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Dr. Ken Shore's
Classroom Problem Solver

Pouting in Class

The pouting student has a way of making her presence known. When told something she does not like, she may stamp her feet in frustration, fold her arms in defiance, and glare at you in anger. Pouting is the student's way of communicating her displeasure with your decision. It is a form of protest.

Whatever the reason for her behavior, the best way to help a pouting child get over her anger is to respond mildly -- or not at all. Scolding the child who pouts will only make her more determined to continue the emotional display. A better approach is to help her learn more appropriate ways of expressing her feelings and getting your attention. Show the student by your reactions that she cannot get what she wants with immature or sulky behavior. In time, she may come to see the futility of pouting.



Look for a pattern in the student's pouting. Observe when the student is most likely to pout, what she is doing at the time, and what seems to trigger the behavior. That information can help you anticipate when the behavior will occur and take measures to prevent it. You might even review the information with the student, making her aware of the situations that seem to trigger her pouting. That will help raise her awareness of the behavior and might help decrease it.

Ignore pouting that is designed to get your attention. If you think the pouting student simply is trying to get your attention or manipulate your reaction, give her minimal attention when she acts that way and certainly do not give in to her. Tell her that you do not respond to students who pout, but you will be happy to talk with her when she stops. If she does stop, give her immediate and positive attention. If she does not stop, walk away from her without giving her any further attention.

Redirect the pouting student. Another way of approaching the pouting student is to put your arm around her and -- without addressing her frustration -- gently guide her to another activity. Try to get her involved in that activity to distract her from her distress. That strategy can be especially effective with younger students.

Help the pouting student express her feelings in an appropriate manner. Help her understand that she can express her frustration and disappointment in better ways than pouting. After she has calmed down, consider role-playing. Re-enact situations that have previously elicited pouting and encourage her to experiment with other responses. You might suggest or model some responses of your own.

Praise non-pouting behavior. Keep a watchful eye on the pouter's behavior and if you see her communicating in a respectful manner and handling frustration or disappointment appropriately, reward that behavior with praise and attention.

Avoid confronting the student. The challenge with the pouting student is to get her to do what you want without triggering resistance. That requires that you tread gently; avoiding confrontation, and using language that invites her cooperation instead of demanding her compliance ("You must ... "). One way of eliciting cooperation is to give the student a choice of two options, both of which are acceptable to you. In this win-win scenario, the student feels a sense of control and you gain her cooperation.

When disciplining the pouter, focus on her behavior rather than on her personally. The student who pouts often will exhibit the behavior when reprimanded. Although you do not want to back off from disciplining her, make sure she understands that your concern is with her behavior and not with her as a person. For example, if a student is constantly calling out, you might say "Mattie, please raise your hand when you know the answer," rather than "Mattie, you are being rude and inconsiderate."

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist and chair of a child study team for the Hamilton, New Jersey Public Schools. He has written five books, including Special Kids Problem Solver and Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver.

Click to read a complete bio.