ primary carers.

For any intervention to work, the children’s school and home should work in concert with each other. Although it may be a good start, it shouldn’t be enough that your students behave really well in school but throws tantrums and go wild at home (or vice versa). Having an effective professional relationship with your students’ parents/ carers is one of the most important factors in helping children behave appropriately. Regular communications through phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings will help increase the likelihood that interventions will be carried out in both settings.

1. Set an example.

Kids will follow and copy your actions. If you practice what you preach, then you have won half the battle. Always remember that your students are far brighter than you think. They will start ignoring your advice and you will lose their respect if you do not walk your talk. Here are a few examples you can set:

  • Admit your mistakes publicly. You will make a mistake today- trust me. When you do, do not be ashamed to admit it.
  • Apologise to your students. When you make mistakes, say sorry. Explicitly let them know that even you can make mistakes, but your apology and subsequent actions are what matters most.
  • Respect your colleagues. Never say anything bad about your co-teachers, no matter what. Students notice how you treat other people and indirectly learn from your example.

Other bonus tips:

Get To Know Your Students Better

Positive Words and Phrases to Use in School

Helpful Tips on How to Get to Know Your Students



Getting to know your students is one of the most effective ways to create a harmonious classroom environment. Teachers and teaching assistants alike know how different each child is from his or her peers. Similar to adults, they all have their own set of attitudes, beliefs, biases, likes, dislikes and coping mechanisms. Knowing all of these can be the difference in developing a fun, yet respectful atmosphere in the classroom. For instance, if you know that a particular student dislikes being praised publicly, you can give praise subtly either through writing a note in his book or speaking to him/ her one to one.

Getting to know students in an individual level can be challenging especially if you have a huge class. But, however large your class is, there is always a way to get to know them. You just have to be willing. Here are some ways that I have found useful over the years:

  1. Ask pupils about their weekends every Monday morning: Find 5 to 10 minutes on a Monday morning to ask what your students did on the weekend. This is a relatively simple task that can reap such huge rewards. They may tell you that they have watched a sports game or a movie, and who they watched it with. From this conversation, you would know what sport they love and which player/ team they follow. Such wealth of information can be used as ice-breakers when they become unresponsive in lessons. For example, if a child who supports Chelsea and love Fernando Torres struggles with addition, you can give hypothetical examples such as ‘Torres scored 1 goal against Arsenal and 2 against Liverpool. How many goals has he scored altogether in those two games?” 
  2. Join in on their games in the playground: Being able to join in on the kids’ games in the playground can make them feel comfortable around you. By playing their games, you are showing that you are also capable of following their rules, as they follow yours in the class. It shows them that a person can both be respected and be fun to be with.
  3. Crack some jokes once in a while: Similar to the previous tip, this one shows that you can be fun. Most teachers fear that once they crack jokes, students will not take them seriously. But my experience suggest otherwise. Having shared a joke or two with my students (particularly when I worked with teenagers), I began to be accepted even more. One student commented that I became the person they approached the most because I can relate to them.
  4. Find out what music, TV programme, sports, etc. they like and familiarise yourself with them: As a person from a different generation, they may think we are out of touch with the current trend. Surprise your students by knowing more about their favourite artists, films, etc.
  5. Listen actively to your students: Use body language effectively. Allow your students to finish what they are saying and concentrate on their points of view. Make sure that you clarify anything that you do not understand.
  6. Use a ‘Free Expression Box’: There would be more than one student in any given class who prefer not to say anything due to anxiety. Make sure you have a box (call it whatever you like) in the classroom in which the students are allowed to put notes in. These notes may contain their thoughts about you, their peers, the school or their family. Be very clear about the rules for confidentiality and disclosure, though.
  7. Use these positive words and phrases:20130708-124901.jpg
  8. Ask them for feedback: Do not be afraid to ask them how they felt about your lesson or activity. Ask them what they enjoyed and what you could improve next time. One may fear that this gives complete control of your class to the students, but I disagree as this promotes harmonious and inclusive atmosphere in your classroom. It makes your students feel that you consider their thoughts and opinions.
  9. Use Golden Time and Free Play times to speak to your students: Spare 5 to 10 minutes of your marking/ planning time to speak to kids during relaxed/ unstructured times such as free play and golden time. Ask them about their day/week, how their pets are, or anything that they are interested in.
  10. Let your students know you: Communication and relationships are a two-way street. Let your students know a bit about you. Tell them what music/sports/TV programme, etc. you like. Just like you, they will find some similarities between you that would build a foundation to a stronger bond between you.

Historical and Political Influences on Inclusive Education in the UK



When we look at the UK’s education system today, particularly its emphasis on inclusion, it is difficult to imagine how much have changed over the years. At present, teachers and teaching assistants work very hard everyday to ensure that they give all of their students the best chance to succeed academically and socially. Both the Salamanca Agreement (UNESCO, 1994b) and the Dakar Agreement (UNESCO, 2000) have aimed to promote an inclusive education which expects schools to educate all students, particularly those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. But this has not always been the case. In this post, I will provide a brief summary of the policies that have helped to shape the education system in the UK.

1. The 1880 Education Act

Prior to this Act, only a small percentage of children in the UK went to school. This Act stated that education should be compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.

2. School fees were abolished  in 1891 and school leaving age was extended to 12 years in 1899.

3. Despite haviing a compulsory education system, children with disabilities and other difficulties were still excluded from school. This then led to the establishment of special schools for blind and deaf children (1893) and consequently, special schools for physically impaired children (1899).

ASIDE: During these times, funds to support schools and teachers mainly depended on examination results, i.e. bad results leads to funding being withheld. An unfortunate consequence of this is that the majority of ‘good’ teachers focused their effort on bright students- those who would get them the results they needed, whilst ignoring those who had significant barriers to their learning. In addition, ‘good’ teachers chose to work in schools which had a high percentage of passes in the hope of receiving high salaries. Some schools refused to admit children with disabilities and those who have emotional and behavioural difficulties as they fear they would ‘pull’ their pass percentages down.

4. The Birth of the I.Q. Test

Parallel events are occurring in countries such as France, whose government wanted to devise a selection process which will allow them to  identify which children are mentally incapable of learning, from those who are in order to find out which child can be offered an education placement. This then gave rise to the test developed and published by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon in 1905. Refinements by Terman and Stern (1912) brought about the concept of an Intelligence Quotient, or I.Q. as we know it today.

5. The 1902 Education Act

This Act gave local Authorities the freedom to devise their own educational plans to meet their areas’ needs. This included strategies to identify children’s cognitive abilities (using I.Q. tests).They enlisted the help of medical professionals who judged whether children are suitable to attend mainstream education or not on the basis of low I.Q. and/ or emotional and behavioural difficulties.

6. Appointment of Cyril Burt as the first Educational Psychologist in the UK

Due to the fact that medical professionals back then were not trained in the field of psychology, which made it difficult for them to assess children’s educational profiles, the London Conty Council appointed Cyril Burt as an Educational Psychologist. Burt helped to identify children’s educational potential and capabilities. By the end of the 1920s, assessments were made by teams which consist of psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians and social workers.

7. The 1944 Butler Act

School leaving age was raised to 15 years, and secondary education was delivered in Grammar Schools (high achievers), Secondary Technical Schools (average students) and Secondary Modern Schools (everyone else). This Act also stated that children who have any ‘disability of the mind or body’ should be provided with an alternative educational provision. It intended for a segregated education, instead of an inclusive one.

8. The 1978 Warnock Report

This stated that all students should be taught in mainstream education instead of in segregated provisions. This report argued that more and more children are being placed in special schools, but the needs of most of them can be met in mainstream education. It also claimed that the 1944 Act led to stigmatization of students who were labelled as ‘maladjusted’ or ‘subnormal’.

9. The 1981 Education Act

This Act introduced the Staments of Special Educational Needs for children with severe barriers to their learning. This Act required teachers to identify children who needed extra assistance, whilst also requiring local authorities to formally assess children and then provide their schools with additional resources to meet these children’s needs. Consequently, conflicts between teachers’ and LA’s opinions about children’s SEN, with teachers saying that LAs were more concerned about spending than actually meeting the needs of the children. Despite this problem, parents were given the right to appeal to LA’s decisions under this Act.

10. The 1988 Education Reform Act and the introduction of the National Curriculum

The National Curriculum was introduced, which should be followed by every child, regardless of their educational needs. Special schools however, were allowed to deliver the curriculum at a much slower pace and at a lower level. This Act also introduced school inspections and standardised tests such as the Key Stage Standard Attainment Tests (SATs). With parents being allowed to chose schools and with the pressure for schools’ teaching staff to perform, this Act’s unfortunate consequence was the return of Payment by Results system. Again, as a result, most teachers’ focus was directed towards pupils who will give them the results they need to maintain their jobs. These consequences act as a deterrent to the inclusion of students with SEN.

11. The 1993 Education Act and the SEN Code of Practice

This requires schools to show that they have done everything they can to help address children’s difficulties before any statements were issued. A Tribunal System was established to give parents even more rights to appeal to decisions made by their LAs.

12. Special Educational Needs and Disability Act of 2001

This Act introduced the three different levels of support that schools can give to students with SEN:

  • School Action: Teachers must adjust their teaching practices to accomodate the needs of the child/children with SEN. Teachers can seek the help of the schools’ SENCo.
  • School Action Plus: Schools still help the children but could seek help from professionals outside of the school, such as Physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists, psychologists, etc.
  • Statement of SEN: Multiprofessional assessments initiated by the school and the local authority.

12. The 2011 Green Paper

This paper plans to make changes in response to the inefficiencies of the current system. The authors claimed that

  • post-16 young people with SEN are highly likely to not be in education or training,
  • children’s needs are identified late,
  • Parents vie wthe system as bureaucratic and bewildreing and
  • parents have limited choices with regards to schools

This Green Paper aims to (taken from the Department of Education):

  • identify children’s needs earlier through earliy checks and a reduced time-limit for SEN Statements
  • offer personal budgets to parents with an SEN child
  • provide families with trained workers to help them through the process
  • give parents a wider choice of schools
  • give schools more autonomy to transform SEN provision
  • introduce a single SEN category to replace School Action and School Action Plan
  • offer more training to teaching staff in order to better address specific issues such as poor behaviour
  • and to help pupils with SEN to prepare for adulthood