Megan won’t leave Suzie alone, so the teacher separates them.
Joey and Travis don’t want Jason to play with them, so the teacher
makes them all play together. Sarah talks incessantly, so she’s
sent to timeout for five minutes.
Sound familiar? In every classroom, there are discipline problems.
In this classroom, the teacher thought she was using the best
discipline techniques. But child psychologists say she
According to Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn, authors
of Positive Discipline in the Classroom, classroom
discipline should be internal discipline that’s based on children
disciplining themselves. This kind of discipline turns a negative
classroom into a positive place where children want to be.
You can use discipline that nurtures children’s respect for
themselves and others by making a paradigm shift. First, you must
determine who you want to be in control of behavior-the child or
you? If you’re in control, you’ll need to regulate a child’s
behavior through rewards and punishments. But these authors say
kids can’t learn self-discipline if teachers use external
“Emphasizing stickers, food, or threats makes the teacher
responsible, not the kids,” say Nelsen, Lott, and Glenn. “It’s the
teacher’s responsibility to catch students being good and reward
them, or catch them being bad and punish them. But what happens
when the teacher isn’t around?”
Once a teacher decides to help children take responsibility for
their actions and behavior, true learning and character development
will occur in the classroom.
8 BUILDING BLOCKS
Through monthly classroom meetings, you can help kids learn how to
discipline themselves. Here are eight crucial elements to a
1. Form a circle. Children sitting in a circle without a
table enables everyone to see each other.
2. Practice compliments and appreciations. At first,
structure the compliments. For example, have kids tell about a time
someone said something that made them feel good about themselves.
Or perhaps children can thank each other for kindnesses.
3. Create an agenda. Before each meeting, have kids and
teachers make a list of agenda items. The agenda will involve
problems in your classroom that need to be dealt with.
4. Develop communication skills. Help kids learn how to
take turns, make “I” statements, look for solutions rather than
blaming others, show respect, see each problem as a win-win
situation, and develop guidelines.
5. Learn about uniquenesses. Help children understand that not
everyone is the same or thinks the same. And that’s okay.
6. Solve problems together. Have kids role play problem
situations and brainstorm and record solutions. Have the person who
mentioned the problem choose the most helpful suggestion. This
helps kids think about the long-range results of their
7. Recognize the four reasons people do what they do.
Teach children that misbehavior is usually motivated by one of
these four needs:
- Attention-“The teacher never notices me so I make funny
- Power-“The teacher tells me to do something I don’t want to do,
so I pretend to obey him.”
- Revenge-“Kelly called me a name, so I said she was ugly.”
- Giving up-“I can’t read, so I do something I’m not supposed to
do during Bible-reading time.”
Train children to discern these motivational behaviors and look
for ways to encourage children who display them. For example, if a
child is giving up on reading, children could point out all the
things the child is good at.
8. Apply logical consequences. In a classroom meeting,
children actually discuss problem behaviors and determine the
consequences. In positive discipline, the four R’s of logical
- Related-the consequence is directly related to the
- Respectful-the consequence is enforced with dignity and
- Reasonable-punishment is not added to make children feel bad;
- Revealed-children know in advance what the consequences