A survey done some time ago suggested that the more difficult the child’s behaviour was at school, the more hostile the parents were towards the school. Adverse factors like poor housing, broken families and disrupted family relationships could also, at times, affect a child’s behaviour. A parent whose child’s behaviour at school is difficult may be inclined to blame the school. The child could feel that because the parent is hostile towards the school then he or she has full licence to behave badly.
Naturally this could impact on a few Eleven Plus children. We remember the words from Macbeth when the witches crouched round the pot: “Double double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Some bright children could live on a virtual cauldron of problems at home and at school – and not all of the problems caused by the parents!
Some children could be actually bored – as their ability is not recognised. We had a boy once who came out around just below average on core English and mathematics tests. He had lessons with us that tried to boost his skills. He talked incessantly and was disruptive to the point on needing `a serious talk’. He completed a rather easy comprehension passage, set at around the eight year old level, early one session. He then picked up a verbal reasoning paper that had been used by the child beside him. The boy simply wrote the answers down almost as fast as he could read the questions.
He had spent his time with us working to a level of expectation. He was not expected to do well at school and at home. Our initial results did not reveal a `high flyer’.
There were three witches in Macbeth. It is to be wondered if he saw the teacher at school as one witch, his parents as another and us as a third. Macbeth’s witches threw all sorts of ingredients into the pot. Perhaps the easy access to something that really stimulated our boy – the verbal reasoning paper – altered his perception of himself.
This salutary tale suggests that poverty, overcrowding or substantial environmental problems are not always the answer to children behaving badly.
We all inclined to use some form of system of reward and punishment when dealing with obvious attempts to disrupt work. We will reward our eleven plus children when they are sitting quietly and working hard. Of course confrontation when behaviour slips is to be avoided when possible. When the child is pushing for an argument it is sometimes easier to give way and live to fight another day. Some parents will actively and purposefully reward good behaviour – but be less confident about applying sanctions.
The one tool that parents do, however, have in their armour is the reassuring knowledge that the bright but disruptive child will, one day, be living independently. Roll on the day!