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The problem

A boy in my class has been told he is not returning to his mother. He was known as a disruptive child when he was with her, but calmed down a lot when he went into foster care. I'm wondering how to handle him in the next week. He will do anything to get my attention. I know he is having a bad time. How can I avoid making it worse?

What you said

Talk to the class when the teaching assistant has taken this lad somewhere else for five minutes. Let them know he is having a tough time and needs everybody's help. Tell them he may be naughty for a while because he wants people to notice him, but you want to notice him only for being good. He needs to learn that he gets nothing from anyone for being naughty and lots for being good.


Get him to spend 10-15 minutes reading with a teaching assistant at the start of the day so he has a chance to talk about anything bothering him. I would make him my right-hand man for taking the register back, pencil-sharpening and so on. It would be a mistake to ignore poor behaviour.


The expert view

This boy sounds like he is going through a rough time - and so, therefore, are you. But it's going to take courage to give this child what he needs and not just what he would like. There's a job to be done and it won't get done by appeasing misbehaviour. If he's going to go through an extended period of social care, he needs somewhere rules exist and order prevails, populated by people he can trust to look out for his best interests. That place is school.

Ensure that when he misbehaves he is called up on it. The temptation will be for him to misbehave to get you to look at him. So make sure that misbehaviour ends up with the exact opposite: when he misbehaves, there has to be a strategy in place whereby he is removed and taken to a place where he is in monitored isolation from his peers and you.

Reintegration to the classroom has to be dependent on his acquiescence to your boundaries. That's how you enforce the rules without giving him the negative attention that, in his angry child-mind, he mistakes for the esteem of others. Make it clear that you want the best for him.

Tom Bennett is author of `The Behaviour Guru' and `Not Quite a Teacher'. Post your questions at

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