Teachers ignore what students are doing

Rethink in the event of a conflict

Do the unexpected

If children and adolescents disturb themselves repeatedly, a well-established pattern often sets in in the relationship between learner and teacher - both sides are all too familiar. Stepping out of it can become possible if you make a conscious decision in advance to face the situation anew - to do the unexpected.

Paul behaved impossibly today again. He only does what he wants and now also calls absolute disrespect into the class. I have to interrupt classes all the time, I can't make any headway! ”My colleague is indignant. Paul is a pupil of my second grade, he is particularly noticeable because of his strong distractibility and strongly provocative behavior. Several colleagues have come up to me in the last few days and complain angrily: "That doesn't work!"

The principle: "Do the unexpected"

  • Stay calm and understand what might be hidden behind a child's disruptive behavior.
  • Seeing “wrongdoing” as an expression of the need to belong.
  • Name two alternative courses of action, within which the child decides for himself; Pay attention to the observance of the consequences.
  • Offering the child the opportunity to contribute constructively or cooperatively with his or her behavior to the class with a time delay.
  • Together with the child, reflect on what changes in behavior they have succeeded in doing - and what they should continue to do.

I experience increasing anger, the feeling of helplessness in teachers who deal with Paul. Some of them have tried very clear announcements and penalties. In the short term this sometimes helps, mostly not, Paul then responds i. d. Usually with refusal behavior or continues his (disruptive) behavior after a short break. “Do it!” He says or “I don't care!” A test of strength for “power” begins, which neither the teacher nor the child can tolerate well. The child's reaction will presumably not be suppressed - by new "disrespect", disturbances, possibly (emotional) injuries. A cycle takes its course - exhausting for the teachers, discouraging for the child. Yes, it really doesn't work that way. But what's up

The disturbance is just the effect

Although it is initially a great challenge for affected colleagues, it is worth the attempt: stay calm as possible and try to understand pedagogically or psychologically what is behind the - disturbing - behavior of a child and his words like “I don't care! “Like to hide.

Children like Paul almost always care when they notice that their caregivers are angry with them, when they have the feeling that they cannot contribute meaningfully to their group, when they do not feel “well” seen. Children want to feel they belong. You want to be constructive, not destructive. Children who behave in such a way that their surroundings find this disturbing have often had the experience over a longer period of time: (Only) in this way do I get the attention I long for. This is a learning process, so a child like Paul has to laboriously relearn.

So the crucial question is: What can I do to help a discouraged child like Paul to stop disruptive behavior and (re) learn cooperative behavior? If a child behaves in a disruptive manner and with statements that appear disrespectful, this can be a sign that he or she wants to be seen as strong, strong and meaningful - and does not currently feel that way or does not feel seen. The individual psychologically oriented pedagogy (Alfred Adler, Rudolf Dreikurs) is able to convey helpful pedagogical considerations and a sensible principle of pedagogical action in conflict situations: the principle of "doing the unexpected".

Eliminate causes and transfer responsibility

For many children, anger and punishment are expected if their behavior is very disruptive, hurtful or refusing. But can they help the child to come to an understanding and to want to change their behavior in the sense of the goal of "belonging" sensibly? Often children continue their behavior - after a short pause of fright - and utter sentences like “I don't care”.

Unexpected reactions of the teachers, on the other hand, are able to break through the usual system of (disruptive) action and (disciplinary) reaction and help the child to behave in an unusually responsible manner. Children whose behavior is unpleasantly conspicuous can notice that they are being seen - with their possibilities and with their ability to make a meaningful, constructive, “good” contribution. It is unexpected that a child whose behavior is disturbing, annoying, provocative or even refusing will be given responsibility and expected to be expected. Behind this is an essential educational, individual psychological basic conviction: Children use their behavior for goals. A child's most important goal is to feel they belong. Assuming responsibility is also the key to achieving this goal.

If, however, children have had the experience of not having achieved their goal of belonging through constructive behavior, according to Adler / Dreikurs they apply what is known as “misconduct”. There are four types of misconduct:

  • attract attention
  • Expressing inability
  • Show revenge through hurtful behavior
  • Demand power and superiority

In order to determine what type of "wrongdoing" is, it makes sense to first become aware of your own feelings.

  • Am i just angry?
  • Do I feel that I am in a "power struggle"?
  • Do I feel hurt inside?
  • Do I feel sorry for the child?

The table below shows ways to respond to the various forms of wrongdoing. Once the type of “misconduct” has been clarified, it is possible to react in a pedagogically sensible way.

A child who expresses his inability can be assigned smaller, appropriate tasks that he - nevertheless - are trusted and expected to do. For example, with a child who repeatedly attracts attention with funny comments or other behavior, B. jointly consider which topic it can prepare well and present it consciously to its class. A child who is threatened with a “power struggle” can - unexpectedly - be given short-term responsibility for stopping the disruptive situation. It often succeeds if the child is given two acceptable options for action, ideally with an illustration of the consequences, one of which - responsible - is to be selected by the child. It will be crucial that the action decided by the child is then implemented promptly and consistently.

Let the power struggle run nowhere

Example formulations: “If you shout so loudly (...) in the middle of class, it is very annoying. I want us to be able to work in peace. Please decide: Can you work now? Then I am happy and you can stay in your place. Or is it currently too difficult for you to work because you cannot calm down? Then please continue working in the group room. "...

If the child decides to cooperate, but continues to interfere, one says in a calm, matter-of-fact tone: "You continue calling to class, please continue working in the group room."

Supplementary - unexpected - pedagogical reactions that take place after the situation has calmed down and give the child a responsible task for the class community are particularly effective. Such can e.g. B. be: planning a party or another project, an office or taking care of another child when they need help.

It is important that the educational expectations and suggestions are appropriate and have a chance of success. To give Paul responsibility, one
At the end of the week of his extremely conspicuous disruptive behavior, I asked him if he would like to head the class council to set realistic expectations of him and to enable him to feel his strengths in an encouraging way. He wanted. And he could. He felt trust instead of mistrust and a positive expectation of his sense of responsibility. And he has managed to guide, listen, be respectful in dealings with fellow students, remind them of rules and stick to them himself. Paul was given responsibility when he initiated the power struggle and he managed to act responsibly. An achievement that visibly did him good. If Paul is now given several - realistic - opportunities to behave responsibly in and for his study group, he will presumably change his disruptive behavior over time. It is important that children like Paul feel - realistic - expectations of their own behavior and also of their ability to change the disruptive behavior: “I trust you can behave differently. I expect it from you! And I have an idea for you how you can show it. ”It is very important that we reflect on the following in a personal conversation at regular intervals:

  • What has changed?
  • What are you already doing well / what are you satisfied with?
  • What must we - together -
  • continue to pay attention?

"That is not how it works!"

Yes, it can. Even children whose behavior is disruptive or refusal want to feel that they belong and are seen. Let us trust them to share responsibility with us to ensure that it succeeds. Then “the unexpected”, the shared responsibility, can also be expected.

Additional material: dealing with misconduct



Encouragement (unexpected action)


interrupt, fool around, fail to complete tasks

ignore if possible; Do not serve expectations

Pay attention at another point in time, note and give feedback when the child is working constructively


Tantrum, demands, persistent or demonstrative refusal

do not get involved in arguments and power struggles think about meaningful options, name them and let the child choose (including consequences)

basically (at a different point in time) let the child cooperate


hurtful behavior and / or expressions, use of force, hurtful looks

and / or posture

to distance oneself

do not react hurt or offended as a matter of principle: be fair; observe and report cooperative behavior; help the child feel loved

Proof of incapacity

Do not even try tasks

or give up quickly

distance yourself not criticize

Pay attention to all small achievements and report them back



Dreikurs, R., Grunwald, B.B. , Pepper, F.C. (1995): Teachers and students solve discipline problems. Edited by
H.J. Tymister. 8th edition Weinheim, Basel: Beltz. Dinkmeyer, D. St., Mc Kay, G.D., Dinkmeyer,
D. Jr. (2004): STEP. The parent book. Children from 6 years.
Kühn, T., Petcov, R., Pliska, L. (Eds.). Weinheim, Basel: Beltz.