12 Classroom Discipline Tricks That Will Work at Home

Imagine multiplying your child by 20. Then, you have to stay in a small confined space with all 21 kids. And, you have to teach those kids how to add and subtract and read and write.

Elementary school teachers manage to do all that every day, year after year. They keep order, manage behavior problems, and promote learning while somehow finding time to give each child individual attention.

Adopting some of the same discipline tricks elementary school teachers use could help improve your children’s behavior at home. Here are 12 classroom discipline strategies that work at home too.

1
Post a List of Written Rules

Elementary school teachers know how to help kids manage their behavior.
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Many of the best elementary school teachers create posters that outline their classroom rules. Then, kids know their teacher expects them to, “Use an inside voice,” and, “Raise your hand before talking.”

Create a list of household rules and hang them on a wall in your home to remind your children of the most important rules they need to follow. Similar to a teacher’s list of rules, make your rules simple.

Restrict your list to the top five or six most important rules. If your list is too long, your children may grow overwhelmed.

Word your rules in the positive whenever possible. Instead of saying, “Don’t take anyone else’s stuff,” say, “Ask for permission before touching anyone else’s belongings.”

2
Explain Your Expectations Ahead of Time

Teachers explain their expectations before kids enter into new situations. You might hear a teacher say, “You are going to have a substitute teacher this afternoon. I expect you all to follow the rules.”

Or, before a guest speaker enters the classroom, the teacher might say, “I expect you all to listen carefully to our guest and raise your hand before you ask a question.”

Your children won’t know how to behave in new situations unless you explain what is socially appropriate. Your child won’t inherently know he can cheer at a soccer game but should remain quiet at a ballet recital. So, before you enter into new situations, spend a few minutes explaining the rules.

3
Create Structure and Be Consistent

Ask your child, “What happens after lunch?” and you’ll likely hear, “After lunch we have recess. Then, we have math.” Elementary teachers maintain a fairly consistent schedule each day because they know structure helps kids manage their emotions and their behavior better.

Create structure in your home by giving your child a regular schedule. Set aside time for homework, chores, dinner, and bath. Although you might not be able to keep the routine as consistent as his teacher can, creating structure will help your child manage his behavior better.

4
Whisper When You Need to Get Your Child's Attention

When the classroom is noisy, an experienced teacher doesn’t yell—she whispers. Yelling only adds to the noise and the chaos and the teacher’s voice blends in. But, when a teacher whispers, students stop talking so they can hear what she’s saying.

If your children are squabbling at dinner, or they’re arguing over who gets to go first, lower your voice. You might find it’s a much more effective attention-getter.

5
Use Non-Verbal Cues

Remember when your teacher used to shut off the lights to get everyone’s attention? The sudden change in light was a fast way for the teacher to get everyone to stop talking without saying a word.

Look for opportunities to use non-verbal cues to address behavior problems. If your children are arguing in the backseat of the car, turn down the radio. Or, try shutting off the light in their bedroom when they’re getting too loud.

6
Problem-Solve Together

The best teachers invite children into the problem-solving process. Rather than assume they know what the problem is, they ask kids for input into how to resolve the situation.

A teacher may sit a student down and say, “For the last three days in a row you’ve been having trouble getting along with the other kids at recess. What do you think we can do to make sure you don’t have any problems with the other kids today?”

Kids are usually willing to do their part when they’re able to be part of the solution. When you notice a specific pattern of misbehavior, or times when your child seems to be struggling, point it out in a matter of fact way. Then, see if your child can offer some helpful solutions.

7
Adjust the Environment

When a student is easily distracted, a good teacher doesn’t simply say, “Pay attention,” over and over again. Instead, the teacher modifies the environment to make it easier for the student to concentrate. Placing a student near the front of the classroom or near the teacher’s desk could be instrumental in helping the student stay on task.

Think about the steps you can take to set your children up for success. If they struggle to get along when they get home from school, assign them chores in opposite rooms. Or, if they fight over a specific toy, remove the toy from both of them.

Changing your children's behavior shouldn't always be about expecting them to change. Sometimes, a few simple changes to the environment can prevent behavior problems before they start.

8
Offer Opportunities for Do-Overs

Rather than simply scolding a child by saying, “Don’t run in the hallway!” a seasoned teacher will make the child go back and try it over again. By returning to the classroom and walking down the hallway again, he’ll learn running actually slows him down. He’ll also practice the good behavior.

If your child impulsively grabs something out of your hand, take it back and ask, “If you wanted to see that, what could you do instead of grabbing it out of my hand?” Then, have him practice asking for the object nicely. By practicing the desired behavior your child learns how to do it better next time.

9
Monitor Behavior and Give Feedback Often

The best elementary school teachers don’t stay at their desks while the kids are working and they don’t stand next to the building when the kids are playing at recess. They walk around monitoring kids’ activities. They offer feedback, answer questions, and give guidance.

While you don’t want to hover over your children, monitoring their activities can be one of the best ways to keep them on track. If your children know you’re going to periodically peer over their shoulders when they’re surfing the internet, or you’re likely to go outside to check on them at any minute, they’ll be less likely to get into trouble.

10
Use Rewards to Motivate Your Child

When certain children have difficulty in the classroom, teachers implement reward systems. The teacher may document a child’s behavior throughout the day in a kid-friendly manner—such as a sticker chart. If the student exhibits enough good behavior, he may be able to earn a privilege, such as picking a prize from a treasure chest or having a few extra minutes of free time.

Sometimes, teachers use incentives on a class-wide basis. If all the students behave well for a substitute teacher, the whole class might earn a chance to play a game together. A little healthy competition can encourage students to help one another to do their best.

Identify a specific behavior you want to target with your child. Create a reward chart or establish a token economy system. Then, let him earn tangible rewards, like extra time to play on the computer or a chance to go to the park.

11
Create a Plan for Behavior Problems

When the usual discipline strategies aren’t working, the best elementary school teachers develop a careful plan that will help them approach the behavior in a new way. They may meet with the parents, guidance counselor, and other school staff to gather ideas and identify the best interventions.

If your discipline strategies aren’t changing your children’s behavior, try something new. But don’t just start trying anything. Craft a plan that will help you target the problem.

When you have a plan in place, and you apply your discipline consistently, you’ll be able to see if it’s working. And you’ll be able to make changes to your plan in a way that will increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to help your child.

If you’re feeling stuck, brainstorm discipline ideas with other adults. Talk to your child’s doctor, guidance counselor, or other caregivers. Working together as a team could be the key to reducing behavior problems.

12
Catch a Child Being Good

Managing a classroom of 20 or more students can be difficult. And often, all the students are vying for the teacher’s attention.

A skilled teacher knows giving attention for good behavior is the best way to encourage all the students to behave. Instead of pointing out all the students who are talking, the teacher might say, “I like the way Jasmine is sitting so quietly right now. Zachary, you’re doing a great job being quiet too!”

When your children are acting out, don’t give all of your attention to the misbehavior. Attention—even when it’s negative—can encourage behavior to continue.

So rather than say, “Quit playing with your fork,” turn to your other child and say, “I really like the table manners you are using right now.” Praising one child for being good might inspire the other one to follow suit.

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