How to Deal with Non-cooperative Students as a Tutor

In a classroom setting, a student is surrounded by their classmates where everyone is expected to pay attention to the instructor. Not only are a student’s actions monitored by the teacher, their behavior is observed by their friends and classmates. Tutoring a student is usually done in a much different environment. A tutor works one-on-one with the student, many times in his/her own home and the student’s parent(s) may or may not be present for the tutoring session. These factors can sometimes lead to dealing with a student who is completely uncooperative with his/her tutor.

What do I do if my tutee won’t cooperate with me?


Set expectations

At the start of the tutorial, the tutor needs to set expectations with the student. The tutee needs to understand that just because he or she may not be in a traditional classroom, he/she is still expected to listen carefully and complete the tasks as assigned to them. The student may feel free to act out of line if his/her peers aren’t present, especially if the tutoring session is in his/her own home where he or she feels most comfortable and sometimes more entitled to act out. Establishing ground rules from the start can help to avoid misbehavior down the road.

Work through the behavior

Kids sometimes misbehave. Reasons can range from having a bad day at school to not getting enough sleep the night before. If a student is having difficulty in one particular subject, he or she may express his/her frustrations by acting out. If you can, try to work through the behavior when it happens. Have the student take a break. Try offering him/her a snack. Taking a few minutes for the student to recharge could be just the thing they need.

Provide an incentive

Incentives don’t have to be anything fancy. Encouragement and compliments can sometimes work wonders. Simple, but genuine praise helps. If the tutee is an elementary school level, sometimes gold stars on assignments, stickers, or even little trinkets can work to encourage good behavior. Consider setting up a point system and give the student an option of earning a reward by keeping tally. Over the course of the tutoring session if a student is listening and paying attention, he or she can receive good behavior points. If he or she misbehaves, you subtract points. Sometime as simple as keeping points could be just the incentive the student needs to be on his or her best behavior for the session.

Consult the parent

Tutoring is not babysitting. Depending on the age of the student, one or both parents should be present for the tutoring session. This doesn’t mean that the parent needs to be sitting at the table with the student and the tutor, but he or she should be in the house should the child begin to misbehave. Not only can it make the student feel more comfortable, but having a parent nearby for the session helps keep the parent in the loop. The tutor can review what was covered in the session with the parent so that he or she can continue to practice the material with the student before the next tutoring period.


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