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Monday, April 17 2017


The Troublesome Teens

Newsletter  5.         18 April 2017

For years it was accepted that by age 3, the brain was fully developed and those educational pioneers, the Jesuits believed that by seven their character and intelligence was fully formed - ‘Give me the child and I will return the man’.  This model underpins the traditional view that if you want to deal with troubled kids you have to get them early.

Of course there is a lot of truth in this belief, early intervention is by far the best approach to helping kids in abusive or neglected environments and traditionally policy makers have focused the majority of their resources on this group.  This concentration of resources on early intervention has a couple of shortcomings that need to be considered.  These are:

Young children who are being neglected or abused are usually unable to seek the help they need and unless others discover their situation they will develop dysfunctional behaviours.  Often this only emerges at the time of adolescence.  They will not receive the support needed during their ‘early’ childhood.
Modern investigations into the brain development of children have shown that at the time adolescence hits, the child’s brain is in a state of re-organization and abuse at that time can cause specific, additional damage to cognitive and behavioural development.

In the first instance investigation of data that reflects behaviour shows that at about age 11 things change.  The boys will start to act-out with dysfunctional behaviours that bring them to the attention of schools.  This is an expression of the pain that has gone with their life of abuse or neglect and a reflection of their interrupted development.

The girls on the other hand act-in and the dysfunctional behaviours, although increased are not as obviously alarming as the boys.  Girls internalize their pain and withdraw, a type of dissociation that is common for them at the time of their abuse.  Girls present a real challenge to educators because unlike the boys who demand our attention the girls sit passively in the classroom often being completely compliant.

The journey through the teen years has been described as leaving childhood to become a productive, reproductive adult (there is a new essay on the webpage that gives a more detailed account of this developmental stage).  It is a time when much happens but this Newsletter is about caring for kids with severe behaviours.

So the second concern is that the onset of puberty is characterized by a massive change in the brain’s frontal lobes.  As with all stages of development when the time comes for the brain to learn a fundamental skill the area of the brain this skill is situated experiences a surge in the amount of grey matter and the presence of myaline increases 100 times.

Most brutality that occurs to teenagers is in the form of verbal abuse.  As kids get older, perpetrators find it more risky to abuse them in a physical sense – they could fight back and hurt the aggressor.  However, I don’t think society really understands the severity of the damage verbal aggression produces.  There is a belief that words don’t hurt as much as blows but for adolescents the social acceptance is a necessity these words convey a cruel rejection of them and the effects are significant and enduring.  The cruel paradox of this teenage abuse is that most often it is the kids whose early abuse created the dysfunctional behaviour that attracts this second round of abuse.

This abuse damages the child’s frontal lobes. As a result these children have trouble interacting with their social environment, have deficits in their expressive language, their memory is impaired in regards to habits, word association and the rational thought processes.  MRI evidence has shown a 20% reduction in the size of the frontal lobe in adults with severe behaviours and some of this loss occurs at this time.

Of course we need to continue to strive for successful early intervention but the case is clear, authorities should rethink their piecemeal approach to protecting teenagers and providing proper support for those already damaged.


Posted by: Frew Consultants Group AT 02:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, April 03 2017

Week 4 – April 2017

Dealing With Difficult Situations

Classrooms are places where rarely a day goes by without some inappropriate or disturbing behaviour occurs.  It falls to the teacher to deal with these situations that usually involve conflict either between students or with students refusing to cooperate in the lesson.  To be an effective teacher these are times your personal, assertive skills will be useful. The following tips will help you successfully deal with any such event in a way that enhances the long-term harmony in the classroom. 

  1. Address the behaviour without threatening the individual.  Instead of saying  ‘You shouldn’t scribble in your book.  That’s terrible behaviour’ reframe the message into something like ‘scribbling in the book will make your good work look messy, put the pencil down please’.  You attack the inappropriate behaviour not the child
  2. Remain silent after you deliver your message.  Allow them to digest the message and give them the space to make a decision.
  3. Never apologise for not getting emotionally involved with them.  As soon as you either mirror their feelings or retaliate with your own feelings you escalate the student’s mood.
  4. Sometimes they need a considerable amount of time and space and if there is no immediate danger you can say things like “I know you’re really angry now.  You need time to settle down.  I want you to just sit outside the room.”  Then go on with another activity without antagonising them.
  5. When they are acting appropriately and in control put some personal investment into maintaining if not enhancing the relationship.   Return to the issue, preferably without an audience and get them to explain the purpose of their inappropriate behaviour.  If you can let them know that you understand why they are behaving that way.  It may be that another child is teasing them.  Really listen to them.
  6. Deliver the consequence for their behaviour.  Each member of any classroom should know the consequences for behaviour and that includes the teacher.  Remind them they have a choice of actions, but in class as in life we are never in control of what happens to us.  At best we can predict what should happen.  With this in mind the consequences may be negotiated within the framework of the discipline code.
  7. Maintain Your Integrity.  Stand up for yourself in an appropriate level of assertiveness – you are in-charge when being the teacher.  The following will help:
  • Continue to act as if their behaviour has no effect on you
  • Sustain a steady, positive gaze
  • Speak clearly
  • Maintain appropriate eye contact
  • Stand up straight
  • Don’t stand too close or touch them
  • Model non-hostile body language, hands off hips, fists unclenched, no finger wagging

Finally finish with a positive message, remind them of previous success they have had in gaining self-control.  Acknowledge their strong emotions - this shows they care about themselves but let them know you have confidence in their growing ability to take control of themselves.

You need to have control of your classroom so never put off dealing with distracting behaviours.  You will hear about tactically ignoring kids mucking up but the times that is the way to go are extremely rare so just because discipline is hard doesn’t mean we don’t do it and if you want a satisfactory time in the classroom – do the hard stuff first.


Note: Another essay – ‘Challenging Behaviours’ has been added to the resource page.  This is freely available by logging on to our webpage at


Posted by: Frew Consultants Group AT 12:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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John R Frew
Marcia J Vallance

ABN 64 372 518 772


The principals of the company have had long careers in education with a combined total of eighty-one years service.  After starting as mainstream teachers they both moved into careers in providing support for students with severe behaviours.

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