How to Deal with Misbehavior
If a child is making a choice that interferes with someone’s learning, the first step is to identify and name the incorrect behavior by asking the child what he or she is doing. I try to assume the student has momentarily forgotten the appropriate procedure and needs a reminder.
1. Ask the student what they are doing. (Example answer: I am running in the hall.)
2. Ask the student what they are supposed to be doing? (Example answer: I guess I should be walking.)
3. Ask the child when they are going to start doing the right thing. (Example answer: I am going to start right now.)
If the child responds with “I don’t know." to any of the questions, I suggest the correct answer in the form of a question.
1. Ask the student what they are doing. (Example answer: I dunno.)
2. Name the behavior. (Example: It looked to me like you might have been running in the hall. Was that what you were doing?)
3. Ask the student what they are supposed to be doing? (Example answer: I guess I should be walking.)
4. Ask the child when they are going to start doing the right thing. (Example answer: I am going to start right now.)
If a child is repeatedly unable to remember a procedure for being safe and kind in our classroom or in school, I am happy to spend time with them at recess or free time practicing procedures like listening or moving safely. I usually announce this offer calmly, not as a punishment. For instance:“Tyler, you are having so much trouble keeping your hands to yourself in line. During recess, I will help you practice walking quietly."
This statement sometimes brings protest from a student who has realized that it is nearly the same thing as having recess taken away. I usually respond in the following manner:
“Don’t worry, I am happy to give up my free time to help you improve your behavior." Followed by an ultra-cheerful, “You’re welcome!"
Then, I turn and walk away so the child knows that I am not going to negotiate.
The technique is effective because although there is an undertone of a negativity (recess will be missed), the consequence is delivered in a positive manner. Conflict and embarrassment on the part of the child are both avoided and a natural consequence is achieved.