I was talking to a year 6 class teacher recently about a girl who is very confrontational and challenging and often uses verbal and non-verbal behaviour in an attempt to intimidate her teacher. This child lives with lots of conflict and unpredictable behaviour from adults outside of school, so is mirroring this as a way of managing her relationships with adults in school. I spent time with the teacher explaining that children who show this behaviour may actually need the opposite of what they are showing us, and that although their behaviour may make us feel like staying detached and distant from them, what they actually want and need is a strong connection with a consistent and predictable adult. I also discussed the possible feelings behind this behaviour which may be anxiety and fear. I explained that it’s not always easy to understand this when the child is presenting as fearless and not bothered, but this is usually a defence that the child has dead to learn at an early age in order to feel emotionally safe.
I suggested she work on focusing as much as possible on identifying and naming the positive aspects of this child’s behaviour, no ,after how small and decide which of the more challenging behaviours could be ignored. We discussed this child’s need to feel emotionally safe and understood at school and how we could try and help her to achieve this by building her confidence and self-esteem. I met with the teacher each week and at first there didn’t seem to be any changes, she was still being challenging and confrontational. I kept encouraging the teacher to continue and after three weeks there were some examples of the child being more accepting and compliant. The teacher continued, focusing on the positives and praising and encouraging her for making small changes. At the end of the half term, she is more settled, less anxious and is growing in confidence as her teachers acknowledgement of her skills and capabilities increases.
This is a brilliant example of dedication and commitment to a child’s emotional well-being and really shows how powerful perseverance can be.