Punishment isn’t an effective tool

I regularly work with teachers and support staff around their use of positive language in behaviour management.

It’s human nature to berate, scold, or become exasperated when behaviour stops learning or when a seemingly innocuous event ends up on the disciplinary path.

Punishment isn’t the only tool in your classroom management toolbox. Calling for assistance, threatening with disciplinary action or pursuing an argument to the bitter end sets out a message that you are not in control. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that these must be the last resort rather than the first one, because many behaviours can be managed very well using simple verbal cues.

It’s what we could term high emotional intelligence. “Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” This usually involves: … the ability to manage your emotions, such as being able to calm down when you’re upset.

In class, this is part of your job. I wrote about this in a blog last year  with ideas to maintain a positive attitude, which reflects in your behaviour.

But if you’re stuck, put in place a simple process to let your students know what’s in it for them to follow through with your request or instruction.

I think you’ll like the “When – Then” strategy. It’s an easy way to put in place some positive reinforcement (as BF Skinner would say) or you might think of it as part of a reward system.


When you’ve put your chairs under the table and cleared away the books, then we will go for a break.”

 “When we’ve stopped arguing, then we’ll be able to sort this out.”

 “When you’ve completed a full 20 minutes on this piece of work, then you can have a short chat break.”

If you’ve passed on an instruction but it hasn’t been followed through, you REPEAT.

“Remember, when you’ve……… then……” and then follow up with “Thank you”

Try it.