Q | I have 15 girls in a class of 25 and am seeing more and more “girl drama.” It’s a distraction and feelings are getting hurt. Any suggestions?
A | I hear from many parents, teachers, and girls that being excluded, feeling hurt, and having conflicted interactions with peers is a big problem. It is especially hard when you are the teacher and your main focus is to teach lessons, not to mediate social interactions.
Try telling your class what you like about them as a group and what concerns you about their behavior. Without pointing fingers at a specific student, offer concrete examples of the types of things you observe. For example, you might let them know that in your classroom, if someone asks whether they can sit at a table, the only acceptable answer is yes. Offer solutions and alternatives to whatever behaviors you don’t want to see.
For younger children, it’s good to have a behavioral plan that incorporates rewards or incentives for positive social behavior. For instance, you could have a chart that rewards children with stars anytime you catch them being nice, kind, or helpful. Then, when students have accumulated enough stars, reward them with a pizza party or another special activity.
I also would suggest talking to specific kids, directly and privately, about any incidents that you think need more attention. Include school administrators and possibly the school psychologist as well as the parents so that you can communicate your concerns and feel supported.
Question for a child psychologist?
Rachel Busman, Psy.D., is director of the Selective Mutism Service at the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center within the Child Mind Institute (childmind.org).
Illustration: Brian Rea; Photo: Courtesy of the Child Mind Institute