Behavior Changes- Looking at the Whole Child

A child in your class is suddenly acting out more than usual or is behaving strangely and it is driving you crazy! It may be time to adopt a new perspective and look at this child in a different way!


Sometimes as a teacher in a classroom full of energetic, demanding young children, it feels impossible to separate yourself enough to get a clear picture of what may be happening with individual students. It is important to step back at this point and consider the whole child, and all aspects of their development. Children typically do not have radical changes in behavior unless something has changed dramatically in their own lives, or they are experiencing bigger challenges in one of the child development areas; physically, socially, emotionally or cognitively.


Take time to watch the child and make notes on anything that you may notice about the child’s behavior. Try to look at the child through a new perspective, a different lens if you will. Children who are having trouble seeing or hearing often get frustrated easily, causing issues in their interaction with others, and their ability to attend and follow directions. If you see this, then talk with your administrator and if possible, have the child screened by a health professional for vision or hearing issues. If a child is suffering physical ailments, they will typically be much more easily irritated and reluctant to participate in activities.


Children experiencing changes at home, such as separation of parents, moving, addition of family members, or other significant changes may become socially and emotionally more withdrawn or more easily upset. The consistency of their routines at school may then become paramount to their comfort and stability, as it is something that is not changing and allows them to stay grounded. Being able to count on the school routines to remain the same can be essential in establishing the security the child needs.


Additional areas to consider include: looking to see if the child is getting upset at the same time of day; checking to see if he/she is more hungry than usual; looking more tired; or getting irritated by the same peers each day. If their distress is connected to a specific content area, they may be struggling cognitively, not understanding the material or assignment expectations.
Most importantly, carefully review all the information that you have about the specific child, recognizing that it may be more than one piece. The domino effect is often the case when you are talking about how a challenge in one child development domain can significantly impact the whole child and several other domains as well!

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