In my last post I shared seven reasons why kids misbehave. In this post (and the next) and I will share principle for guiding behavior. These principles have worked for me over the years and I think you’ll find them helpful as well.
- Be Consistent! There’s nothing more confusing than allowing bad behavior one week and the next week punishing kids for that same behavior. Be consistent with your expectations and enforcement of classroom rules and procedures. Kids like to know that they can count on you to be consistent.
- Pray Daily for Students and for Wisdom! One of my favorite stories is that of Justin. Justin really gave his teachers a run for their money and often time teachers would leave the classroom defeated and many times they would step away from their commitment to teach. One year we decided to really get serious about Justin and on the top of our list of “to dos” was prayer. We prayed specifically for Justin’s behavior and for wisdom on how to best minister to Justin. After a couple weeks we really started seeing a change and Justin became a joy to teach and not the dread he had become notorious for being. I’ve often wondered who really changed in that scenario, Justin or us? Probably both!
- Don’t Threaten! Kids understand better than we realize what our boundaries are when it comes to punishment. Don’t bother with void threats that you are not able to follow through with. However, when you do use a particular threat to clarify your response to a behavior, be sure you are willing to follow through. An incredible book by Dr. Grace Ketterman, “Don’t Give In Give Choice” is played out when kids understand that should they choose to mid-behave, you will be forced to fulfill their choice with the appropriate consequences.
- Tell Children the Rules and then Reinforce Them. Make sure your kids understand the rules. Sometimes kids don’t fulfill our expectations because they don’t know what we expect. I don’t advocate for a long list of rules to be reviewed weekly… but I do believe that kids can be expected to respect each other, and each other’s belongings. When they understand that basic rule everything else seems to fall into place.
- Be Generous with Praise! You can find something nice to say about every kid in your room. Do it! When kids realize that the best way to get your attention is to behave correctly, they will work hard to please you, get your attention, and they adore the praise. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the bad behavior than the good. We spend tons of time harping of bad behavior when the pleasant praise will often times change a poor behavior choice.
My motto as it deals with discipline in the classroom, “Prevention is the Preferred Strategy.” I’d rather work to prevent poor behavior than deal with the ramifications of poor behavior. These principles (as well as the next 5 coming next week) have helped me in my quest to guide behavior as opposed to deal with discipline.