The Behaviour Question

17th August 2012 at 01:00

A six-year-old boy at my school simply refuses to do things. Today he refused to do PE as he thought it was 'silly', and instead wandered around not joining in. He has anger issues, so there are always concerns about how he will react. But my gut instinct is to say he has the choice to either join in or sit out and face sanctions. How would you deal with this?

What you said


I would say to the boy, "No PE equals no break or lunchtime. You have two minutes to make your decision." If he wanders off, you need to alert someone, but the consequence still stands. You cannot tolerate this - other pupils will start joining in if you do, and you are responsible for the group's safety as well as learning. If the pupils are not learning or in the room, you are not being responsible.


Is he attention-seeking? If so, then confronting him is giving him attention. I would explain the consequences to him very shortly and sharply, then leave him - or at least ignore him but keep an eye on him. Do this very quietly so the others don't hear. Stick to the consequences no matter what. If he runs off, alert the office but don't pander to him. If he joins in, give him loads and loads of praise and give the children who are already joining in over-the-top praise. I would be tempted to invite parents in and work out a plan to deal with him. Children cannot choose what they will and will not do. What message is that giving the other children?

The expert view

If a pupil simply refuses to join in with PE, there are two approaches, and you can do them both simultaneously.

1. The Sherlock Holmes. There may be some underlying explanation for this behaviour other than merely obstreperousness. He may be embarrassed about changing or bullied in the bathrooms, or it could be the result of a million other triggers that catalyse rebellion.

While this does not justify him sitting out PE, what it does entail is the teacher amending the problem if one exists - for example, by making sure that bullying is stopped. A chat and some reassurance could go a long way.

2. The Undertaker. Like the former World Wrestling Federation's famed Bret "Hitman" Hart, the vast majority of pupils simply need to see that the school isn't prepared to put up with their behaviour, and that if they persist, they will incur the full gamut of wrath the school possesses.

So, follow the standard path of referrals, sanctions, phone calls and escalations. And persist: it may take some time for this young man to work out that it is worth it to comply. While he may not see the point of physical activity, his heart and lungs will thank him over a lifetime if you instil the habit in him. Good luck.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. His latest book, Teacher, is out now, published by Continuum.

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