During assembly, Freddie broke wind, causing great merriment among the children around him. I told him to leave the hall immediately, and later I pointed out severely that if he did it again he and I wouldn't be the best of chums.
No doubt if I'd discussed my reaction with a behaviour therapist I'd have been told I'd got it all wrong. Freddie should have been given an in-depth session with the educational psychologist. Or offered fart management. Then again, perhaps it was my fault. My assembly might have been so boring he needed to distract himself by breaking wind. Or what about circle time, where he could shed his torment and remove the angst from his system?
In fact, I did none of those things. I told him off, because he was being naughty. Strange as it might seem, children sometimes are, but a massive industry has grown around the pretence that children are really adults, only smaller, and that there is a psychological reason for every bit of naughtiness. Teachers are caught in the middle, hardly daring to tell Charlie off because he might have a huge personal file and a syndrome that starts with "dys". While some kind of solution is being devised, little Charlie is being a constant pain in the butt during lessons.
After years of dealing with every kind of behaviour problem, I still find the unorthodox method often works best. Take Dipak. A place suddenly became available in Year 5, and Dipak was at the top of the waiting list. I invited him and his mother to look around the school. He chatted politely and, as we wandered round, Mum explained that he'd been badly bullied at his current school. He'd been in a lot of fights, she said, although it was never his fault. Then she mentioned that he was attending anger management therapy on Sunday mornings.
Warning bells rang, and as soon as they'd gone I phoned his school. There was a sigh of relief that he might be moving, and the deputy explained that she'd had innumerable meetings with Mum about his temper. Other parents had complained endlessly.
Never one to resist a challenge, I decided to accept him, and on his first morning I outlined my general philosophy about our school. "This is a great place to be," I said, "with all sorts of things to get into. But you have to be friendly and tolerant towards everybody else. That's the only rule. I don't want the Incredible Hulk here." He nodded enthusiastically.
Within two days he was in a fight. I spoke to him again. Within a week he was in another, and ordered to my room. When he'd cooled down, I asked him to walk down to lunch with me. As we reached the staircase I suddenly raised my voice in great pain, thrust my chest out, roared loudly, flailed my arms, and threw my coat to the floor, shouting to Dipak to stand well back as I was turning green and couldn't be responsible for my actions. He looked terrified, and then grinned broadly as he realised I was acting.
"You see," I said, "I've just managed my anger. Now you manage yours, or you're out. OK?"
We've got on well since then, although Sandra the secretary had heard my Hulk impression with much concern. "I thought you'd finally flipped," she said. Perhaps I have, but there are times when a little eccentricity goes a long way. And Dipak smiles much more these days.
Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.