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Developing a Total School Discipline Plan

Discipline Strategies and Solutions

By Gene Bedley

Students can and will make responsible choices when administrators, teachers, and adults implement comprehensive plans for school-wide discipline programs in their schools. All too often one of the major components of a comprehensive discipline plan is neglected—helping students see the correlation between cause and effect and what ultimately strengthens or weakens them. Eight essential components will enable your school to implement a successful discipline program.

1. Develop a clear discipline plan. A total school discipline plan begins with a sound definition of discipline: Training that enables students to make appropriate choices in a climate of warmth and support, always beginning with clear, concise limits, practiced procedures, and numerous options to meet specific temperament types.

A discipline plan should clearly identify who is responsible for what. It should outline administrators' responsibilities, teachers' responsibilities, parents' responsibilities, and students' responsibilities. Have everyone sign the document.

2. Focus your discipline plan on student responsibility rather than identifying various areas where you need control. Help students see that every person deserves what his attitudes produce. Involve students in constructing the list of behaviors that enhance or destroy learning. Use the list that enhances learning to write a class mission statement titled “What We Need from People.” Require students to sign the class mission after they assist in designing it.

3. Be mindful of and use the high correlation between motivation and student behavior. Be an expert in “child currency,” that is, what the child values. What a teacher does before the misbehavior occurs, largely determines whether there will be violations of behavioral standards. Identify from seven major motivators those that contribute the most in promoting a productive learning environment. The seven major motivators are:

Independence - Some children are motivated by having the opportunity to play with a special tub of toys and games. They like doing things on their own. You might want to have a number of items in a “rental tray” that kids can “rent” from you based on accomplishing their behavior goals.

Competition - Kids that are motivated by competition can't wait to see how they're doing in relationship to other class members.

Peer Approval – Many kids will do the right thing to gain a positive response from their peers.

Adult Approval - Many kids love to perform for adults, especially the adults they like.

Mystery disclosures - If you place a highly prized puppet into a paper bag, you'll only have to do it once and the bag will forever be magical and prized as one of the top kid currency.

Food - There's no doubt about it, kids are motivated by all kinds of snack foods. However, because food has allergy implications and dependency issues, be selective about the kinds of food you use in the classroom.

Animals - I discovered one of the most powerful kid currencies was when I introduced kids to a monkey that taught them how to set goals and behave. I have since learned how really powerful and life changing a stuffed animal can be in transforming negative classroom behavior to positive constructive behavior.

4. Avoid an overindulgence in either praise or punishment. Instead, focus on identifying agreements and replacement behaviors that ultimately serve both the student and the teacher.

Be intentional about making and keeping agreements. Make sure your child is able to verbalize the agreement after you have decided on a course of action.

In seeking to find replacement behaviors for children who are out of control, check the things that are contributing toward the frustration/injury that is fostering the lack of control. Building the child's confidence is critical in helping him overcome his unrealistic demands on himself and others.

5. Provide training in ethics for all students and include discussions on how to build an ethical community. Conduct forum sessions discussing ethical actions when faced with various choices. Promote school-wide value themes including themes of respect and responsibility.

6. Implement options for students who learn in different ways allowing for various temperaments and learning types.

7. Institute problem-solving strategies that include fact finding (What happened?), personal responsibility (How are you going to fix it?), and action steps to correct the problem (What would you be willing to do to fix it?).

8. Distinguish between compliance issues (required choices) and those issues that are negotiable (optional solutions and strategies) . Help everyone see that when individuals do not comply with certain expectations, there are little, if any, options other than consequences. At the same time, help students see that most interactions are negotiable within the context of responsible choices.

Gene Bedley is the executive Director of the National Character Education Center (NCEC). NCEC provides Educators with hundreds of solutions and practical strategies through its free online newsletter, Values in Action! The Best in Ethics Education, and a comprehensive character development program, "Values in Action!" Visit NCEC online at

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