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End Your Classroom Management Nightmare: How to Manage Unmanageable Students

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There are three types of kids who may be at the highest
risk of extreme violence. Obviously, you must take
seriously any threat or indication of danger from any
kid, so if a dangerous child you know doesn’t fit one of
these categories, please don’t just breathe a sigh of
relief. Rather, the point of emphasizing these three
top-risk youth, is to have you apportion your time
wisely. You can’t monitor each child equally. This
information may guide you on who you monitor most closely,
especially in the absence of other events or information to
guide you.

In this space, we will have time to cover only one of
these youth in any kind of detail. We will cover the
second two kids in a subsequent article. But, we
understand you may want to know all that right now,
so if you want to learn more immediately
about any of these three youth, go to our web site to and read a
reprint of the full article that this text is
excerpted from.

The youth at highest risk of extreme violence may be
the conduct disordered child. If you don’t already know
this term, visualize the fictional character, J.R. from
the TV show “Dallas” because the hallmark of being a
conduct disorder (c.d.), is having no heart, no conscience,
no remorse. Only a mental health professional can diagnose
a conduct disorder for sure, but being aware that you may
have a conduct disordered child in your class or group,
is important to ensuring your safety, along with the
safety of your kids, because you work with conduct
disorders completely differently than other kids. Since the
c.d. child has little relationship capacity, you should
not use relationship-based approaches with a diagnosed
conduct disorder.

It would be insensitive to call a conduct disorder a
“baby sociopath,” but that is close to what the term
means. It means that the child acts in ways that appear
to be seriously anti-social, and the concern is that the
child may grow up to be a sociopathic type of person. Since
this child cares only about himself (c.d.’s are
predominately male), there are little brakes on this
child from serious or extreme violence. Not every conduct
disordered child will engage in horrific behavior. There is
a range of misbehavior c.d.’s may get involved with,
ranging from lying to setting fires or being a sexual
predator. At the most serious end of the spectrum, lies
the possibility of extreme violence, such as a school

Note that this introductory article is just a starting point to
managing conduct disorders and unmanageable students.
This intro will not be adequate to give you more than
a start. Check out these initial guidelines below:


There’s not space for all the critical do’s and don’t's
that you must know but here are some of the most


*The main point we give in our classes is that these
children operate on a cost-benefit system, and that to
control your c.d. kids, you must keep the costs high,
and benefits low.

*These children also especially need to pro-actively
learn how to manage their fists, mouth, and actions.

*Your goal is to teach them that when they hurt others,
it often hurts them too. All interventions must be in
the context of “I-Me,” because that is all this kid is
capable of caring about.


There are so many of them, it is hard to know where to
start because so many of the techniques you use with
other kids fall apart with this kid. Here are some of
the most critical don’t and do’s when you work with a
diagnosed– that’s the important word here– conduct
disorder. Without the diagnosis, use these guides
especially carefully.

*Don’t: have a heart-to-heart relationship.

*Don’t work on building trust.

*Don’t put an emphasis on compassion, caring, empathy,
values, morals.

*Don’t expect compassionate behavior.

*Don’t trust.

*Don’t give second chances.

*Don’t believe they care or feel remorse.

Hopefully this brief guide to the hardest-to-manage, most
potentially dangerous kid will help you avoid using
everyday interventions that will be unproductive, even
dangerous. Hopefully this information will steer you
towards relying on non-relationship-based interventions
that emphasize learning skills like anger control, managing
the fist, etc. along with firm rules, boundaries and
limits. Be sure to visit our web site
(link below) for 100s more strategies and guides to
additional information.

Get much more information on this topic at

Author Ruth
Herman Wells MS is the director of Youth Change,
( Sign up for her free
Problem-Kid Problem-Solver magazine at the site and
see hundreds more of her innovative methods. Ruth
is the author of dozens of books and provides workshops and training.


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  • Posted On November 4, 2006
  • Published articles 283513

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