Helping pupils to be more positive
This section focuses on a cognitive–behavioural approach to changing pupils’ negative attitudes. This is done by changing the way they think, feel and value themselves.
Pupils with BESD often display negative attitudes or dysfunctional thinking. This is made apparent when they make comments such as:
- ‘Teachers hate me because I am no good.’
- ‘I wish teachers weren’t so mean to me. It’s not fair.’
- ‘I'll never have any friends.’
- ‘I can’t help it – it’s not my fault.’
- ‘Teachers don’t like me and pick on me because they are horrible.’
- ‘Things will never get any better.’
- ‘I can’t do school work because I am not clever.’
No doubt you have (or certainly will at some point!) come across pupils who use such self-defeating statements to explain their failures to behave successfully. Many pupils with BESD have a tendency to see negative events as all their fault, or to blame someone else. Others give up at the first sign of difficulty, even for work that the teacher knows that they are capable of. Such pupils often seem reluctant to accept advice, which can be frustrating for the teacher.
This section explores a way of changing maladaptive, dysfunctional or self-defeating thinking by encouraging the pupil to develop adaptive, self-regulatory skills. The guidance is drawn from recent research into personal and social functioning. It is based on attribution theory, which provides the framework for changing pupils’ thinking patterns and improving their behaviour through a therapeutic response known as attribution retraining.
A step-by-step process for helping pupils to cope more effectively is provided. This includes developing thinking skills and emotional control. Ultimately, application of the techniques described should empower your pupils to take control of their difficulties and improve their coping.