Challenging Behavior

Challenging students can be difficult to interact with because they can be intrusive and persistent. Demanding traits can be associated with anxiety and agitated depression, but also occur in the general population. Some features associated with challenging students are a sense of entitlement; an inability to empathize; a need to control; difficulty dealing with ambiguity; a strong drive for perfection; difficulty respecting structure, limits, and rules; persistence after hearing “no”; dependence on others to take care of them; and a fear of dealing with the realities of life. These students may require a lot of time and attention.

When dealing with a challenging student:


  1. Determine if you feel safe with the student. If you feel unsafe, remove yourself from the situation and call 911.
  2. When possible, talk to the student in a place where you feel safe and comfortable.
  3. Remain calm and in control of the situation.
  4. Set clear limits and hold to them.
  5. Directly and clearly explain to the student the behaviors which are acceptable and unacceptable.
  6. Be clear about the time you will give the student.
  7. Request that he or she treat you with respect.
  8. Contain disruptive behavior that disturbs the class, study group, etc.
  9. Be aware of manipulative behavior.
  10. Refer the student to resources that can address his/her needs.
  11. Contact the Office of Judicial Affairs for assistance if you are feeling harassed and intimidated and/or the student’s behavior is disruptive.
  12. Consult with Student Mental Health Coordination Services regarding appropriate referrals.


  1. Argue with the student.
  2. Accommodate inappropriate requests.
  3. Ignore the problem and the impact that it has on you and other students, staff or faculty.
  4. Adjust your schedule to accommodate the student.
  5. Feel obligated to take care of him/her.
  6. Feel guilty about not doing more.
  7. Allow the student to intimidate you.