There may be children in school who appear to be over confident and demand that they are chosen for everything, appear to know all the answers and may present as being happy in themselves. However, this may be a result of needing to be in control and manage situations around them in order to feel safe. This behaviour may be observed in children who have experienced domestic violence or other traumatic experiences and are desperately trying to establish some sense of security and stability in their lives. They may behave in ways that are challenging to school staff such as questioning them and trying to get them to make mistakes or get things wrong. This may be caused by their need to test adults in order to ascertain their
reactions to events; for example, ‘Miss Brogan always seems very calm, but I bet I can make her cross if I push her enough.’
This child may have learned to feel over-responsible for the adults in their lives and need to check out whether all adults are unpredictable. While this behaviour can be challenging to deal with at times, it can be useful to explore what may be going on for the child and how they may be feeling. It may be difficult for school staff to accept that children who present as controlling and challenging may actually be feeling frightened and vulnerable. However, if children feel that school staff are unable to manage them they may feel scared and this can reaffirm the negative feelings they already have about themselves.
Try the following strategies with children and see if you notice and changes:
• Remain in charge and be predictable wherever possible.
• Prepare them in advance for any changes that may occur in order to develop their ability to trust that adults mean what they say.
• Acknowledge and express emotional reactions to things; for example, ‘Being in a different room can make us feel anxious as we are not used to it.’ This may encourage them to begin to voice their own feelings in situations where they feel uncomfortable.