What Are Innovative Approaches to Contacting Problematic Children?
In cases of problematic children and approaches to them, teachers, school psychologists, parents, and others who specialize in correctional work with youngsters raise the issue of innovative techniques of influence, ways of managing educational work, and the most effective means of correction of deviant behavior of such children. Therefore, there is a need for researching the issue and analyzing existing and potential innovations in the field of contacting problematic children and correcting their values and models of behavior. In the current practice, specialists mostly use outdated approaches of contacting problematic children. Therefore, they get less effective with time. This work is intended to research and analyze the efficiency and practical value of such approaches and give a recommendation for their future managing.
Keywords: problematic children, approach, behavior, education, deviation, ADHD
The issue of “problematic” children or children with deviant behavior is not new in our society, however, since the problem evolves and gains new forms and dimensions, it requires new approaches and techniques to be developed and implemented. The more effective and innovative the approaches to contacting problematic children are, the higher the chance there is to reduce crime and misbehavior in our society. There is no doubt that moral values and individual norms of behavior are majorly formed in childhood, and there are two fundamental institutions of influence: family and school. The family gives the child a fundamental set of behavior mechanisms and ethical values, and if parents fail to provide a positive example for their child or children, such teenagers soon become problematic and require correctional work. Treatment of such children should qualitatively differ from that of ordinary students and approaches that are chosen by teachers, and school psychologists should adapt to the characteristics of each child and his or her peculiarities of character and behavior. Each problematic child perceives information differently and requires a special approach. The nature of this challenge is defined by the vulnerability of the psychological state of such children because it is in the stage of active development and instability (Rubington, Earl, and Martin Weinberg). Therefore, the mission of a teacher and a school psychologist is to direct his or her development in the right direction. In general, children with deviant behavior act this way because they demand extra attention from peers and adults, which they probably did not get from their parents. The need for extra care leads children to the violation of norms of behavior set in society and school. In result, a conflict between such children and surrounding people appears. To resolve the conflict, teachers and school psychologists should develop a certain approach to contacting with such children individually. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to analyze and compare innovative approaches to contacting problematic children.
The first indicator of a problematic child is poor academic performance and refusal to engage in dialogue with the teacher. There is a need to clearly distinguish between problematic children with low grades and problematic ones. As a rule, ordinary children who have any issues in learning process would admit that their performance is weak and after a dialogue with teachers, the problem will eliminate with time. In the same time, problematic students do not perceive the fact that their academic progress has dropped and they insistently refuse to discuss it with the teacher. The second sign of the problem with a child stems from the first, that is, weak learning of new information and psychological barrier in communication with teachers and other children forces the student to resort to a creation of mental shield, that is, to ignore the fact of being problematic. The third indicator is fast fatigue from gaining knowledge and teamwork in the classroom. Thus, it is difficult for the child to concentrate on the performance of any tasks and he or she gets annoyed by any requirements from the teacher or peers. In such cases, the problem child tries in any way to get out of the situation. Then there are two variants of the development of events, which depend on the type of psyche of the problem child: aggressive or passive (Webster-Stratton, Carolyn H., Jamila Reid, and Ted Beauchaine). In the first case, a child tries to change the situation in the class distracting students from the task or breaking the lesson. In the case of a passive or internal reaction, the child closes in him or herself and does not pay attention to what is happening around. The fourth indicator is more common for students of the higher school. Problematic teenagers deliberately create a conflict with a teacher and incite other such troubled teens to participate to achieve maximum impact on the teacher. Such cases are extremely common and problematic adolescents thus try to compensate their shortcomings by psychological domination over the teacher. The last indicator would take place if teachers or school psychologists did not take appropriate measures to work with a problematic child. The negative experience accumulates and makes the child to leave the school or to put all efforts to achieve it. Therefore, it is not an easy task to contact with such children. The psychological work and approach have to be chosen and implemented skillfully and promptly to be effective. That is why it is critical to analyze the behavior of problem children and understand why they act the way they do and what can be the most efficient way to contact them.
In studying the problem in this direction, the literature that was chosen with this research was focused on authors who analyze existing approaches to contacting problematic children and propose new and more effective ones. (1) For example, in their book “Deviant Behavior: Crime, Conflict, and Interest Groups,” Charles H. McCaghy, Timothy A. Capron, J. D. Jamieson, Sandra Harley H. Carey (2016) concentrated their research on children with deviant behavior which may have criminal outcomes. In such cases, the authors argue that the approaches to contacting such children should be dynamic and depend on time, place, environment, and personality of the child. They also argue that the reasons for deviant behavior in children can have biological reasons. (2) Earl Rubington and Martin Weinberg focused on deviant group and regarded the approach of self-typing which is regarded and discussed in the tenth edition of their book “Deviance: The Interactionist Perspective” (2016). Thus, their vision of the problem is that problematic children can resolve the issue themselves if they comprehend that fact that their behavior is considered deviant. Such an approach is built on team therapy and implies the strategy of communication between problematic children. In the book “Deviant Behavior,” (3) Erich Goode (2015) compare and contrast two sociological approaches to problematic children: essentialism and constructionism. Essentialism argues that deviance exists objectively and, hence, its occurrence, rate, and distribution can be explained scientifically (Goode, Erich 18).
(4) In the book “Identifying Hyperactive Children: The Medicalization of Deviant Behavior,” Peter Conrad (2006) argues that the cause of deviant behavior in children is hyperactivity and a lack of attention (ADHD). The author regards the approach of medicalization for hyperactive children of school age with ADHD. In his opinion, the best way of treatment for such children is stimulant medication. (5) Kenneth H. Rubin and Debra J. Pepler argue that aggressive behavior is closely connected with social withdrawal. Moreover, authors are convinced that this type of behavioral deviance can be explained in psychological terms as a disorder of schizophrenic type. The most efficient approach, according to authors is the prediction of the psychopathology using psychological analysis. (6) Webster-Stratton, Reid, and Beauchaine (2011) evaluated different approaches to contacting problematic children. They conducted a randomized control trial among children with ADHD aged from 4 to 6 years with different programs of parental training. The results show that combined training programs help children to reduce the effects of ADHD.
(7) Daniel F. Connor is one of the first who evaluated and compared the efficiency of different programs developed for helping parents to correct their children’s behavior. In his book “Aggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents: Research and Treatment,” (2012) he addressed such programs as OSCL PMT (1998), PMT by Berkeley (1997), and some others. He also stands the point that medical intervention should be implied only in the hardest cases, as PMTs are effective in most cases of aggressive children.
I chose literature review, observation, and survey as major methods for answering the research question. The literature review will give a significant theoretical background for the research and observation will have to determine the most effective innovative approaches to contacting problematic children. The literature review will include seven primary sources and three secondary sources. All sources are based on whether determining the deviant behavior or treating it. Some research sources are focused on the assessment and analysis of individual treatment approaches including PTMs. Confirmation of the effectiveness of the sequential impact on adolescents of deviant behavior would serve as the final period of interaction in the high school in West Hampton. So, for the initial period of the organization of prevention of offenses among adolescents in this school, there would be 45 students of high school (169 students in total). The results of the research would make it possible to assess innovative approaches for eliminating deviations in the children’s behavior.
Visual observation of the school confirmed the presence of deviant behavior. The walls were covered with offensive paintings. In the hall, ridicules images of teachers were painted and scratched. For most classes, teachers were forced to remove from 4 to 7 problematic students from the class. Being out of the class, offenders gathered in the WC, smoked and burned toilet paper and textbooks. There were also cases of minor thefts: money, watches, textbooks, and even jackets. Some cases of thefts and fights resulted in calling police and ambulance.
In the situation that developed in the West Hampton high school, I decided to choose an original way: I did not start to support the permission for alleged approaches of behavioral influences with the head of the school. My strategy had three major points: efficiency, sociability, and consistency. It helped me to develop a fruitful dialogue with problematic children make some interview. After specific individual interviews with problematic students, and after that a group interview (a list of questions with raising hands), and after that, I formed groups according to age (in some cases, there was a need to talk with boys and girls separately).
The second step of the research was conducted on children was to identify and assess their opinions and desires considering the level of offensive or aggressive behavior in their school. Once again, I first asked students separately and then in groups. One of the fundamental questions of the questionnaire was about a proposition to ban smoking on the territory of the school. The purpose of this strategy was to reduce the influence of problematic students on the rest of adolescents, the level of control of the offenders, and the attitude of ordinary students to violations of social norms existing in the school. The most suitable tool for this aim was to find out individual opinions of students toward the most spread violations, such as smoking (both inside and outside of the school), and thefts, both minor and major. Such a strategy would also indicate the level of deviance in the behavior of problematic children. One more point was to identify the attitude of students toward teachers.
Below are the main approaches, together with a description of the conditions of activity and situations, where the action is most rational in three stages.
Promotion. From the very first contact with a child who is suspected to be problematic, I tried to give him or her a chance to discuss his or her feelings and impressions. It is also desirable to use different people for conversations. A new person presents to a child an opportunity to behave differently so that it could give some additional information about his or her personality and the level of deviance of the behavior (Conrad, Peter). As a rule, a problem child tries to seem a better person while acquaintance with another person and introduce him or herself and create a positive impression of him or herself and, therefore, commits positive actions. I assume that such children emphasize and even boast of a ‘better part’ of their personality.
Personal identity. In this case, the student feels a desire to be evaluated by another person. It usually happens when such children establish friendly relationships with a teacher. It is a specially significant aspect at the first stage of communication when an adolescent is severely undergoing a deficiency of positive assessment from others (Pepler, Debra J., and Kenneth Rubin). In those cases when it is critical to eradicating the negative effects of wrong values immediately, offensive or aggressive behavior, as well as hostility and disagreements, another set of approaches is needed.
Construction of the negative effect. When a problematic child cannot give an adequate assessment of his or her actions and their consequences, he or she most often would blame surrounding people or the circumstances. Sometimes, there is uncertainty whether his or her behavior violates the norms existing in society or even defies the law. Permission is also involved when an adolescent attempts to prove his innocence or describe the situation as an ordinary thing. Seldom there is a need to recognize each aspect of the offense and hold an explanatory conversation with children. If any of them would have an issue, it is necessary to discuss it. Such a pattern may be quite reasonable if accurate training was conducted, which provided an adequate interpretation of all the episodes that co-occur with the wrongdoing and defined an efficient approach to contacting.
Condemnation. This approach, unlike others, is viewed not only as a description of the action (misbehavior). It is supposed to lead to the formulation of the ending stage: the acknowledgment of his or her actions as a deviation. Such a result is the final aim of any approach. However, an important point here is that this acknowledgment should appear not after an act of misbehavior but before it. Thus, the treatment of a problematic child could be considered finished only in case of acknowledgment. Such a result can be achieved only in those cases when the child stands before people he or she appreciate and respect. That is, the child would not let him or herself to appear before them being condemned for misbehavior.
Punishment. This approach can be implied in those rare cases when nothing else appears to be effective. The approach of punishment is reasonable when the adolescent he or she will always be forgiven for any kinds of misbehavior. When choosing an appropriate means of punishment, it is necessary to be proportionate. It means that the punishment, which in its severity exceeds (or understates) the severity of the offense, is highly undesirable (Goode, Erich). It can contribute to the occurrence of resentment or aggressiveness as a result of injustice. In the second case, when punishment is too insignificant, there is a perception of impunity and permissiveness. That is why it is always necessary to choose the means of punishment by the level of misbehavior and analyze the reaction of the child (it differs from one child to another). Also, there is no need reminding that physical types of punishment are unacceptable.
Warning. This method is fit to apply in those cases when negative circumstances are not a product of the child’s intention. He or she is also rational in those cases when it is not clear to the adolescent what consequences could be expected. It is also possible that a child has not enough knowledge to be aware of the consequence of his or her doings. That is why, in such cases, it is necessary to explain to the child why his or her action had this or that outcome and why it should be avoided in the future.
Excitement from the expectation of an inevitable punishment. In some other words, it is a disguised threat. Since the earliest years of life, a child should be given an image of the consequences of his or her actions. If it is done properly, the child will not only passively wait but even condemn him or herself for misbehavior. It should be remembered that the expectation of an inevitable punishment can give birth to fear before doing anything that could cause troubles. If this approach works, the child will reconsider his her intention to do this or that act, and the idea of excluding such behavior in the future will be settled.
Many years of research of the approaches to contacting “problematic” adolescents make it possible to assume that children with ADHD, aggressiveness, and unwillingness to study can appear at very different ages. Parental and pedagogical neglect can coexist in a child and lead to undesirable consequences. That is why it is essential to regard the development of the child and the appearance of any deviation in his or her behavior as a complex phenomenon.
The process of education and re-education of social norms of behavior and rules of communication with peers and other people should not be departed from the process of comprehension of the world and the personalities of teachers and parents of the child. For all educators who practice innovative approaches to contacting problematic children, should imply necessary measures of influence to help the child to fit in society and be successful in education.
Considering all the above, all the innovative approaches to contacting problematic children should always be correlated:
a) with the impact situation,
b) with the state of adolescents,
c) with its individual characteristics.
Therefore, it should be noted that each approach or a complex of approaches have to be chosen according to the personality and peculiarities of the child’s personality. Taking into account the specifics of educational institutions, as well as several factors and trends in the pedagogical organizations, I recommend the following sequence in the application of such approaches:
1. Approaches affecting the student in the performance of ethical values, leading to the accumulation of examples of suitable behavior: 1) conviction, 2) truth, 3) moral support and strengthening of faith in one’s own forces, 4) extraction into interesting activity.
2. Braking approaches: 1) conclusion of the act, 2) deletion, 3) condemnation, 4) punishment, 5) warning, 6) anxiety about the impending punishment, 7) expression.
3. Approaches with hidden effects: 1) parallel pedagogical influence, 2) affectionate criticism, 3) hint, 4) apparent indifference, 5) irony, 6) debunking, 7) false distrust, 8) execution a certain case instead of a pupil, 9) organization of natural consequences. Besides, I used the following approaches: “graded assessments of behavior,” “example,” “pattern of behavior,” as well as “blame.”
Connor, Daniel F. Aggression And Antisocial Behavior In Children And Adolescents:
Research And Treatment. 1st ed. New York: The Guilford Press, 2012. Print.
Conrad, Peter. Identifying Hyperactive Children. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2006.
Goode, Erich. Deviant Behavior. Routledge, 2017. Print.
McCaghy, Charles H., et al. Deviant behavior: crime, conflict, and interest groups. 8th
Ed., London and New York, Routledge, 2016.
Pepler, Debra J., and Kenneth Rubin. The Development And Treatment Of Childhood
Aggression. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2013. Print.
Rubington, Earl, and Martin Weinberg. Deviance: the interactionist perspective. 10th ed., New York, Routledge, 2016.
Webster-Stratton, Carolyn H., Jamila Reid, and Ted Beauchaine. “Combining Parent And Child Training For Young Children With ADHD.” Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 40.2 (2011): 191-203. Print.
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