Bill Rogers’ 10 Essential Foundations for Behaviour Management in Children
Dr. Bill Rogers taught for many years before becoming an education consultant and author; he lectures widely on behaviour management, discipline, effective teaching, stress management and teacher welfare across the UK and Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Below, you'll find ten essential foundations that give a taste of the key philosophical positions, practices and skills Bill explores in detail in his books.
1. All behaviour management and discipline operates from shared rights and responsibilities:
The right to feel safe, the right to learn (without undue distractions or disruptions) and the right to fair treatment and basic respect. These rights are naturally challenged by distracting and disruptive behaviours. In managing students, we manage and discipline to protect those rights while holding children responsible for their behaviour. All school rules are based on these rights, all behaviour consequences refer back to these rights.
2. Whenever we discipline children we apply the least-to-most intrusive principle.
Some behaviour will need a brief non-verbal cue, other behaviour will demand a brief descriptive cue. For example, “Shannon and Dean... you’re chatting, it’s whole-class teaching time.” – this to two students chatting while the teacher is teaching. When we give behaviour directions, we focus on the desired behaviour, e.g. “Bilal and Dean... leave the window blinds and face this way. Thanks.” rather than “...don’t fiddle with the window blinds” (which only focuses on what the teacher doesn’t want – see foundation point three).
At other times a clear rule reminder (“our rule” not “my rule”). On other occasions an appropriate choice (“Put the phone off and in your bag or on my table until break time...”). No choices are free, all directional choices refer to the core rights and responsibilities. In situations of repeated disruption, a clear consequential choice or clear command.
3. When using discipline language...
- Avoid "why" questions “Why are you late to class...?” “Why are you calling out...?” ”Why haven’t you started work yet...?”
- Use direct questions (rather than open interrogatives “Why ...?” or “Are you calling out?”). Use “What...?”, “When...?”, “Where...?”, “How...?”
- For example: “What’s our rule for...?” “What should you be doing now...?”
- When giving directions, focus on the "do" part rather than falling back on the easy use (or overuse!) of "don’t." E.g. “Hands up, thanks...” rather than, “Don’t call out...” “Looking this way and listening” (this to two students chatting during whole-class teaching time, compared with “Don’t talk while I’m teaching...”)
- Use directed choices where appropriate, as in “When... then”; e.g. “Yes, you can play on the play table, when you’ve finished your writing and packed up” (this to a five year old).
4. Keep the fundamental respect intact.
Yes, we all have bad days when we’re tired, marking has backed up, it’s Friday... When we are unnecessarily petty, or ‘snappy’ a brief apology is enough. Our children know we’re fallible; we also need to model what we hope to see in them. Of particular note is the characteristic tone of voice we use when we discipline.
5. When using any behaviour consequences they need to be:
Related to the core rights and responsibilities (i);
Related to the disruptive behaviour. We don’t use lines any more, or copying out school rules. If we use writing as a consequences we focus the student’s detention time to restitution:
- “What happened...” (re: your behaviour?)
- “What rule (or right for older students) was affected by your behaviour?”
- “What is your side of things...?” (a right-of-reply question)
- “What can you do to fix things up, make things better?”
- “How can your teacher help?”
- Reasonable and with a fair degree of seriousness. Bullying is much more serious than lateness or homework not done; any behaviour consequence needs to reflect the degree of seriousness regarding the student’s behaviour.
- Always keep the respect intact when carrying through a consequence. The student doesn’t need a lecture at that point; let the degree of seriousness be reflected in the consequence itself.
AND; the fair, known, necessary, respectful certainty of a consequence is more powerful than severity.
6. When giving encouragement, focus on the student’s effort in work or behaviour.
Avoid overly global praise e.g. “Your work is great, brilliant, fantastic...” Encouragement gives feedback to the student, “You’ve used a sharp pencil, and held the protractor carefully to get that angle right...”; “You went out of your way to help clean up...”, “It was considerate when (be specific)..."
Avoid qualifying encouragement with comments prefaced by ‘but’, ‘why’, or ‘if’. E.g. “Why can’t you do that all the time...?” “If only you were careful in your writing ...” “But you should have answered all the questions like that...” Students know when our encouragement is genuine (as do we). Students grow in awareness and confidence through encouragement (just like us...).
7. Always make an effort to repair and rebuild with a student.
We don’t hold grudges; we start each day, each class period afresh. It’s not always easy, however we are the adult. We do not have to like all our students all the time; respect is about how we relate (beyond transitory feelings of like/dislike).
8. We can’t control the sometimes disturbing, difficult and sometime tragic home lives of some of our students.
We can enable a safe, sane secure place, space, and time for them while they are with us at school. We can do this even when we have to discipline.
9. A judicious sense of humour always helps; it helps each other as colleagues and our students appreciate it too.
Humour does not include sarcasm, cheap shots or put downs. We do not tolerate that in our students we don’t model it ourselves. If we are unwittingly petty or sarcastic a brief, well meant apology is enough. Our students know us through our characteristic behaviour.
10. “Bear one another’s burdens...”
Our colleagues are those who have experience skill, wisdom... They are there with us in the day-to-day ... We should make a conscious effort to seek (and give) support in the natural challenges of behaviour management and discipline.