Questions About Behavior and Discipline

Here are a few of the most common questions I receive from teachers regarding behavior and discipline. Some of them may resonate with you.

Question 1: I generally have few major behavior problems because I set high expectations and I keep students busy, but I do have problems with talking. Is talking a Level B behavior problem?

My reply:
Talking is a Level B issue only if your students are talking when they shouldn’t be. In such cases, I would teach a psychological lesson and develop a procedure such as illustrated at

UNLESS THE STUDENT HAS A PROCEDURE TO REDIRECT THE IMPULSE, the student will remain a victim of the talking impulse.

Question 2: How about doing their homework? Doing their best work?

My reply:
Homework is an instructional problem, not a discipline problem. You can no more force students to do their homework with quality work than you can force them to learn. However, you can help direct success in this area by painting pictures, e.g., “What time will you start your homework?” “What procedure will you implement if the time has arrived and you are enjoying yourself doing something else?” “Where will you do your homework?” “Will the TV be on?” It is the pictures in our minds that drive our behavior.

Question 3: If students behave in my class and misbehave in another class or outside, is this my responsibility and have I taught them discipline?

My reply:
YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYONE’S BEHAVIOR BUT YOUR OWN. A person’s behavior is that person’s responsibility and choice.

Questions About Rewards

Here are a few of the most common questions I receive from teachers regarding rewards. Some of them may resonate with you.

Question 1: “I am aware of your stance on giving students rewards. However, when students do their work and get good grades, isn’t the grade a reward?”

My reply:
Yes, the good grade is a reward, and there is nothing wrong with this reward. Neither is anything wrong with rewards as acknowledgments.

What I object to is giving rewards for expected, appropriate behavior. Grades are an incentive and they work to motivate only if the person is interested in a good grade. Many students are. But some could care less about the grade given them by a teacher.

Question 2: “When I go to work each day, I receive a paycheck, isn’t that a reward?

My reply:
Your paycheck is compensation. Compensation is a contractual agreement between two parties. It is not a reward in the sense of manipulating or bribing someone to do something.

Question 3: “I put my students in teams and use points to help them quickly learn my management system. The team with the most points gets to leave first. Is this a reward?”

My reply:
Yes, and there is nothing the matter with this. The teams are competing—a very successful approach to improve PERFORMANCE. Unfortunately, this is often confused with improving LEARNING. For example, if a student never feels in the winner’s circle, do you think that young person will continue to compete, or will the desire be to drop out and preserve whatever self-esteem the young person still has?

Please understand that I am in no way against all competition. But if the goal is to improve learning, I am suggesting that there is a better approach that will save you time, effort, and not create a WIN-LOSE SITUATION (something endemic to competition). I refer to sharing your expectations and teaching procedures. This approach builds a collaborative community—something competition cannot do.

The Art of Persuasion

Benjamin Franklin understood that the art of persuasion is to induce the person to influence himself. He knew that persuading others to his point of view took patience and endurance. He assumed that people are often won over slowly, often indirectly. He believed that if you don’t win the bargain today, go after it again […]

Do Teens Need Discipline?

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Are You Creating Negativity?

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Defiant Student at Spring Valley High School

In the U.S. news: Coercion used on defiant student at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina results in police officer being fired. The video showing the defiant student being flipped over while sitting at her desk has gone viral. One side says that force was too extreme. The other side says that the […]

Encourage a Love of Learning

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Dealing with Negativity

What do you do when you have a negative experience? Imagine the brain as a large ship. If a leak occurs in the floating vessel, it immediately compartmentalizes the area of the leak to prevent the leak from sinking the entire ship. This is necessary because it may take some time before the ship returns […]

Emotions and Learning

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Smiles Prompt Good Feelings

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Stress and Learned Helplessness

We know that when stress overcomes us, choices seem limited, thereby decreasing effectiveness. Behavioral scientists have a name for this psychological reaction: learned helplessness. This phenomenon has been studied in laboratory rodents whose nervous system bears striking similarities to that of humans. Here is how one experiment works. If you provide mice with an escape […]