"Changing Problem Behavior in Schools" by Dr. Alex Molnar and Barbara Lindquist

This book had a tremendous impact on how I dealt with students. It correlated very well with my training in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Education (REBE). I think it should be required reading for every teaches. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the first (and maybe second) chapter. The book is still available. 

“There can be little dispute about what the student did. However, the teacher’s response will be based on the meaning that fact has for him or her. It is the meaning we attribute to an event that instructs us how to act in response (a stern reprimand or a wink and a smile).” 

“Considering the meanings assigned to behavior deemed problematic is important because in problem situations these assigned meaning are part of the problem” 

“In almost every instance, the description (of a student) is not positive, and the focus for change is invariably on the student. Indeed, explanations for problem behavior are often no more than none-too-flattering characterizations of the student whose behavior is considered problematic” 

“A student whose behavior does not change in the face of repeated attempts at problem solving is usually characterized as resistant and as having bad motives for what he or she is doing. You are asked to entertain the possibility that other explanations can also be true and that some of them may help you solve your problem.” 

“The support educators receive from their peers for explanations of problem behavior may help to strengthen those explanations, even in the face of repeated failure to lead to acceptable solutions. Each year a child is in school, the meaning of his or her behavior becomes more embedded in the informal network that passes information about the meaning of that child’s behavior from one school official to the next. Their behavior is increasingly understood by making reference to the “frozen” perceptions of their past behavior. These can be powerful devices for maintaining the behavior of educators and students in problem patterns because they contribute to maintaining unhelpful interpretations of that behavior.” 

“Initiating change in a chronic problem situation involves identifying new interpretations of the behavior considered to be a problem that fit the facts at hand and behaving in ways consistent with these new interpretations. It most often requires abandoning “commonsense” explanations and solutions. Any alternative explanation that helps you to behave differently in relation to the behavior you consider problematic has the potential to lead to a solution.” 

“It is a student’s organization of experience that holds the key to understanding his or her behavior. In whatever way the student may perceive the situation, his or her behavior will be quite understandable given that perception. In solving problems, it is helpful to accept that a student is behaving in a way that is understandable given his or her perception of the situation.” 

“Sometimes it is easier to move in this direction by putting yourself in the student’s shoes and trying to see the problem situation as they might. In general, seeing the problem as a student might see it can help you see the rational and understandable reasons for behavior you had previously considered irrational and negative.” 

“We encourage teachers to look at the positive meaning and functions of a problem behavior. Doing so helps avoid power struggles and to construct solutions in which there are only winners instead of winners and losers. It also makes things easier for you. Most important of all, we encourage teachers to consider what the problem person is doing that is functional and positive.” 

Which brings me to two of my favorite sayings: 

JFK said, “The problems of man are man-made. They can’t be solved by man”. 

Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it” 

There is an article about "Mindset" on this blog. I encourage you to read it. I also invite you to read about the "Tool Time" approach I've developed and use with troubled and troublesome students at:


I also invite you to read about "tools" I believe can help teachers get into the best possible mental and emotional place to deal as effectively as possible with such students.