Teaching Self-Discipline: Responding to Misbehavior

This chapter of Teaching Self-Discipline focuses on why students misbehave and how we can effectively respond using logical consequences.

Hi Friend!

I feel like we’ve hit that sweet spot in summer! A time when your mind has finally moved on from last year, but you aren’t yet consumed by thoughts about the next.  I’m so glad you’re still carving out a bit of time to participate in the summer book study on Teaching Self-Discipline!  

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. This means that, at no cost to you, I earn a few nickels should you choose to make a purchase through the link.

In case you missed either of my previous posts, catch up on my reflections and the conversations during the Facebook lives in these posts:

Chapter 1 – Creating a Safe and Predictable Learning Environment

Chapter 2 – Investing Students in the Rules

The first two chapters focused on the proactive work you can do to keep negative behaviors at bay.  All of that important work will reduce the misbehavior in your classroom but we know it won’t totally eliminate it.  

Chapter 3 discusses techniques to help you deal with common misbehaviors you see from time to time with ALL children.  It focuses on why students misbehave and how we can effectively respond using logical consequences. The information in this chapter is super useful because it applies to all students, so let’s dig in!  

Chapter 3 Facebook Live

Why Do Children Misbehave?  

The chapter begins by reminding us that there are times when all of us (adults included!) allow impulse and desire regulate our behavior.  It made me think about the adults in my life who are natural rule-followers and those who naturally test the rules. I lean towards being a rule follower.  What about you? I found thinking about this helped me to better empathize with my young students and remember that we all break rules from time to time!  

We are also reminded that children are just learning the rules of the world, not only the classroom.  They learn through exploring and testing the limits to figure what is acceptable behavior.

why children misbehave

Through their misbehavior they are asking “What is allowed?  What’s not allowed? How far can I go? Who is in control?” Of course, as with all learning processes, students will make mistakes and it is our job to turn those mistakes into opportunities to teach self-control and responsibility.  

Goals in Responding to Misbehavior

The number one goal in responding to misbehavior is to stop it and get the student back on track to ensure learning and teaching to continues!  

goals in responding to misbehavior

Students need to hear the clear message of “stop now”. Then we want to make sure we give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Take the time to explain the “why”.  Talk to them about why a certain behavior is not safe, or kind or distracting. It doesn’t have to be a long lecture, just an explanation that will help them to internalize the rules.  

The text reminds us to not make snap judgements when incidents occur.  I know this can be hard, especially when it feels like it’s the same kid up to their old antics again!  I thought the suggestion of asking “What’s going on here” instead of “why did you do that?” was a useful one for helping to maintain a neutral, non-accusatory tone.  For more information about teacher language and tips for responding to small behaviors take a look at the Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 posts.   

3 Types of Logical Consequences

After you have stopped the behavior (always the first step!) you’ll then want to give a logical consequence.  Not to be confused with a punishment, a logical consequence is respectful, related and realistic. It helps students develop internal controls.  It sends the message that the child can do better with reflection and practice, and that the child is not the problem.  

I liked the reminder that even with a logical consequence, children will sometimes resist.  It may be hard for them to accept wrong-doing, just as it is for many adults. But we can’t control how they feel.  Their response may be in reaction to how they feel about themselves and less about how they feel about our response. It is still our job to stop the behavior and get the student back on track.  

There are three types of logical consequences the text recommends.  

logical consequences for misbehavior

Break-it, fix it– A pretty simple one.  If a child breaks something or makes a mess, we help them take responsibility to fix it or clean it up – regardless of whether it was intentional or not!  

Loss of Privilege- If a student has difficulty managing a privilege, remove the privilege.  Sounds easy enough, right?! Just remember to teach students that when a privilege (like getting to pick who you sit next to) is lost, it is not gone forever.  They can show readiness to handle the responsibility and get a chance to try again.  

Time out – I’m sure you are familiar with this one, but the text is very thorough when discussing time-out.  First off, a time-out is not a punishment. It’s a chance to calm down. We don’t want students to feel isolated.  Students may be able to decide to go to the time-out spot because they can feel themselves losing control. The goal is for children learn self-control and keep the classroom calm and safe.  

Time-out is different from the other two consequences because it has a specific set of steps that need to be taught.  The text suggests using Interactive Modeling to do so. They suggest you explicitly teach students to: 

  • Go to the time-out spot quickly and quietly.  
  • Use strategies that will help them regain control.  The text suggests deep breathing techniques or squeezing a stress ball
  • Understand when they should rejoin the group and how to do so quietly.  

In addition, classmates must learn how to stay focused when a student is sent to time out and welcome them when they return.   

My pal Kristin from A Teeny Tiny Teacher has created these Calm Down Posters and Printables!

calm down area posters

You can download the Calm Down resource here!

The chapter wraps up with some additional guidelines to consider when using time-out and logical consequences.  While all are important, there were a few that stood out to me. Here’s what I found most helpful to remember: 

1) Use time-out just as the child is beginning to lose control. This will help you maintain your empathy for the child.  

2) Use time-out for everyone.  This one feels sorta hard for me, but as we discussed, we ALL make mistakes.  Students need to see that time-out used for anyone and everyone! 

3) One Size Does Not Fit All.  Choose a logical consequence that makes sense for the individual student.  Do not apply the consequences uniformly.   

Which did you find most insightful?  

I liked Chapter 3 because I feel like it is applicable to all students.  It reminds us that no one is perfect and mistakes are just opportunities for learning and improving.  As with so many things, we have to take time to teach and explain logical consequences to our students in order for them to be most effective.  Holding discussions around logical consequences will help students come to see that we are all working together, that it takes practice and we will all make mistakes when trying to follow the rules.   

What did you take away from this chapter?  What do you find difficult about responding to misbehavior?  Are there specific tips or suggestions this chapter provided that you want to focus on implementing into your classroom next year?  I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share them below!

Next week we’ll move on to Chapter 4 which dives into how we can handle more serious behavior issues– another topic I think we can all agree is an important one!   Until then, I hope you continue to enjoy these sweet weeks of summer break!  

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