Behavior management and math

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

What if I have an unruly child? How do teachers manage my child's behaviors?

Teachers have a lot of tricks up their sleeves to manage classrooms. Parents that love and nurture their children, on the other hand, have an advantage because they intimately know their children's motivators. Here are suggestions on harnessing children's behaviors.

1. Capture your child's heart. Sometimes we as parents are tired and busy. Yet showing that we care sets the tone for a positive relationship with our children and lays the foundation for successful behavior management. Win children's good will by coloring a picture together (talk about area), shooting baskets together (keep score), cooking together (how many half cups in 2 cups?), bathing the dog together (estimate how many gallons of water used), playing video games together (arg!), reading together (how many pages in the chapter?), asking Siri their questions together (when you don't know), etc. Keys to your child's heart include words like these: "together", "smile", "fun", "friendly competition", and "time". Look for ways to infuse math in your conversation.

2. Practice routines, and practice being good. The parent gives a command such as, "Crawl to the door and hop back to me." When the child completes the command, give them a small prize such as a blueberry or a chocolate chip. Next, "Stand on one foot and count by 10's starting with 3." (You might have to get the child started--3, 13, 23, 33, 43, 53...). If they mess up, let them try again, and of course laugh along and give a blueberry. "Do 10 jumping jacks and count backwards from 10 while doing jumping." If they do 11 by mistake, have them start over. Your purpose is to get them used to following your instructions correctly the first time you ask. Practice this a little each day.

3. Plan levels of consequences. Anticipate ahead of time when the children might need a consequence for bad attitudes or behaviors. Keep your list of consequences in your pocket so you can remember your plan and match the severity of the behavior to an appropriate consequence. Examples: Mate a pair of socks for interrupting, wash a garbage can for yelling at a sibling, lose video game time for refusing to wash the garbage can, lose face time for getting mad and throwing the video game on the floor, etc. Keep in mind, you MUST WIN*. Choose levels (small, medium, and large) consequences that allow YOU to win. Teachers do this all the time. Ask a friend to help you brainstorm your consequences and decide if they are too lenient or severe.

Bad consequence: They don't get up in time, so you make them eat broccoli for breakfast. (They might refuse, so you lose.)

Good consequence: They don't get up in time, so you refuse to buy them the breakfast sandwich they expected. (You win.)

Once your consequences are set, you can administer them calmly and go back to your business.

One word of caution is to not choose math as a consequence. You want them to like math, so don't make them do extra problems for misbehaving. Also, if a child is refusing to accept a math concept, back away from the tension and explain it again the next day. They may need time to process it.

*The following resource taught me to smile yet hold to my consequences; I found it worked both at home and in the classroom.

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