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Classroom Management: Try Positive Discipline

Janelle Cox

Positive discipline is an effective way for teachers to use classroom management to deal with misbehaving students. Many teachers choose this classroom management approach because they feel that it allows students to learn and adapt to the behaviors and expectations that they have set. It essentially allows teachers to focus on the students’ good behaviors. However, whenever you have a “New” approach to classroom discipline, you will have a few naysayers. These are the parents and teachers from the previous generation that were brought up thinking that the positive approach to discipline meant being “Too soft” on the children. They were brought up thinking that children need to be scared in order to behave appropriately. In today’s classrooms, many teachers are trying to open the minds of their students and teaching them to make good choices. They are focusing their attention on the positives of each unique student, and rewarding them for the good choices that they make. If you’re still on the fence on whether to try the positive discipline classroom management approach with your students, then here are a few more reasons why positive disciplining is still disciplining.

Classroom Management: Fear Teaches Students to React Negatively

When we sense danger, our survival instincts kick in, and we respond by either hiding, running away, or fighting back. If you punish a student for her unwanted behavior by scaring her, it doesn’t mean that you are helping them to become a better person, it just means you are scaring them into acting the way you want them to act.

If respect is what you are after, then fear will not get you that. Respect has to be earned. Fear will not help develop students’ self-esteem, it will only make them retreat or fight back. Positive discipline allows you to reinforce the students’ good behavior, and snuff out the bad behavior, all while maintaining respect without having the student fear you.

Teachers are mentors, and when a student fears you, then they will no longer come to you for guidance and support. A positive discipline approach teaches to make better choices, which will in turn help them succeed and thrive in school.

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Focusing on the Positive Brings Positive Results

Logically, when you focus on something positive, then you will get positive results. Think about the last time that you had a bad day. It most likely started out with one little thing like stubbing your toe, then as you kept thinking about it, your day started to snowball and turn from one bad thing to another. If you focus on the negative, more negative things will happen. However, if you focus on the positive, then more positive things will happen.

Positive discipline works in the same way. When you place your student expectations high, then the student will more than likely try to meet them. However, if you place them low, then the student will also try and match them. The positive approach teaches students that they are worth it, and that they can do anything. A student who has self-worth is a student who will behave to your expectations.

Positive Discipline Teaches Logic

When children make a mistake or when they misbehave, you as the teacher have the option to help the child learn from their mistakes. Students can think about their choices and what effect they had on the outcome. This will help them understand the cause and effect of the decisions that they made. When you use a positive discipline approach, one where you help the student understand the logic and reasoning behind their actions, you are helping them understand their actions.

Rewarding Students for a Good Choice is Positive

The goal of many educators is to get their students to be intrinsically motivated. However, while this is a fantastic goal to have, every now and then it’s OK to be rewarded for a good choice. Think back to when you were a student in school. Did you ever get a pat on the back or get a special treat for making a good choice in school? If so, how did that make you feel? When someone rewards you for making a good choice then that is a form of positive discipline. They are reassuring you that you made a good decision.

Focusing on Students’ Behavior Teaches Good Choice Making

The positive discipline approach focuses on the students’ behavior and not who they are as a person. It uses language that gives students the chance to think about their actions. For example, you don’t tell a student they are “Bad,” but you may say that their actions are not a good choice. Children have to make decisions pretty much every minute of the day, and when you use a positive approach, you are allowing that child to have the chance to modify the choices they make so they can feel good about them.

The goal of using the positive discipline approach is to produce students who can think critically and make good decisions on their own. It allows students to learn and adapt from their behaviors in order to meet the expectations of their teacher. By teaching students (in a positive way) to make better choices, we are leading them on the path to success.

Do you use a positive discipline approach in your classroom management techniques? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with this topic in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.