Back when I was a full time teacher, there was often talk in the teacher’s lounge about the “bad kids.” Almost always it was one teacher warning another about a kid to look out for. Of course they would preface it with not prejudging, but the judgment was obvious. And, once a kid got a reputation, it never really left. My first year of teaching, I bought into the rumors and prejudices about kids that I heard from their other teachers.
However, as I grew as a teacher and learned the value of social skills I stopped viewing these kids who acted out as “bad” and instead looked for ways to actually talk to them and relate to them. A lot of the kids who acted out for other teachers actually liked me and gave me some of their best work.
A lot of parents might be frustrated because they think they have bad kids. Maybe their kids are acting out or causing issues at school. However, labeling a child as “bad” has never accomplished anything. If a parent, teacher, or other adult considers a kid “bad” it’s all over in terms of behavior change.
Kids can be challenging. They can be frustrating. But, they can also be helped and changed. In my case, a lot of the so-called bad kids started behaving when I simply reached out to them and listened to them. It’s amazing how young people want to give you their best when they think you actually, gasp, like them!
In addition, the “bad” kids liked my teaching style. I recognized that being “good” isn’t defined as sitting still and learning exactly like everyone else. I tried to engage these kids in ways that would challenge them and get them interested. This meant incorporating things they actually liked (physical activity, humor, etc.) rather than what they didn’t (usually the very concept of school).
So, there are no bad kids. If you’re a parent or teacher or other authority figure, resist the urge to label or write off a child. Instead find ways to relate to and reach out to the kid. You’d be amazed at how far that can go in bringing out the good in just about every young person.
If you know someone who could use to read this article (maybe a fellow parent whose child is struggling at school), please share it.