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How To: Deal with an Oppositional and Defiant Student

How To:  Deal with an Oppositional and Defiant Student

Kit Richert, Ph.D.

We all know the type of kid; he or she may be your biggest headache. They are hostile to you and their peers, they don’t seem to listen, and don’t do what they are told. Its almost like they want to upset you. It seems like the more you try to manage them the more they resist….

Sound Familiar?

Students with oppositional and defiant behavior tend to have a pattern of negative and abrasive interactions with others (teachers and peers).

These guys are special and must be carefully approached…but don’t give up! That willfulness can be channeled in good ways. But the trick is to take the focus off of them and carefully monitor your own responses. You must become a Jedi master…you must master yourself!

So you find yourself in a power struggle. Take a minute and reflect on the last one you were in. How did you try to control the situation? What happened? What was the outcome?

The Trap of the Power Struggle

Things you may do to make it worse:

• Lose your temper (yelling or using sarcasm tend to escalate oppositional kids)

• Engage in the interaction in front other students

• Try to persuade the student or worse…bribe the student

• Threaten the student

• Adding more and more consequences

• Trying to embarrass the student or put them down

• Not following through with consequences or being inconsistent

• Letting the struggle go on way too long

• Crowd the student

• Get annoyed at every little thing they do wrong…always focus on the big battle.

Things you can do to make it better:


• Use a calm neutral voice no matter what

• Give clear directions to the student

• Discuss things briefly and in private to remove the audience

• Making sure to listen to the student and consider what they are saying

• Have clear boundaries and predetermined consequences for problem behavior

• Remove yourself from the interaction if you cannot keep it together

• If you have a teacher’s aid, have a plan for who will take over the class when a defiant student must be spoken with.

• Analyze the power struggles you have been hooked into…what hooked you?

Continue reading on the next page.

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