How to Deal with Disrespectful Students in the Classroom

Has a student ever challenged your authority in the classroom? Have you encountered students trying to disregard something that you’ve told them to do?

That feels a lot of disrespect… really.

It is always amazing to hear helpful and encouraging answers as to how teachers handle situations like this, especially when in the middle of a class. I’ve collated 6 tips on how to deal with disrespectful students in the classroom. I am not just talking about dealing with children, but with teenagers.

boy with two palms printed with art

In every classroom, there is likely one or more students who need attention because of annoying behaviors. Teachers should learn how to deal with these situations in order to maintain the classroom learning atmosphere. What motivated students to misbehave is something to ponder as this will improve the teachers ability to handle the situation.  

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6 Tips on How to Deal with Disrespectful Students in the Classroom

Your opinion on disrespectful or “mean” behavior differs as it may depend on how you grew up or socialize with other people. To be able to communicate your expectations with your students, you have to determine what “mean” behavior in the campus setting is. Students may tend to get carried away and be more aggressive in their behavior if not manage at the appropriate time and the teachers may lose the battle when this happens. 

1) STAY CALM & COMPOSED

The Teacher, Kitsch, Humor, Teacher, Profession

When students disrespect you, stay calm, take a deep breath. Resist the urge to snap, scold, or get even. Maintaining emotional control is effective in such a situation. Instead, make the student understand that it is his or her misbehavior you dislike, not them.

Although they know that you’re not a part of their issues, showing that you’re affected, angered, or frustrated — can make them assume that it’s easy to put you into their spell. Did you know that your facial reaction like a frowned face, sigh, a tightening of your jaw, or closed fist can make you look funny in their eyes?

Your not escalating things means you’re not adding to the problem. Your mind may secretly worry about how the class would think: “Oh no! he just got away with it?” or “The teacher can’t do anything to stop the bad behavior!”

It may sound like losing but it’s part of classroom management where discipline is about helping a student understand and manage themselves better.

2) END IT RIGHT AWAY

It’s important to end it as soon as possible. Don’t utter a word, maintain eye contact for a few seconds. Your reluctance to react causes the student to lose confidence and will walk away. For the sake of the rest of your studentsimmediately continue what you were doing. Also, as the teacher, you did not lower yourself to the same level of shameful behavior. 

Such instances are short term. Entertaining the qualms of the moment might end you arguing with the student. Note that the moment you try getting in the last word with that student, you are submitting to that student’s game. The worst thing is when he or she gets the last word.

Ending it right away makes it clear to the other students that you are choosing not to engage. Putting an end to something unacceptable is a strong response that shows you remain in control.

domino effect

3) INTERVENE IF YOU MUST

Or maybe you’re more inclined to respond with something positive like good humor. Some teachers might say, “Aw, do you need a hug?” For sure, the rest of the class will laugh. This response shows that you are never affected.

Interceding right away addresses a problem behavior as soon as it starts to boil. While there is no quick fix to manage teenagers who are oppositional and rude, there are behavior management strategies that can decrease the intensity of their negative behaviors. The key is to implement these approaches appropriately. Just make sure that you are consistent with your actions and be firm about what works for you.

4) ADDRESS THE PROBLEM LATER

When the student is calm, it’s time to approach him or her and convey whatever consequence there is according to your rules or the school’s policy. Be consistent in applying rules but do it with a soft voice. Addressing the problem by talking about the attitude instead of attacking the student, conveys a touch of understanding.

You will get a sense of fulfillment getting the student to speak up. It’s even a big achievement seeing the teenager come to class the next day well-behaved with your class seeing him or her being respectful to you. One thing they will conclude here: that you as their teacher have handled things well. As you close the case, you’ve just built great authority that’s worth respecting.

A boy writing on the board with teacher watching

5) TREAT THE STUDENT NICELY

The way you make a disrespectful student feel may help figure out why he or she is being disrespectful. Remember, the main functions of misbehavior are Avoidance, Attention, Power or Control, and Habit.  Chances are the disrespectful behavior is a habit that a student is used to at home or a plain quick reaction. They may just be trying to communicate.

Your kind words and actions (even after the incident) prove that you’re not taking things personally. Your gesture teaches how to be respectful. When you incorporate verbal, written, and a modeling approach, you are teaching on the benefits of being respectful as well.

6) GIVE REWARDS

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Giving rewards for good behaviors is not only for kindergarten but for high schoolers, as well. For example, surprise students with a rewarding day giving extra points for those who have been very cooperative, friendly, helpful, or creative. What about letting the “chosen students” choose their prizes from your list or basket? There are things you don’t have to buy. Here your creativity is challenged.

Students observe proper behaviors when rewarded in a natural way. It increases motivation, boosts self-esteem, makes them happy, helps them do their tasks and homework, and improves their performance both in school and at home.

I’m sure you have a lot of ideas about this reward system. Most probably many of you (teachers) are already using rewards to help students behave and do their best.

Do you have anything to add to these tips? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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