Correcting Minor Misbehavior in School

Perfect Behavior

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"Don't talk !" "Stop interrupting! "

"Don't bother other students. "

"Keep your hands to yourself."

"Stop making that noise."

"Don't waste time!"

Many parents and even classroom teachers use negative commands to children, which are rarely effective.

While trying to assert their authority they don't recognize the fact that they are actually reinforcing the behavior they wish to halt.

Positive Re-direction

Here's an illustration: If I tell you NOT to think about a blue polka dotted alligator -- what do you think about?

You automatically think of an alligator with dots on it, don't you? It's automatic, no matter who you are.

If I really wanted you to stop thinking about that unlikely creature, I would have done better to tell you what I WANT you to do, like "think of a green kitten."

See, that works too. In other words, directing the child to the desired positive activity works better than strengthening the negative image. It also keeps you from seeming to be overly annoyed (which is sometimes the goal of the child).

Focusing on the positive behavior does several things:

  • It decreases the probability of confrontation.
  • It makes you appear to be calm and in control.
  • It gives the child a chance to "choose" the correct behavior, and gain a sense of self-control.

I am speaking here about minor, low level corrections. There ARE times for stronger words and actions, but these suggestions can smooth out a lot of the little annoyances and distractions, and keep things from getting out of hand.

Do You think these strategies would work for you?

  • No, not with the kids I deal with.
  • Maybe. I would at least try it.
  • Yes, I always do this.
  • Undecided.
See results without voting

Four Strategies

Here are four simple strategies for getting children back on track. Practice them often, until they become second nature, and you will avoid many conflicts.

1. "It Is Time"

If you tell a student , "It is time to do your work", they are directed toward the positive behavior and away from the talking, running, bothering and noise making.

"It is time . . . . . . to finish your work, . . . to get out your math book, . . . to get ready for lunch." The "It is time" phrase presupposes that "this is just the way things are" and doesn't seem like you are giving a direct command that invites a challenge.

2. "I need. . ."

Think about what behaviors you need, and state them calmly and clearly.

"I need to have everyone finishing their work so we can all have plenty of time for the next (fun) activity."

Sometimes when I am giving a field trip tour to school groups, and lecturing about items in the history museum, I will have children talking to each other. I say, "I need to have good listeners, now." This is always more effective than saying "Stop Talking!" in a demanding way.

3. Think Starters

Another effective tactic to bring the desired behavior form a child is to ask a question.

"What do we need to do now?", "What should you be doing now?", "Where do your hands belong?" or a similar question usually puts students back on track.

They DO know what is expected. They know the answer is NOT "talking, running, bothering and noise making."

Bring the answer out of the student with a think-starter.

The next time you want to blurt, "Stop Talking", take a moment to think of these other choices. Once you get into the habit of not reinforcing negative behavior, your days will be much more pleasant.

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Comments 7 comments

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

Another hub with good tips for beginning teachers.


Chef Jeff profile image

Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

I have been a sub, and at times it was great, and at times it was terrible.  Thanks for sharing some great tips that are good for ALL teachers to remember and practice. 

Do you also work for any agency in your state or region that helps educate teachers about best teaching practices?  We have a great organization here in Illinois that goes to schools and offers seminars on best practices.

If you don't work for such a group, I think you should - your ideas are spot on great and I would recommend your hubs for any teacher that wants to become better at the art of teaching.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

I used to do occasional six-hour workshops contracted through a large county board of Education in Southrn California. It was great fun because sub teachers get so little help and attention-- they were always very appreciative.

I have been retired for awhile-- but when I discovered hub pages I thought I might recycle some of the ideas that i had learned before.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Sounds so simple and yet so powerfully true. I see this to be more effective esp. when we deal with kids in our preschool...and well, in all areas of our lives actually. Thanks for this hub.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thanks! Sometimes the simple things can make a big difference.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 5 years ago from Templeton, CA

Very good suggestions.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 5 years ago from California Gold Country Author

Thank you. And they DO work.

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