Three Positive Role-Playing Strategies towards Distracting Behaviors

Many instructors say that they are great with children that listen in class, but struggle when children don’t listen; act silly; or thrown a tantrum. One important thing I remind instructors of when they say this is: Understand that most behaviors do have a positive intention and/or is a sign of the child’s individuality. What this means is that some children will act silly or out of bounds simply because he/she is trying to find his or her own path in life.

It also means that children who are aloof are not intentionally ignoring you, but they simply have a unique way of learning and growing. Some teachers will look at distracting behaviors as something negative.  Don’t assume that these behaviors mean that the child is bad. If you teach yourself to approach every behavior as simply a sign of the child’s individuality, and treat it with a positive approach, you’ll be surprised at the results. After all, it’s the individuality in every child that makes teaching fun.

To help you and your instructors approach aloof, silly, and out of bounds behavior in a positive manner, I suggest that you practice role-playing. There are a few strategies below that can help you manage these behaviors, keeping in mind that it does take practice when approaching behavior in a positive manner.

Strategy 1: Dealing with a child that acts aloof

In my experience, children that act aloof respond best to kinesthetic or tactile training. They are not visual our auditory learners, therefore their minds will wander during lectures and demonstrations. With that said, remember that their “aloofness” is usually a sign that they learn best with touch and activeness.

Let’s review a role-playing scenario:

Johnny is looking around the classroom as you speak about having a good side kick. You demonstrate how to kick with your heel, and while you are demonstrating you notice that Johnny is not watching.

Now let’s review what some instructors will think:

  • Your first thought is to call on Johnny and ask him if he can explain what you just demonstrated.
  • You know he wasn’t paying attention so your first instinct is to put him on the spot.
  • This is not going to help Johnny – it will actually be retroactive because he will most likely be embarrassed.

Here’s a solution:

  • Instead, walk over and pat Johnny on the head (older kid you would pat on the shoulder). This will get his attention.
  • Get down on one knee and tell him that you notice he has strong kicks, and then ask him to help you demonstrate side kicks for the rest of the class. (Engaging him will help him learn.)
  • First, have him hold a target while you demonstrate the kick. Then, switch roles.
  • Give him some pointers because his retention is best when he is actively doing something.
  • Compliment him for demonstrating.
  • Now that you have his attention, tell him that during the drill you want him to watch his classmates to see if they are kicking correctly. This will help him build visual learning skills.

In most cases, it’s that simple!

Strategy 2: Dealing with a child that acts silly

It can initially be frustrating for an instructor to have a student that acts silly while you are trying to teach. It is important to remember that children have one major passion: playing! They love to play and they love to pretend! This is their “job” or “career” as a child. In some cases, being silly is a child’s way of coping with all of the pressure of being a kid. In other situations, being silly is a child’s way of interacting with others.

It is important to remember that when a child is acting silly, it is not your fault and it is not a negative thing.  If you can learn how to nurture children’s silly behavior, then you will find all of the silliness quite entertaining.

Let’s review a role-playing scenario:

During a drill where Johnny is supposed to jump over obstacles, he keeps falling on purpose. You notice that the rest of the students in class are laughing at him, and a few mock his behavior by falling too.

Now let’s review what some instructors will think:

  • Your first thought is put Johnny in time-out because you are losing control of the class.
  • This is not going to help Johnny because all he was doing was having fun and making his friends laugh. He is thinking: “why am I being punished for having fun and making everyone laugh?”

Here’s a solution:

  • Walk over to Johnny and say: “Johnny, you did a great job of pretending how to have poor jumping skills. Now, let’s see you pretend that you have strong jumping skills.” This will remind him that his silliness was only one way of pretending, but he can also pretend to be strong.
  • After he “pretends” to have strong jumping skills, point it out to the rest of the class. This is a great way to re-direct his playfulness from being a silly performer to a strong performer, and his self-esteem, and efforts will grow.

Strategy 3: Dealing with a child that acts out of bounds

Children that cry, throw tantrums or act aggressive usually don’t understand boundaries. They see the world as their playground, not our playground. This is a challenge for most teachers, but it doesn’t mean that the child is purposely trying to be bad.

As an instructor, it is our role to teach them about “fair play.” Show them how to establish boundaries and limits to their behavior. List the benefits of staying within the limits of appropriate behavior and they will learn why boundaries are important.

Let’s review a role-playing scenario:

Johnny wants to go first in a fun game of ninja-ninja-turtle, but you pick Manny and that makes Johnny mad. He yells out “I wanted to go first!” and then folds his arms and hides his head in his arms.

Now let’s review what some instructors would think:

  • You first instinct is to tell him to go sit on the side because his behavior is distracting the other students.
  • This is not going to help him build boundaries because it takes two to keep a power struggle going, and you will remain out of the “limits” as long as you engage in a power struggle.

Here’s a solution:

  • Stay calm. Walk over to him and say: “I can see you are really mad now.”
  • Show empathy. Say: “I love ninja-ninja-turtle and I always want to go first too.”
  • Then explain why you didn’t pick him to go first: “If I could, I would pick everyone to go first, but then there would be no turtles for anyone to pick.” This lets him know that he is not the only one that has these feelings.
  • Then state the unacceptable behavior and give him a better alternative: “Yelling and folding your arms isn’t right. Sitting quite until its your turn is what I expect of everyone in class.” This will help keep the conversation going without a struggle.
  • Give him a chance to revert back to the appropriate behavior. Say: “Can I count on you to show me how you are supposed to act right now?” This will help him understand where the boundaries are with his behavior.

Again, in most cases, it’s that simple. Of course, there will be cases where these strategies won’t work the first time. Just keep at it and you will notice that at least 90% of the time these strategies work, and for now, that’s a great start!

Good luck, and conquer the day!