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Peer pressure

Professor Raj Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley hospital and senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry in London "There are very few laws in psychology because people vary so much, but one is that the nature of behaviour is determined by consequence. The consequences of acting out for boys like Billy, who have very low self-esteem, is that they get the attention of their peers; this is what they crave. It's about achieving status in the desired group. Boys are more likely to be disruptive to gain this because they care less about what those outside the group think of them.

"The long-term project of dealing with the low self-esteem and underlying causes of the behaviour is important, but teachers need to be creative about immediate consequences to avoid the constant demand on time and energy that this kind of acting out causes. Sending a child out of a class is an obvious way of withholding attention. Changing class attitudes to the two stronger boys who are provoking Billy's disruption is a different way of tackling it. Praise from a good teacher is worth a great deal to pupils, and concentrating on and praising work from the rest of the class can go a long way to changing group dynamics."

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