Defiers are easy to identify but difficult to manage. You, as a teacher, can attest to that. They talk back to us, dare us to reprimand them and may refuse to take punishment when we do reprimand them. However, defiers are extremely critical of teacher fairness. This we can't overlook when attempting to manage their behaviour.

Defiers can cause turmoil in the classroom, create a crisis for teacher, students and the learning environment. There is always tension in the room. They also make it difficult to discipline others, if they aren't disciplined as well.

Teachers often make a serious mistake. They may yell at defiers or try to intimidate them with threats and punishment or become involved in "yes you will or else" contests. These approaches may cause them to lose control and respect of both the defier and the rest of the class.

Also, if you continually send the defier out in the hall, your other students may feel that you can't handle the defier and you may lose your dignity as well.

We, as teachers, make the biggest professional mistake by taking this personally (and it's so easily done, especially when we hear insolent remarks). When doing so, we become part of the problem. By acting professionally, we retain control over the student and the rest of the class.

To manage the defier in a professional way, you must first realize that this matter must be handled privately. Delaying the action response is the most effective. When responding to defiance, act as if you're a third person. For instance, if the student says "I won't do it", wait a moment, then say " I beg your pardon" or "I don't think I heard you correctly".

Your response may give the student a chance to rescind his words or obey. If there is not an acceptable response, then you can say "That's your choice, but we better talk about it later privately because I have some choices too". You may want your administrator or the parents to attend as well. The stage is now set to deal with the student and his/her problem.

What is vital is that you arrange several private follow up meetings/conferences when the student is not in a defiant mood. Approach him/her in a calm manner and let him/her know that their behaviour in the classroom is unacceptable and that they may choose courses of action and so can you.

You may say " If you choose to act in such a manner, don't be angry about my choice in response. I want to get along. What can we do together to make this happen?" This response disarms defiers becaus they only know how to fight.

Remember, fairness is an issue with them and a key to handling them. They just don't realize that the reason others are never fair to them is because their defiance is so unfair.

In summary, you can either respond to the defier professionally or personally. We must absolutely refuse to argue. The best chance of winning them over is with gentleness and a sincere offer to help them win. Defiers have few meaningful relationships with adults. Perhaps we may change their behaviour with us.

These students will also have setbacks. Remember to respond as a third party, "What happened?" or "Did you have a problem with someone?". This approach clearly shows that it's their problem, not ours. One cause of defiance is low-self concept.

So, by assuming a third person stance, delaying reactions and caring, we step aside rather than striking back. That's when solving the problem can begin, because the defier seldom gets these fair reactions from anyone.

For more of my classroom management strategies have a look at my page.

Happy trails,


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