Classroom Misbehavior and How to Deal with It




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Effective learning takes place in an environment where everyone is well-behaved. However, it is always not possible to have a classroom without misbehavior.

This makes teachers stressed and burn out. The situation has forced many teachers to abandon the profession.

In this article, we are going to look at categories of students in our classes. We will also explore the goals behind student misbehavior. Finally, we will identify some tips to aid you to deal with misbehavior in your classroom. Find out why students misbehave in this article.

The Four Categories of Student’s Misbehavior Every Teacher Must Know

For effective management of student behavior, it is necessary to understand the behaviors of your students. This will support you to formulate appropriate strategies for managing misbehavior. Below are the four main types of behavior of students by Lewis (2009):

Category A Students

These pupils are the kind of students every desire in his or her class. Their behaviors towards a curriculum and instructions are appropriate.

They are the kind of students who follow and do whatever their teachers ask them to do.

By their nature and background, they love and value their teachers as well as the curriculum of instruction.

They seem to know their teachers very well and understand their emotions, moves, and actions.

They understand hints such as teachers’ eye contact, pauses, and moods.

These students too are confident in themselves and their abilities. They, therefore, tackle classwork with utmost zeal and enthusiasm, believing that they can accomplish and master them if they put in the necessary efforts.

These students have the intrinsic motivation to obey their teachers and follow their instructions.

Category B Students

This category is made up of students whose behaviors are occasionally interrupting and distracting.

They occasionally distract others and the class. They are also sometimes distracted by others and events.

These pupils have low confidence in themselves and their abilities. This sometimes becomes their source of distraction.

These are the type of students who become motivated if their teachers use reinforcement strategies when dealing with them.

The effective use of rewards, encouragement, recognition, and punishment works magic in the lives of these students.

You have to use effective strategies to help these kinds of children to understand their self-concepts.

That’ll support them to recognize their abilities and develop the confidence to master classwork.

Category C Students

These pupils are similar to those identified under Category B.

But their behaviors and actions are too challenging, such that teachers will occasionally send them out or separate them from the class.

They’re usually sent to a time-out spot or room to allow for them to come back to themselves before they are allowed back into the classroom.

With that, teachers can meet them separately and let them know the negative impact of their actions on others and the lesson in general.

These meetings will normally be held more than once between the teacher and the student because of the gravity of the behavior and to prevent repetition.

One of the most effective strategies used by teachers to deal with these students and their actions is making behavior contracts.

With much effort and hard work, teachers can at least change these students’ behaviors to Category B.

Category D Students

These pupils repetitively exhibit problem behaviors in the classroom.

They continuously misbehave. They’re the students who will always come to the mind of every teacher when there is misbehavior in the classroom.

These kinds of students often fail to change their behaviors after a teacher implements some techniques to manage them.

It takes strong collaboration among all stakeholders to deal with the behavior of these pupils.

The best way to help these children improve their behavior is to guide them to discover their self-concept. This needs the contribution of professionals and other stakeholders to be successful.


Can Every Student Be Classified Under One Category?

Yes, the behavior of some students will consistently fall into one of the above categories.

However, from experience, it is possible to meet students whose behaviors fall into more than one of the four categories.

Remember, there is no one way of categorizing the behaviors of students. This is because just like other people, students can put up certain behavior patterns at different times and contexts.

The personality of the teacher, his or her style of teaching, and the topic or curriculum determine student behavior at that moment.

So, your goal must be to help your students improve their behaviors to become Category A students.

However, you have to put in place the necessary conditions for them to succeed in doing that.

What Are the Goals of Students’ Misbehavior?

Student misbehavior has been the main source of burnout and stress for every teacher, both new and experienced.

Have you ever reflected on the causes of misbehavior of students? In this section, we are going to explore the four main goals of misbehavior in the classroom.

The following are some reasons behind problem behaviors exhibited by students according to Dreikurs et al. (1998):


We have all come across a student who resorts to gain recognition and attention from his/her colleagues by putting up destructive behaviors rather than gaining that by doing good work.

There are instances when students misbehave to get the attention of their teachers. That is, when their behaviors are criticized by the teacher, they get a sense of recognition.

Examples of misbehavior used by students who seek attention are: asking unrelated questions, making noise, distracting other students, disobeying classroom rules, clowning, showing off, behaving foolishly, etc.

Students who misbehave for attention are often desperate for social recognition and belonging.


This happens when students try to gain control by trying to dictate the behaviors and actions of their colleagues and activities in the classroom.

It manifests itself in the form of students making efforts to be seen as important in class.

Students who engage in misbehavior for power-seeking feel inferior and have low confidence in their abilities. Therefore, they want people to believe they are important and confident by misbehaving.

Some of the students who misbehave to seek power have difficulties gaining the recognition of others, hence resort to misbehavior to get that.

Some power-seeking behaviors are acting stubborn, defiant, oppositional, bossy, etc.


Some pupils often feel rejected and hurt in the classroom. This is mostly due to their inability to have influence over their mates or class activities.

They, therefore, choose to physically or verbally hurt others to make up for the lost power and influence.

Some revenge behaviors are bullying, physical and verbal abuse, destroying properties belonging to friends and the school, etc.

These behaviors are dangerous and must be quickly dealt with to avoid injuries to other pupils.


Students whose misbehavior falls here feel they are not competent and therefore are worthless.

They are therefore less hopeful or completely hopeless in attempting to gain recognition and belonging in their group.

They also feel neglected by everyone in the classroom. Due to this, they are reluctant in taking part in classroom activities, including homework.

Misbehavior resulting from this are: refusing to try class activities, acting dumb, withdrawal from group work, etc.

Most teachers find it difficult to notice those pupils, hence not doing much to care for them.

In the end, most teachers fail to support these students to improve their misbehavior.          

Guidelines on How to Deal with Misbehave

The following tips can be useful when dealing with the misbehavior resulting from the mistaken behavior goals above:

Be Mindful of Your Initial Response

Your initial reaction to students’ misbehavior is critical. It determines whether you will succeed in changing the behavior or reinforce it.

Understand the Source of the Problem

The next step is to clarify and understand the causes of the behavior. It is difficult, but you can succeed with the help of effective communication with students, active listening, caring, and careful observation.

Disclose the Goals of the Behavior

Most often, students are not aware of the goals of their behaviors. This is especially true among younger children.

It is therefore important to discuss the causes of their behaviors with them and let them know why those behaviors are based on mistaken goals.

Explore Alternative Behaviors

After identifying the goals of misbehavior, you can now calmly and warmly discuss and explore alternative behaviors. Having a positive and strong relationship with students will be helpful here.

Implementing Appropriate Consequences

Your goal is to teach students to be self-disciplined. Make use of appropriate consequences for misbehavior. It can be a natural or logical consequence. Use a consequence that is appropriate to the situation.

Offer Encouragement

It is important to note that students’ misbehavior is based on mistaken reasons. So offer them the needed encouragement to change their behavior. Caring, compassion, and a healthier teacher-student relationship can be helpful in your efforts.


It can be concluded from the above that understanding the behavior of your students is critical in managing them. It is also important to know the mistaken goals of students’ misbehavior. This is because you will be able to craft and find appropriate techniques to tackle the problem behaviors in your classroom. Follow this website for more helpful resources to deal with students’ behavior in the classroom. Thank you.

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