24th June 2011 at 01:00
The problem: I'm a teaching assistant (TA) working in a Year 4 (P4) class with a few badly behaved boys. If the teacher is present, it doesn't escalate, but if it's just me they don't listen, even when I use the same sanctions and language as the teacher. How can I get them to follow my instructions?

What you said

"How long have you been with the class? If it's not long, you may need time to become established with them. Be relentless and consistent with the sanctions and I should think they will catch on eventually."

Mr Leonard

"You could try keeping the group behind at the end of the lesson and tell them off yourself, with the teacher standing near."


The Expert View

Managing difficult behaviour can be stressful even for the most accomplished practitioner. If you prepare well and think positively, you are more likely to win at changing the children's behaviour. Henry Ford once said: "Whether you think you can, or think you can't - you're right." Positive attitudes are contagious and will affect the children's outlook in class.

In a challenging situation, it is vital to detach yourself and not take it personally. Breathe deeply and display a calm and confident exterior; this may help to reduce a child's anxiety and frustration and enable them to feel more secure. Keep your tone of voice low and calm no matter how upset you feel, and reassure the class or individuals that you care about them and their misbehaviour has not affected your concern for their welfare. When pupils feel the TA is in control, they are more likely to calm down and make the right choice, and improve their behaviour.

The key message here is consistency. Make it clear that if a rule is broken, a corrective must be used so that the child can be given every chance to reflect on their actions. Encouraging children to make the right choices and keep class rules is always a priority. Consistency sends a positive message to the children. Correctives need to be timely, specific, logical, reasonable and fair, with a clear beginning and ending.

Nicola S Morgan is a behaviour management consultant, author and co- founder of For more behaviour advice, go to

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