Establishing Authority Among Young Students
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Establishing Authority Among Young Students

How to survive working with older children.

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Establishing Authority Among Young Students
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If you work, or have ever worked, with children of any age, you know how much of a struggle behavioral issues can be. How do you get the kids you’re working with to listen to you when phrases such as “you’re not my mom,” “you’re not the boss of me,” and “I don’t have to listen to you” all ring true? Sometimes you can’t argue with the logic of a three-year-old. While some children seem to be inherently kind and giving, others are consistently selfish, violent, and cruel to their peers. They need a motivator in order to behave the way you want them to and often at younger ages, schedules of reinforcement (actions that you can take in order to increase the likelihood that the child will repeat desired behaviors) can more easily be used because the child’s wants and dislikes are relatively apparent.

But what if you are a young college student that works with middle school aged kids? What happens when you find yourself working in a high school aged classroom or youth group? For those not interested in education or working with kids, it is still beneficial to know how to glean respect from young people. Family situations constantly change and you could find yourself related to a surly teenager through marriage and have no idea how to deal with them. Regardless of how you find these adolescent rebels in your life, it is time that you know how to deal with them.

One of my housemates is working with kids this summer, some of them as old as twelve. Unfortunately, this gives my housemate an approximate separation of eight years between her and them. She comes home most days frustrated by the way that the children treat each other and the way that they treat her. As someone who did not require additional motivation to respect her authorities or her peers, she is at a loss regarding how she should motivate these kids to care about respect and others’ feelings.

There are many resources for young teachers and advice about how to conduct classrooms and activities in a way that commands students’ respect. For teachers who struggle with “babyface” and risk looking closer in age to the children that they are supposed to be teaching/ leading, there are helpful tips and tricks to appear older on sites like the ones here and here. Thankfully, my housemate has learned a few things already after working with the kids. For one, she has learned not to lose her cool, which we have discussed with each other at length about. Once children see that you are emotionally compromised, they will do whatever they can to assert their own power over you. This is so much easier to do when you are yelling or otherwise losing your temper. Maintaining composure is essential in gaining respect from young students.

Some helpful hints regarding behavioral issues can be found here. Another way to be able to get students to respect you is by listening to what they say whenever you are given the chance. Michael Linsin states, “Let your students speak and wait until they finish before responding. If you don’t respect them and what they have to contribute to your classroom… they won’t respect you.” The best way to to be able to get children to do what you want is by knowing what you can do for them. If you listen to them and learn that they love reading, you can use a promise of “book time” to encourage positive behavior.

Sadly, it is almost impossible to encourage children to behave in the interest of others for the mere sake of it. However, if you are able to listen to the children, keep in control of the situation by maintaining a calm attitude, and make a point to appear confident in your interactions, you might be able to gain more respect from them that you weren’t able to before.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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