How To Deal With Pushy Elementary Students

Dealing with a pushy student in your elementary class can be a major strain. Poor behavior in the classroom can take away from other students’ ability to learn and leave you feeling stressed. But what exactly can you do when you have a pushy student that just won’t let up?

Here’s how to deal with pushy elementary students:

  1. Define your expectations for your classroom.
  2. Make a genuine connection with the student.
  3. Always stay calm.
  4. Identify the root of the pushy behavior.
  5. Follow through with discussed consequences.
  6. Never embarrass a student in front of their peers.
  7. Praise the student when they exhibit good behavior.

When faced with a challenging student, there are a few ways to combat pushy behavior in your classroom. I will discuss some of the crucial tools you need to properly approach your students’ pushy behavior.

1. Define Your Expectations for Your Classroom

Right from the onset, you must define your expectations for your students. Some students lack structure in their home lives and genuinely don’t understand what is expected of them. A great way to define your expectations for your students is to introduce a list of classroom rules and invite your students to have a discussion about these rules and what is expected of them.

If you find that your more challenging students are still being pushy, a private conversation with the student reminding them of the expectations can go a long way.

Just remember to stay positive with them.

Another central point is to involve your students as much as possible when establishing classroom expectations. Ask them to give their feedback on what makes a pleasant and productive classroom culture. They will likely surprise you with how mature and responsible their suggestions are.

Once students feel like active participants in defining expectations, they are more likely to follow them.

If you struggle with defining your classroom expectations for those more challenging students, you should read Difficult Students and Disruptive Behavior in the Classroom: Teacher Responses That Work (available on Amazon).

This handy book addresses how you can set clear expectations for your students and navigate other behavioral issues.

2. Make a Genuine Connection With the Student

You should always strive to make genuine connections with each of your students, but this is especially true for those pushy, harder to deal with pupils.

Often when a student exhibits this type of attitude, they have difficulty expressing their emotions or needs, resulting in behavior that we deem rude or disrespectful.

Rather than getting angry at the child, creating a positive relationship where the child feels loved and accepted can significantly decrease the amount of rude or pushy conduct you see in the classroom.

Ultimately, you want to establish mutual respect and trust between student and teacher. Therefore, you must be prepared to lead by example and show a level of courtesy that you expect from your students.

Conversing about topics that interest them is a good place to start. Asking if they follow a particular team, if they play a specific instrument, or if they enjoy watching a particular program, etc., can be very meaningful.

Defining your expectations and connecting with students are effective preventative actions. Having a secure foundation with both of these points in place will halt challenging behavior before it even happens.

Keep in mind that building and maintaining that strong relationship with your students takes time and patience, which leads us to the next point…

3. Always Stay Calm

Staying calm is one of the most important things you can do when confronted with a pushy student. You, as the teacher, must do your best to de-escalate the situation.

A few ways that you can achieve this are:

  • Speak softly. If a student raises their voice, you should never rise to meet their level. Simply keep your voice soft and kind. This will always help defuse a frustrating situation.
  • Get down on their level. When speaking with the student who is giving you grief, crouching down to their level to speak is a great way to show that you are listening. Plus, it’s much less scary than having a grumpy adult towering over you.
  • Speak clearly using words they understand. When speaking to students about their behavior, you must use words they fully understand. It will also help if you speak at a good pace, pausing on occasions for them to reflect and respond.
  • Use humor to defuse the situation. Humor is a great way to move past the behavioral issue without escalating the situation. Making light of the situation will ease the tension for everyone concerned and minimize irrational actions.

No matter how pushy an elementary student gets, it’s vital that you remain calm and not allow the student to know that they’ve gotten under your skin.

4. Identify the Root of the Pushy Behavior

Another critical step is to identify why the student is behaving the way they are. Whenever a student acts out, there is some sort of payoff for them practicing that behavior.

Students will often repeat poor behavior if:

  • The behavior is rewarded with positive or negative attention.
  • They want something and think the pushy behavior will help them acquire it.
  • They want to avoid doing something.
  • They are feeling bored.

So when beginning to address a student’s pushy behavior, it’s important to analyze why they are behaving the way they are. Ask yourself these two questions:

  • Are they seeking attention or maybe hoping to acquire something?
  • Are they bored or simply don’t wish to do the assigned task?

Once you identify the “why” for your students’ poor behavior, you will better be able to handle their discourteous outbursts in the future.

5. Follow Through With Discussed Consequences

Just as you have defined your classroom expectations, you must also establish consequences that go with not following these rules.

Possible repercussions may include changing the student’s seat, taking away certain privileges like screen time, or contacting the student’s parents.

It’s vital to always follow through with previously defined consequences so students know that you mean what you say.

Moreover, the consequences you impose should be fair and consistent. It won’t go down well with your class if you respond differently toward different students for a similar act.

It’s also important to give students a clear warning, stating what will happen if the undesired behavior continues. This allows the student to correct the behavior without escalating the situation.

Be sure to read our article on 10 alternatives to taking away recess as punishment for a better understanding of effective and practical consequences.

6. Never Embarrass a Student in Front of Their Peers

You should NEVER embarrass a student in front of their peers for exhibiting poor behavior. Speak with the student privately instead of making a public spectacle of their behavior.

An occasional warning with others present is okay so long as all students receive these warnings when acting out.

When you embarrass a student by drawing attention to the negative thing they have done, this can result in even more defiance from the student since they feel they are not in an emotionally safe space.

Students care a lot about what their classmates say and think about them. So to be told off by a teacher in front of everyone makes the experience more demeaning and traumatic.

How can you expect a student to respect you if they are made to feel humiliated by you?

7. Praise the Student When They Exhibit Good Behavior 

Praise is another highly effective tool a teacher can use with a pushy or demanding student.

No one likes to hear how bad they are all of the time, and it’s not healthy for the growth and development of children.

So, we must take time to highlight the good they do and recognize these students with praise when they exhibit positive behaviors. Praising your pushy student can help them realize that they don’t have to act out to receive attention.

There are actually eight types of praise that teachers can use in the classroom. As Steve Garnett explains with examples in the video below, each type of praise varies in effectiveness.


Negative behaviors tend to appear when students seek something, i.e., attention, an item, or try to avoid something they deem unpleasant.

The best ways you can combat negative, pushy behaviors with your students are to:

  • Understand why they are exhibiting this behavior.
  • Set clear expectations with your students.
  • Try to connect with your students genuinely.
  • Always follow through with consequences.
  • Praise them when they do well.
  • Always stay calm.
  • Avoid making a spectacle of their behaviors to their peers.

If you are looking for another excellent resource for dealing with difficult or pushy behavior in your elementary students, you should check out Kristen Bowen’s video on dealing with defiant students:


Mr Mustafa

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