Today a fellow school owner asked about how to deal with that one kid we all refer to as…”the chatterbox.” (we have secret names for all of them)
There are a lot of reasons this kid might not be able to stay quiet and respectful in class, he just chatters away, interrupting class and annoying everyone in the training hall. He may be ADHD, he might have Tourette’s syndrome, he might just have really poor impulse control. It’s possible he’s just been allowed to get away with it so much that he has built this now, into his personality. No matter the reason, the correct therapeutic response is the same, and I’ve dealt with and helped all those types.
My advice to this instructor was nothing this experienced instructor hasn’t heard. It’s nothing he hasn’t done. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it’s what he’s been doing but he feels it isn’t working. First, I’ll tell you my advice that I gave him and then I’ll follow up on why it isn’t working. This is great parenting advice too.
Here is what I wrote:
Ignore his bad behavior, use focus anchors (that’s when we go “Focus Clap One” and the whole class stops and gives us their attention) for the whole class so he isn’t getting individual attention for his inappropriate behavior. Be a good finder of his great techniques or behavior and praise the daylights out of him publicly in those moments. Again, ignore the bad, praise the good.
We say we can help kids with these issues, we market it that we can help these kids, and this is the way.
Our strength is in our Reward system, not in punishing. Take him aside and say, “Joey, I’d love to give you your behavior stripe this semester, but that’s up to you. Can you stop chattering in class so I can please award it to you?” Now it’s his responsibility to earn it, not you punishing him. He must take responsibility and correct his own behavior, or he doesn’t earn his stripe. No stripe, no belt. You must be strong and NOT award it if he doesn’t earn it, otherwise the behavior is rewarded and will never change.
Make sure the parents are aware of your process and are ready to back your play, especially if he isn’t going to pass. Many will fail at first and we will retest them later to resounding success. It’s almost better therapeutically if he does fail and has to do it again. Be strong.
Now, my friend hasn’t replied but “liked” my advice. Here is why it isn’t working. Changes in behavior take time, often, many years. No one goes to a therapist for one session and immediately turns their life around. Motivators, life coaches and martial arts instructors sell their programs in terms of months and years or in great numbers of sessions because we know it is going to take time.
Think of it like baking cookies. You take great care and get the right ingredients, measure them perfectly, mix them together, put them into the oven under the exact required heat and then immediately take them out. Obviously, we missed something. It takes time under heat for those cookies to form into the desired deliciousness. The same goes for kids. My friend just needed to be reminded that he was on the right course, he has the right ingredients, he has them in the correctly measured amounts, he just has to keep applying heat.
The problem comes when you are trying to bake several things and they either need different levels of heat, or different lengths of time.
It is just a fact that some potential students are going to negatively impact the training experience of others. School owners have to assess this and determine when is the right time to let a student go, when to only sell them private lessons, maybe offer a special needs class just for those few students who are not appropriate for the general population. We’ve done all of these, and I can say, without a doubt, it is a struggle beyond words and scope for most instructors, us included sometimes.