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Reasons for Behaviour


Sam read a fantastic book last term called Mercury’s Child by Warwick Dyer. It is more for parenting than teaching. But he feels he got a lot out of it to use in the classroom. He has put a poem together and shares his views on how this book has made an impact for him. 

WHY DID YOU DO THAT? Did you need to throw that pen?

Did you get shouted out by Mummy? Do you want to start again?


WHY DID YOU DO THAT? Trip your friend up in the hall

Is there any answer you can give me to make me understand at all?


WHY DID YOU DO THAT? Shout out such a naughty word?

Is that the only way you think your small voice can be heard?


WHY DID YOU DO THAT? Shrug your shoulders every day

Do you ever listen to a single word I say?


WHY DID YOU DO THAT? Throw your rubber at her face?

When you sit there quietly do you think you’re out the race?


Why do I always ask you: “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?”

Is there any reason I’ll accept when you give an answer back?


What can I do better, to help you grow up well?

When you do something perfect, do I forget to tell?


Do I only seem to notice when you do something bad?

If I only talk to tell you off that must be really sad.


What can I do to help you? Seems a nicer thing to ask

Maybe if I think like that I’ll help you with each task.


Are you finding this work tricky? Are you having a bad day?

It makes me sad when you’re naughty. Might be a better thing to say


It really made me think about why children behave badly sometimes. But more how I react to them and stupid questions I ask them. WHY DID YOU DO THAT being the usual one. What am I expecting them to say? The book showed me that a lot of the time children do bad things because that’s the quickest way to get attention.

I have underestimated how clever some children I work with are. They entice me into long conversations with them. I’m desperate for them to agree with me and dramatically turn into a perfect child thanks to my inspirational reasoning and predictions for the future. Unfortunately I am still waiting for a child to transform instantly who turns round and says something like:

"Oh my goodness! You are totally right. If I don’t concentrate on everything you and my teacher say and try really hard in all the lessons (including the ones I absolutely hate or find too difficult) and behave brilliantly, I can see that in ten years time I might not get into a University or be shortlisted for the job I want. I am so sorry for not listening to you better. Now I will manage my distractions perfectly and never cause you any trouble ever again."

According to the book the frustrating truth is that children are much better at listening to consequences than words. They thrive on attention and if they don’t get it for good behaviour we shouldn’t be surprised when they choose bad behaviour. The conversation they get about the bad behaviour is better than no conversation at all. If everyone ignores the ten minutes they’ve sat quietly for without disrupting people they might feel the good behaviour isn’t getting them anywhere.

Mecury’s Child really made me think differently. It showed me that children not wanting to do their work is ok. I don’t need them to do the work smiling and rejoicing about their education. I just need them to do the work. So instead of spending minutes attempting to persuade them to enjoy doing it, the conversation now goes like this:

Johnny you need to start your maths page.

I don’t want to.

That’s ok. You don’t have to want to do it. But you do need to do it

Trying to persuade Johnny to want to do his work is a complete waste of time. The theory is to just explain the consequence if he doesn’t and then he can decide whether to do the work or not. If he ends up doing it at lunch time he’ll probably make a different decision next lesson!

The book explains it all brilliantly and it is quite a short book. So I recommend anyone who has anything to do with children to find a copy and read it ASAP.

Have you read a book that has influenced the way you work with children? Would you like to share you ideas? Email Megan for more information. 

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