Disciplinary Action as a Positive

William Woods EDU
effective positive discipline in schools

Teachers and school leaders are reassessing student discipline.

Many educators have found positive discipline to be more effective when dealing with student misbehavior in the classroom. They are addressing behavior issues in a way that can help students make better choices in the long run. They are doing so by setting clear expectations for conduct and focusing on students from a whole-person perspective. 

A Proactive Approach

Positive discipline is proactive. Rather than using punishment and rewards, teachers focus on prevention by teaching their students responsibility, problem-solving, cooperation, conflict resolution, and behavior skills.

Positive discipline empowers students. It involves guiding students and building their confidence about the choices they make. As an outcome, students make thoughtful decisions to reach their goals.

Student misconduct can disrupt learning. Teachers strive to create a safe learning environment, but when a student misbehaves, they must apply techniques to stop the unacceptable behavior. It is important that they apply techniques that do not risk harm to the student.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has addressed the harm associated with punishment and linked it to an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, and emotional outcomes for children. The AAP recommends adults reinforce appropriate behaviors, set limits, redirect children, and set expectations. This positive discipline is the most effective method for dealing with student misbehavior, with effectiveness increasing if:

  • Students and teachers understand what the problem behavior is and the appropriate consequences for misbehavior.
  • The way the disciplinary technique is delivered.
  • Reasons for the specific consequences are given to the students so that they can learn.

Teachers can consider their own behaviors when disciplining students. They can ask themselves questions such as “Am I considerate of students’ feelings? Are my classroom rules clear and easy for students to follow? Does my discipline response match the behavior?”

In addition to their own reflection, it is also important for educators to understand that students need time to reflect about their actions. They can offer students opportunities to think about what led to their poor choices. This is an area where modeling becomes especially helpful—teachers can help students critically reflect on their misbehavior and become more proactive in changing how they act in the future. By encouraging them to reflect, teachers are also showing their care and attention for their students.

Positive Discipline Techniques

There are several techniques that teachers can use to manage misbehaving students in the classroom, including:

  • collectively establishing classroom rules and procedures with students at the beginning of the school year,
  • being consistent about expectations,
  • consider the classroom arrangement, 
  • reinforcing the established rules and procedures,
  • communicating with students to search for root cause of misbehavior,
  • focusing on the action, not the person,
  • modeling appropriate behavior,
  • utilizing hand gestures
  • remaining neutral during conflicts, and
  • respecting students as individuals.

These are some of the techniques that may help teachers maintain a safe, supportive, and positive learning environment. Educators can also reach out to students’ family members and caregivers to develop positive discipline strategies. This can help align mutual expectations students have in the classroom and at home.

Teaching Valuable Social and Life Skills

Day-to-day administration of an elementary, middle, or secondary school presents unique challenges in organizational management and curriculum supervision. Sometimes educators have to make tough choices about how to administer disciplinary action. As a teacher or administrator with leadership as a career goal, you will get the skills you need to make these decisions through the combination of coursework, preparation for certification, and hands-on field experience that comprise the William Woods University Online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Leadership degree program.

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