3 Steps to Better Student Discipline
I'm Youth Change Workshops' Director Ruth Herman Wells, M.S.
We continue to get the same questions on discipline again and again at our workshops that are touring the country, and coming soon near you.
In the meantime, here are some of our best tips and tricks to get you started on improving student discipline in your classroom or group room.
Here is the surprising truth about student discipline: Discipline and consequences are often ineffective.
Yes, every school or agency needs both, but alone, they don't work. Alone? Yes, if you have a discipline and consequence structure set up, but have not first taught your students the skills, motivation and attitudes that they need to perform the desired behaviors, you will almost certainly find your discipline is ineffective.
Children and youth often can not do behaviors that they were never taught. Further, those youngsters who have bad attitudes and no motivation may have no interest in performing to your satisfaction.
Yet, teaching students to have the desired skills, motivation and attitude is almost universally over-looked at most sites. If you want to remedy that oversight, here are the 3 essential elements that must preface or accompany your student discipline and consequences:
3 Steps to Better Student Discipline
Want Student Discipline? Teach Skills
Years ago, families taught their offspring the basic skills required in school and other settings. Now, many students have never been taught the necessary nuts-and-bolts behaviors that are essential to functioning.
Students may see bad behavior at home and bring it with them to your site. That's why many youth seem to have no sense of acceptable anger control, verbiage, or personal space and distance.
Set up any discipline and consequences you want, but if the child lacks the key skills to comply, discipline can't make much difference.
The list of necessary skills is long, and includes attendance, discussion skills, respect for teachers, respect for peers, punctuality, homework management, hallway behavior, how to sit at a desk, how to use a locker, and on and on and on.
Expecting these skills before teaching them is like expecting snow in summer. It's not very likely. Notice how consequences and discipline can not compensate for missing specific skills like those listed above.
Want Student Discipline? Teach Motivation
If a child believes that your service is unimportant, their behavior is likely to reflect that belief.
Children once learned at home about the value of school or your service. If contemporary students don't learn that at home, and you don't teach it at your site, the child's behavior may reflect their contempt despite any disciplinary efforts.
Poster 126, shown at right, illustrates what we mean when we say "motivate students."
This poster markets math like it was a pair of jeans or an MP3 player. Yes, it is sad to have to do that, but discipline without motivation is like summer without heat: you may wish it was different, but wishing doesn't change anything.
Want Student Discipline? Build Positive Attitudes
If a child has a negative attitude about your site, that's likely to be reflected in problematic conduct.
Discipline usually can't compel a child to change, but adjusting the child's attitude to be more positive, can create results that by comparison, seem almost magical.
Here is a sample technique: Ask students to write Help Wanted classified ads that start with "Desperately Seeking Someone Mean to Join Our Team."
Discuss the ads that students produce and help students consider if bosses hire and keep surly employees.
Want an example to show students to inspire them to create great ads? Look at Poster 37 at right, and use it as your example.