This includes a number of behaviors–making funny or rude noises, gestures, faces, talking, interrupting, whining–primarily carried out to attract people’s attention, gain peer approval, or mask learning problems. Also, some children adopt attention-seeking behaviors because they do not know any other ways of getting people to look at them or listen to what they are saying. Occasional clowning around is part of being a child, but when it turns into a child’s dominant way of interacting, it becomes a problem.
- Pay attention to children when they are behaving appropriately. This prevents children from resorting to silly behaviors to get your attention, and also promotes their self-confidence.
- Arrange opportunities for children to perform in front of a number of people. Some suggestions are staging a magic show, puppet show, variety show, talk show, debate, or panel discussion.
- Teach children joke-telling etiquette: (a) how to tell a joke so people will laugh; (b) knowing the difference between jokes they can tell their grandmother and jokes they tell their friends; (c) discriminating between a bad joke and a good joke–for instance, racial jokes are bad jokes; (d) choosing the right time to tell jokes–not when dad is in the middle of doing something or the principal is making an announcement at school; (e) laughing at their own mistakes; and (f) distinguishing between situations which are funny and can be laughed at, and situations which are funny but should not be laughed at, like somebody tripping on a banana peel.
- Reward opposite behaviors to attention-seeking, such as academic achievement. If children are motivated to do better in school, they have less time to clown around.
- Teach children appropriate ways of getting adult attention and making requests. For instance, if you are talking to another child, children must stand quietly and wait for you to recognize them, and then they can say, “Excuse me,” before starting in on what they have to say. When asking questions children should use a big voice and only ask their question once. Discourage children from whining (using a thin nasally tone of voice), and nagging (asking the same question over and over again).
- Teach children how to ask for positive feedback from adults and other children. This gives them more control in receiving attention for their appropriate behaviors, so they are less likely to adopt negative behaviors instead. Suggest lines which do not make children look conceited or like they are fishing for a compliment, because these can rub people the wrong way. For example, “What do you think about my drawing?” will bring a friendlier response than, “Is my drawing the best you’ve ever seen?”
- Try to find out if a child’s silliness is covering up other problems such as fear, stress, or learning disabilities.
- Ignore it. Attention-seeking behavior with no audience has little pay-off.
- Cue the child with a symbol on the board, hand movement, stern look, or a walk over to his desk whenever his silliness is going too far. Follow up with a reward if he responds to your cue.
- If a child is in a silly mood, give him an errand or chore to do outside the classroom. This helps him forget about acting goofy, and also gives the other children a chance to settle back into their work.
- Simply stop talking until the child stops acting silly. Another idea is to give the child the floor. Announce to the class that he obviously wants their attention, so you’re going to sit down and let him have the class’s attention. This will probably catch him off-guard, turning his mischievous antics into a beet-red face.
- Ask the student to record his silly behaviors and put his totals on a chart. This by itself may be enough to modify his behavior.
- For the child who enjoys tipping his chair, ask him if he would prefer to stand or sit. If he says stand, remove his chair completely and let him stand for the rest of the lesson. At the start of the next class give him the same option. Chances are he will not say stand (Dreikurs, 1968).
- For the child who constantly taps his pencil on top of his desk, try giving him a black crayon. Crayons are not as grown-up as pencils, nor do they make the same sound when they hit the desktop.
- Allot the complaining child one particular time of day when he is allowed to complain. This helps him bring his complaining behavior under conscious control.
- Tape-record a whiny or nagging student, and have him listen to what he sounds like. This may inspire a voice change.
- Ask the child to hold that pose for five minutes. Although he and other children may find it funny at first, I guarantee that by the end of five minutes most children will be carrying on with their work, and the child will be happy to do the same. Another strategy is asking the child to look at himself in a mirror as he’s practising his pose. This has the same effect as watching yourself sit on the toilet or some other embarrassing activity.
- Ask the class to mimic the child’s silly behavior, all together now. The child may not enjoy this activity as much as the other students.
- Schedule a one-minute period every day when students can let it all hang out, and act as silly as they want.
- Turn the tables on a child who constantly interrupts your conversation by interrupting his. When he gets frustrated with you, agree with him that people who interrupt are frustrating, but this is what he does to you and others all the time.
- Sarcastically putting down attention-seeking children. This may make them feel even worse about themselves, encourage their silly behavior further, on top of which it models the wrong way of using humor.