7 Tips for Reaching Reckless Students

Feb 21, 2019 by

Teachers are more than just educators. They’re counselors, advocates, therapists, nutritionists, and doctors. Of course, they may not be specifically trained in all these areas, but let’s be honest. Teachers are the second most important authoritative figure in a young child’s life next to their parents. They have a lot of influence on how children think, act, view themselves and the world around them. Many students trust their teachers and build lifelong bonds. And most teachers can agree that throughout their career, they encounter those “hard to reach” students. The ones who have walls up, who are resistant to change, and think they know best. These are the ones, that when you do break through, offer the most rewarding experiences. If you know a student who’s engaging in reckless behavior and need help reaching them, this article is for you.

1. Don’t Judge

It’s far too easy to judge a reckless student’s behavior as merely that, reckless and irresponsible. And while this may be the case in some situations, it may not be in all. For many students, reckless or “bad” behavior is a cry for attention. They may be struggling with issues at home or in their personal life and their behavior is a result of this. Some people crave attention so badly that even negative attention will do. Before you judge a student’s decisions, try to identify the root of the problem.

2. Offer Relatable Advice

Students and young adults hate nothing more than getting a lecture from their parents or teachers. They feel like adults can’t relate to them, after all, how could you possible understand what this teen is going through? Remind them that you, too, were a teen once. Perhaps you made some poor decisions that resulted in serious consequences. Using real world examples that your troubled student can relate to helps create a connection. The student may let their guard down and start seeing you in a new light. They probably think their teachers are perfectly well-behaved at all times and can’t understand what they’re going through. Prove them wrong by sharing some of your personal experiences and life lessons.

3. Show Them the Dangers

Whether or not you agree with it, scare tactics work sometimes. Think of the show Scared Straight. Young, misguided and misbehaved children are thrown into jail cells with hardened criminals who share their misfortunes and life experience, showing kids first hand what could happen if they stay on their destructive path. While this is the extreme, being real and honest with students about where their futures are headed can be a very effective tactic. Use relatable examples about what might happen if they drop out of high school, take drugs, or get arrested. You can even use examples of people they might know. Paint a picture of the future they could have if they straighten up.

4. Highlight Their Potential

Most kids engaging in reckless behavior lack confidence. It goes back to the fact that they’re seeking attention, whether it’s good or bad. Pointing out their potential and positive qualities can help students see a better, brighter future for themselves. Highlight all the things they’re good at. Point out their specific talents and accomplishments. Offer them plenty of praise when they complete tasks or make good choices. The more attention the student receives for good behavior, the more apt they are to choose positive attention over negative.

5. Offer Alternative Activities

Depending on what type of reckless behavior your student is engaged in, you can offer safe and healthy alternatives. Obviously, any type of drug or alcohol abuse is completely inappropriate, illegal, and damaging to the child’s future. This may require further intervention. But if your student is hanging out with “the wrong crowd”, skipping school, or failing classes, offering healthier and more productive activities can help steer them in the right direction. Help them find a club or sport they enjoy. Research local organizations or activities they can get involved with or help them take up a new hobby. While some activities and hobbies are expensive, they don’t need to be. Hiking or running is free! Students can get bad credit motorcycle loans or purchase a used dirt bike or quad if they enjoy adventure. Volunteering is another great way for students to get involved in more positive and productive behaviors while also helping others and boosting their own self-worth.

6. Talk to Their Parents

This can be a tricky balance. You want the student to feel comfortable confiding in you and trust you, but if they’re sharing extremely dangerous behaviors, contacting their parents might be necessary. But this doesn’t need to be done behind the student’s back or even in a negative manner. The connection and working relationship between teachers and parents is strong one that’s often overlooked. Reinforcing positive behavior and following through with consequences can both aid in a student’s success. You may have suggestions or techniques that work with the troubled student that you want to share with their parents, or vise versa. Don’t use this relationship as a threat to the student but instead a resource.

7. Provide Resources

Offering your troubled student both educational and supportive resources outside yourself is another great way to help them. There are countless, anonymous counseling services available where students can call and speak with someone trained in whatever issue they’re dealing with. If they’re not comfortable doing so, you can offer them books, print outs, or websites that offer useful information and tips for breaking their negative cycle. Let them read about young adults like themselves who have found themselves in bad situations based on bad decisions. Sometimes, reading true stories and accounts of unfortunate tragedies is all it takes to get through to a reckless student headed down a dangerous path.

While, as teachers, you can’t reach every student, you can surely try. And often, the troubled ones who resist your help are the ones who need it most. Try to approach them with patience, compassion, and understanding. Sometimes, all they need is a positive influence and a different perspective to see the light.  

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