Child specialists say behavioral problems in school require therapy not punishment

Learning difficulties, traumas and domestic violence –those are just some of the underlying causes of behavioral problems among schoolchildren. According to the Czech School Inspectorate, the number of children with behavioral problems has increased in recent years and teachers are ill prepared to deal with the challenge.

Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková | Photo: Tomáš Vodňanský,  Czech Radio

The case of a fourth grader physically attacking his class teacher made headlines in September, although few details were released due to the child’s age. Nevertheless, education specialists and pediatricians warn that the number of young children suffering from mental problems, self-harming or channeling their aggression outward - towards teachers and classmates -has been growing and that the Czech school system and teachers themselves are ill prepared to deal with it.

The Government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková says that in many schools children are automatically punished for misbehaving and teachers generally have little time, space and experience to try to get to the root of the problem.

"A child has no way of expressing that he or she is not mentally well, that something is wrong and that they are carrying a huge load of stress to school. This always shows up in their behavior –they either close up or are openly aggressive.“

Photo: ruslana_art,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

The Ministry of Education says it is aware of the need to be more supportive of both pupils and teachers. Ferdinand Hrdlička is the ministry’s commissioner for child welfare.

"The number of children with behavioral problems has been increasing for a long time. And the number of teachers in schools who have problems dealing with these children is also increasing. So we want every school to have a psychologist who would be at hand to help. They should be “on the spot” so that parents and pupils do not have to travel further field to get help. Help and support should come from within the school.”

The ministry is closely monitoring the results of a child welfare project launched in a primary school in Zruč nad Sázavou where for the past two years they have employed the services of a child psychologist, education specialist and nurse. Within the school itself there is a special child-friendly rest-room where children can come and talk to them or simply de-stress. Hana Měkotová, who is on the “child welfare” team explains.

Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

"We have a group of children who often come here to relax, hide, talk, or just play. We also have lots of anti-stress games for the kids to play. It's a welcoming environment to make children feel comfortable and open up. For instance, I remember we had a boy who was seemingly uncontrollable. The school couldn't handle him. Meetings with his parents led nowhere. But we took him under our wing, won his trust and soon he was improving in class".

The Ministry of Education would like to see similar child welfare teams working in schools around the country. From 2025, the ministry plans to fund school psychologists, for whom selected schools have so far only received EU funding.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Patrik Salát | Source: Český rozhlas
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