Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Minimize Behavioral Problems in the Classroom

A fellow play therapist wrote this article for our Arkansas Play Therapy Spring Newsletter.  I thought it would be helpful for teachers working with children as we begin a new school year.  To access the entire newsletter, you can click here .


By Julie Minkel LPC RPT-S

Classroom Management Logistics:

*Play is the child’s field of study—during center time, the children are learning social skills, self-control, compassion, empathy, self-regulation, academic concepts, pre-reading skills, fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, self-worth. Support these times with your focused attention.

*Strive to have each adult in the classroom and on the playground focused and interacting directly with the children.

*Place only one adult in an area at one time—(as you position yourselves in various areas of the room and interact with the children, the effectiveness of classroom management will increase.)

*Remain at eye level with the children the vast majority of the time in the classroom. Minimize standing. This will enhance communication and make you more accessible to the children.

*When interacting with a child, position yourself in such a way as to have the widest view of the class room to supervise at all times

*Greet each child as they enter the classroom for the day (regardless of their arrival time)

*Minimize or eliminate non-child centered activities during class time (individual therapy, telephone calls, documentation).When these tasks need to be done, leave the classroom—you are emotionally unavailable, though physically present, which is confusing to children and co-workers

*Keep the classroom routine—if it changes, tell the children in advance

*Resist the temptation to have adult to adult conversations when the children are present. The children’s education is your focus—regardless of whether you are team teaching physics or preschool. (Cell phone conversations and texting should only be done outside the classroom.) Again, this creates emotional absence.

*Resist talking about the children, their disabilities, families, behaviors, etc. in their presence. When discussions are held, always keep a balanced focus on the child’s strengths and challenges. Oftentimes, in our field of behavior, there is a tendency to focus on the children’s deficits, rather than their strengths. Approach each child from a strengths-based perspective.

*When parents arrive, share a positive comment about the child’s day. Create time for the teacher to share the details and successes of the day. Pick up time is often the time of the highest incidence of accidents, since neither the teachers nor parents are clear on who is responsible for the children at that time. It is best to have the classroom assistant supervise the children while the teacher is talking w/ the parents.

Teacher/Child Interactions:

*Keep a minimum of 5:1 ratio of positive vs. directive comments to the children—(10:1 is your goal) As you are developing this habit, it is helpful to carry paper clips or buttons in one of your two pockets—transfer one object to the other pocket for each positive comment.)

As the teacher/child positive interactions increase, you will find yourself being proactive—enjoying positive behaviors in the children, rather than "policing" and "putting out fires."

*When correcting a child’s misbehavior, reflect the child’s feelings first (limits can wait for the next breath. Example: "That disappointed you, you’re sad, you were hoping to do this next,.."

*Pick your battles—ignore those behaviors which can be ignored—acknowledge the positive behaviors

*Join the child when he/she is positively engaged in an activity—minimize their mistakes/maximize their accomplishments—celebrate them!

*When transitioning an individual child from his/her on-going activity, join the child in that activity momentarily before you take him/her away from it.

*Be animated in your facial expressions--model joy!

Room Arrangement and Atmosphere:

*Create the feeling of containment in the classroom—wide open areas can escalate behaviors ( Create "cubbie" areas--this can be done with the placement of low bookshelves, rugs, sheer curtains, a tent with visibility which is large enough for a teacher and a small group, etc.) Eliminate runways .

At the end of the day, remind yourself of how valuable you are to each child and family member who will benefit for years to come, from your day’s labors!


  1. Hello good day :) , I read your article and I found it interesting and mindful please keep on posting different kinds of discussion.




108 E Central Ave.
(On the square, above Table Mesa)
Bentonville, AR 72712

About Me

Licensed Associate Counselor, Licensed Assoicate Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist