Power struggles often result from minor incidents that escalate into highly aversive situations for both the students and the teachers (Kerr & Valenti, 2009). Power struggles produce a strain on teacher-student relationships.
Power struggles often result from minor incidents that escalate into highly aversive situations for both the students and the teachers (Kerr & Valenti, 2009). Power struggles produce a strain on teacher-student relationships, result in lost instructional time, and create stress for everyone involved (Kerr & Valenti, 2009). Students bidding for power may do so through behaviors such as arguing, talking back, ignoring, ridiculing, disobeying, bullying, and being disruptive (The Iris Center, 2004). Student behaviors such as these may evoke feelings in teachers of being upset, angry, challenged, or threatened. Noticing feelings associated with these types of student behaviors can be a prompt to the teacher that this student may be bidding for power through this behavior. If a teacher realizes that the student behavior is functioning to obtain power, the teacher can respond differently (see Considerations for Responding). Teachers can then re-channel student behavior bids for power by creating more appropriate ways for students to fulfill this need. Finally, teachers can help students identify what needs they are trying to achieve through problematic behavior (create self-awareness), teach them alternative means or replacement behaviors, and provide them with opportunities to experience positive leadership opportunities that fulfill those needs in a more productive manner (Sprick & Howard, 1995; Weiss & Knoster, 2008).
Considerations for Responding
- Withdrawing from conflicts-Shift the dynamic, use appropriate humor
- Giving student a way out
- Addressing problem after a cooling off period
- Supplying constructive options for the student to use power or have influence- leadership opportunities, tutoring, helping solve problems.
- Choice-making- “Joe, you can start your math now or take a minute to pull yourself together. But if you don’t begin by 11:10, you’ll have to make the time up during lunch. You don’t want to be late for lunch, it’s pizza day.”
- Using content-embedded requests – “Watch as I calculate the area of the store we are designing” verses “Okay everyone, look at the board.”
- Allowing wait time and recovery time- Wait 3-10 seconds to allow student time to processthe request and comply. Allow recovery minute between transitions, classes.(The IRIS Center, Peabody-Vanderbilt University; Kerr & Valenti, 2009; Maag, 2008; Weiss & Knoster,2008)
A variety of additional resources is included for use by individual teachers, coaches, teacher teams, or for staff professional development.
- The Fast Method: This resource, available from the T-TAC ODU Library, includes a DVD/video training module and downloadable support materials. Teachers will learn one way to assess student behavior function and respond appropriately. It focuses on functions of obtaining power and attention and also avoidance behaviors.
- Power Struggles and Conduct Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Learn more about “look fors” and strategies to use with students with conduct disorders and ODD, bidding for power. (broken link)(broken link)(broken link)
Kerr, M. M., & Valenti, M. W. (2009). Controls from within your classroom: Crisis or conversations? Reclaiming Children and Youth, 17(4), 30-34.
Sprick, R., & Howard, L. M. (1995). The teacher’s encyclopedia of behavior management. Eugene, OR:Pacific Northwest Publishing.
The Iris Center. (2004). The FAST Method: Reducing problem behaviors in the classroom. Iris Center. Eugene, OR. Iris Media, Inc.
Maag, J. W. (2008). Rational-emotive therapy to help teachers control their emotions and behavior when dealing with disagreeable students. Intervention in School and Climate, 44(1), 52-57.
Weiss, N. R., & Knoster, T. (2008). It may be nonaversive, but is it a proactive approach? Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 10(1), 72-78.