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Identified Roles of Children of Alcoholics

Family problems and Classroom Hassles

The following suggestions are for dealing with some of the typical behaviors of children from alcoholic families.

A.  "The Perfect Child" is......

always volunteering, very responsible and manifests a drive, almost a compulsion, to be on top.  These children have an insatiable need for attention and approval and are often class leaders who are parental or bossy in their relationships with other children.  They tend to be very disappointed when losing, superior or snobbish when winning, and are frequently labeled "teacher's pet" by other students.

           Recommended adult behaviors:

1.  Give attention at times when the child is not achieving.
2.  Validate the child's intrinsic worth, and try to separate his or her feelings or self-worth from achievements.
3.  Let the child know it's OK to make a mistake.

             Adult behaviors to avoid:

1.  Letting the child monopolize conversations or always be the first to answer a question or to volunteer.
2.  Letting the child validate his or her self-worth by achieving.

B. "The Rebel" or "Scapegoat"......

tends to blame others, makes strong peer alliances, and is often disciplined by teachers or principals for breaking rules.  The rebel tends to talk back, neglects work, and can be very frustrating to work with.  The typical adult comments are "I don't know what to do with that child," or "I've tried everything!"

            Recommended adult behaviors:

1.  Let the child know when the behavior is inappropriate.
2.  Give the child strokes whenever he or she takes responsibility for something.
3.  Attempt to develop empathy for the child.  This prevents adults from being angry or getting defensive.
4.  Set limits.  Give clear explanations of the child's responsibilities and clear choices and consequences.

              Adult Behaviors to avoid:

1.  Feeling sorry for the student.
2.  Treating the child as special and giving him/her more power.
3.  Agreeing with the child's complaints about other students or other adults.
4.  Taking the child's behavior personally or as a sign of one's own incompetence as a teacher, counselor,

C.  "The Clown" or "Mascot"......

tends to be funny or distracting and gets attention frequently.  This child likes to hide, make faces, pull the chair out from someone else, stick chalk in the erasers and otherwise act out.

                Recommended teacher behaviors:

1.  It's OK to get appropriately angry at the "class clown's" behavior.
2.  Try to give the child a job in the class with some importance and responsibility.
3.  Hold him/her accountable.
4.  Encourage responsible behavior.
5.  Encourage appropriate sense of humor.
6.  Insist on eye contact.

                   Classroom behaviors to avoid:

1.  Do not try to "laugh with" the clown.  He/she will not understand it.
2.  Remember the class clown's underlying fear.
3.  Remember the underlying depression this behavior often masks.

D.  "The Loner" or "Adjusting Child"......

often gets lost in the shuffle.  Teachers and other adults sometimes can't remember the child's name because he/she is so quiet and is seldom a behavior problem.  These children tend to have few, if any, friends and like to work alone in school, often in very creative though non-verbal ways.  Other students either leave them alone or tend to tease them about never getting involved.

                       Recommended classroom behaviors:

1.  Every teacher should take an inventory.  If there are names that you consistently cannot remember, that
      may be a lonely or lost child.
2.  Try to pick on their personal interests and often they will begin to talk.
3.  Try some contact on a one-to-one basis.  Find out who they are!
4.  Point out and encourage the child's strengths, talents and creativity.
5.  Use touch slowly.
6.  Help the child to be in a relationship.  There will usually be one child they are drawn to in the class.
7.  Encourage working in small groups, two's and three's, to build trust and confidence.

                        Some behaviors to avoid:

1.  Do not let the child off the hook by allowing him/her to remain silent or never calling on the child.
2.  Do not let other kids take care of the child by talking or answering for him/her.

E.  "The Caretaker"......

tends to focus on helping other people feel better.  They are motherly in their relationships to other children.  This is usually a "liked" child by friends and adults.  This child's sensitivity is noticeable.

                            Recommended adult behaviors:

1.  Assist the child on focusing on him/herself.
2.  Ask the child to identify their desires for themselves.
3.  Help this child to play.
4.  When they are assisting another, ask them to identify how they are feeling about the other's pain.
5.  Validate the child's intrinsic worth, separating their worth from their care-taking.

                             Behaviors to avoid:

1.  Calling on these children to focus on another's emotional pain.