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  • by Blaine Helwig

Baiting Educators for an Emotional Response

Happens far too frequently in our public schools. A student will use profanity or do something outrageous to get an emotional response out of the teacher or campus administrator. A kid will do it for any number of reasons.

So, what can educators do to prevent this from happening?

Nothing. You cannot prevent another human being from saying or doing something. That is a fact!

If the student is going to say or do something inappropriate, then 100% of the time, they have the ability to do so. Of course, it is wrong, and of course, there must be an appropriate consequence. However, if the educator does not respond emotionally, then they are in control of the situation, and the student is not. This is the key ingredient for success!

A Short Illustrative Anecdote

In my first year as an elementary, urban Title 1 principal, I was walking back to my office with the assistant principal when we passed a fourth grader seated in the office for disciplinary reasons. When we passed him, he called the assistant principal a vulgar name that started with a ‘B.’ She stopped and looked over at him and said in a calm voice, “I heard you. You had only 10 minutes on the timer. Now, you have another 20 minutes to sit there, and you and I will have a conversation with your mother when she picks you up at dismissal.”

That was it! We walked back in her office. The situation was over. The young man was looking for an emotional response from the assistant principal. He did not get what he wanted. He quietly began working on his class assignment, again. I knew at that moment that my assistant principal not only understood human behavior and student discipline, but she was an expert.

Be Mentally Prepared for this Type of Student Behavior

Reflecting on this anecdote, let us presume the student added another inappropriate response. We cannot stop him from uttering additional profanity. It was his CHOICE to do so! If he does, the administrator should up the consequence, as they deem appropriate. However, the important aspect to remember is that the student chose their inappropriate behavior. They know it is against the rules and simply put, not the right thing to do. Now, they must face the consequence for their actions – and only them. Students choose their conduct. We all do when we come to school – starting in prekindergarten and continuing until we have gray hair and other old age issues.

When a student makes poor choices, there must be an appropriate consequence. Done! It is that simple. Do not give them an emotional response. It conveys that you care about their behavioral choices. You do. But, in these extreme cases, do not give the student the satisfaction. Guide the child later after they have calmed down and are prepared to discuss the situation – then, focus the conversation about their choices and the consequences of those choices. The message must be, “Everyone has the control over their own conduct.” Full Stop. A student can choose to follow established rules, and a student can choose not to follow the established rules.

Over the years, I have seen students say and do highly inappropriate things with the intent to invoke a response from adults. However, the apparent disappointment when an emotional response from the educator does not arrive is interesting. The student is baffled. They have uttered profanity, inappropriately called the teacher or principal names, thrown or ripped up a textbook and the response is deafening when they are met with a complete lack of emotion. It was the child's choice to act that way, and their consequence for their conduct must be forthcoming.

Success only requires that the educator is mentally prepared and chooses NOT to react emotionally and inappropriately to a child’s conduct. If the child does not get what they wanted, as expected from all mammals walking the face of earth – including humans – they will have a compelling internal tendency to stop behavior that does not produce a desired end need.

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