16th March 2012 at 00:00

The problem: One of my Year 1 children has an IQ of 170. At the start of the autumn term she was a little "wild", hiding under tables, spitting, showing her pants, running around and so on. But, with a home-school log, weekly parental meetings and offering rewards if she behaved, things calmed down. However, since Christmas she has been a nightmare. The home- school log has little or no effect, she isn't motivated by rewards and knows how to press my buttons. Her mother is not supportive as her daughter has her wrapped around her finger.

What you said

In this instance, her high IQ is an advantage. She will more quickly understand how to play the game. I explain the behaviour I expect, what behaviour irritates me, and that if they irritate me, I will phone home, track them down, keep them behind and generally make their lives more difficult.


The expert view

This child is being spoiled. It's not fashionable to say so, but it needs to be tackled because she is learning lessons you really don't want her to. She is learning that if she behaves awfully nothing very substantial will happen, except diminishing levels of reward; that adults permit themselves to be treated with scorn; and that the feelings of others are unimportant to the exercise of her whims.

Step in now. She needs to understand that there are boundaries to her behaviour, and that those boundaries are patrolled by adults who will insist upon consequences if she chooses not to abide by them. Attach sanctions to her misbehaviours that are meaningful: detentions, missed breaks, deferred lunches, stern tellings-off.

There are plenty of smart kids in borstals, or stacking shelves, because they couldn't restrain their selfishness, or because they couldn't get on with others. Teach her the most valuable lessons of all.

Her intelligence, while a factor, is largely unimportant to this process. Don't be confused by it, as if she has some elite, exceptional need that excuses her from being a prat. Her intelligence might necessitate more challenging, differentiated work, but don't differentiate on your behaviour management.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher.

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