Why You Shouldn’t Care If Your Students Misbehave

Smart Classroom Management: Why You Shouldn't Care If Your Students MisbehaveWorld-class archer Kristin Braun practices six hours a day trying to do the impossible.

Standing 230 feet from her target, she takes a deep breath and, while simultaneously lifting her bow into place, draws a steel-tipped carbon arrow.

She peers over her left hand, taking aim by lining up the target’s bulls eye with the tiny pin sight attached to her bow.

Her goal is to place each of six arrows into a 5-inch diameter gold ring in the target’s center.

Physically, the task isn’t difficult. Anyone with reasonable strength can draw Kristin’s bow into shooting position.

Mentally, however, it is another story entirely.

What separates elite archers from everyone else is their ability to care without caring. Put another way, Kristin must care enough about her sport to dedicate thousands of hours of practice time, but then not give a rip about the results.

The reason is because frustration and discouragement over a bad shot can interfere with one’s ability to focus on the next one, and the one after that, which renders success a near impossibility.

To Care Without Caring

In this one important way, classroom management is like target archery. To be most effective in the classroom, you have to care about your students’ behavior… without caring.

Let me explain.

There is no doubt that you care about your students and want to see them succeed. This is good. But if it bothers you when they misbehave, if it gets under your skin, it will negatively affect your classroom management effectiveness.

Consider this common thought process:

Oh no! Karla is out of her seat again. I’m so sick of her disrupting my classroom (sigh). She is driving me crazy! Maybe I should just let it go this time. If I ignore her, maybe it will stop. No, I’m not going to let her do this to me. I don’t care if I have to interrupt the lesson again. I’m not going to take it anymore. I’m in charge of this classroom, and I’m not going to let her control it!

“Karla! Meet me outside the door right now!”

Is this you? Do ever you think like this when a student misbehaves?

This frame of mind—taking behavior personally, letting it affect you emotionally—will sabotage your ability to build relationships with your students and make classroom management infinitely more difficult.

A Better Way Of Thinking

So Karla broke a rule.

So what? It’s not your issue. Other than enforcing a consequence, it has little to do with you. You didn’t break a rule, so why should you be burdened by it? Karla made the choice to venture beyond your classroom boundaries, so she alone must accept the consequences for doing so.

You are not responsible for the choices your students make.

Every time a student breaks a rule, one way or another, someone pays. Either you dispassionately enforce a consequence and the student pays. Or you pay in the form of stress, frustration, and disappointment and more frequent and severe behavior from your students.

Far too many teachers—and parents—lighten the responsibility on kids and take it upon themselves. They end up discouraged and angry, and the students are running around without a care in the world.

Not only is this unfair to you, but it’s bad for them.

By enforcing a consequence for every rule violation, you’re helping your students understand the cost of their actions. And by not “caring”, you can do this without causing resentment—in you or in your students—allowing you to build influential relationships with them.

So the next time a student breaks a rule, enforce whatever consequence your classroom management plan calls for, and then move on without giving it a second thought.

If you’re not already a member of Smart Classroom Management, I invite you to join us. It’s free! Click here and start receiving classroom management tips and strategies in your email box every week.

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16 Responses to Why You Shouldn’t Care If Your Students Misbehave

  1. Janet December 26, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    This was so MEANT for me! Thank you, thank you!! I am the teacher who takes it personally, but learning to change that. I love this blog and I bought your book. Happy Holidays.

    • Michael Linsin December 27, 2009 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks Janet! I appreciate your comment.

  2. Muniba December 30, 2009 at 8:36 pm #

    Thank you – these articles are very helpful! I agree that enforcing a consequence for every violation is important, but what are some simple and effective consequences that teachers use?

    • Michael Linsin December 31, 2009 at 8:57 am #

      Hi Muniba,

      The simplest and most effective consequence by a long shot is separating the offending student from the rest of the class. But time-out only works well when you have leverage. The student must feel as if he or she is missing something. Much of the book Dream Class is devoted to creating leverage in your classroom, whereby making everything a whole lot easier. I encourage you to read it. Also, check out the article 10 Ways To Make Time-Out More Effective.

      Thanks for your question,


  3. TF February 16, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    What do you do when the classs misbehaves with other teachers? In class, they are under control. My classroom management skills are effective. But, anytime the students go elsewhere (Lunch, PE, Art, Music, etc.), I get complaints from who ever they were with. I am tired of hearing the complaints and I am tired of having to punish them for something that they did not do with me. Any suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin February 16, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

      The teachers your students visit outside of your classroom should handle the problems themselves with their own consequences–no doubt about it. It shouldn’t have to concern you. But as you know, this isn’t always (or even usually) the case–which means the problems are dumped in your lap.

      Here’s how I feel about this: you can’t make other teachers you work with do their job or become better at their job. But what you can do is see it as an opportunity to extend your influence beyond the walls of your classroom. Your students need to know that you are their teacher all of the time, not just when they are sitting in class. Regardless of what the prep time or lunch duty teachers do in response to misbehavior, your students should still answer to you. Otherwise the problems will continue.

      If your students misbehave when you’re not around, they need to know that there will be a consequence from you (whether individually or as a group). Because you already have good classroom management skills, this shouldn’t be more work or hassle for you. Extending your influence will only make you a better and more effective teacher. Personally, I don’t care how or whether other teachers handle behavior with my students. I see it as my responsibility that they behave.


  4. Sue July 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    I am looking for a good classroom management system for an activities class at the secondary level. What tips do you have for me?

    • Michael Linsin July 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

      Hi Sue,

      Take a look around the site. There are well over 100 articles that should help. I recommend starting in the Classroom Management Plan and Rules & Consequences categories in our archive and then going from there. If you then have specific questions, email me. I’m happy to help!


  5. Jessica September 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I love this article! Random question, do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? I am just curious 🙂 Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin September 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

      Hi Jessica,

      Glad you like the article! No idea on your question.


  6. Stephanie March 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Hi Michael, I can see this is an article from last year, but was wondering about how to make my class answerable to me if the specialist teacher is not choosing to handle a problem while they have my class. Do you take a different approach, or follow your time out/ letter home consequence? Thanks.

    • Michael Linsin March 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi Stephanie,

      Your class is always your class and your influence should extend beyond the four walls of your classroom. So, yes, you can absolutely follow your plan even when they are with another teacher. The fact is, though, the better your classroom management skills are in your classroom, the better behaved your students will be on the playground, at lunch, music, or anywhere else.


  7. Amy January 25, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    I’m am just coming across this website and have found some of the advice helpful, but I am one of the “prep time” teachers. As a result of not being respected as a full time educator with curriculum and goals to meet, often specialized educators are overlooked by fellow classroom educators. Students tend to view resource classes as their Free Time, and often this creates a complicated dillemma for the resource teacher. I have had students tell me, “My teacher won’t let me go to the bathroom until specials.” Aside from that, my question for you is, What would you recommend for a teacher that teaches 700 students a week, in 35 blocks seeing each child once a week for 50 minutes. Many of these strategies are regular classroom centric and I have scoured the internet, book stores, and various other resources for anything specific to my specialized situation. For the record, it ain’t easy giving everyone prep time.

    • Michael Linsin January 26, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Amy,

      I’ve written a couple articles on this topic for the Art Of Education website. You should be able to find them in their classroom management section.


  8. Aida July 8, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Line up Strategies. How can kinders line up quietly? thanks,
    your articles are really helpful. Where can I buy your book?

    • Michael Linsin July 9, 2013 at 6:34 am #

      Hi Aida,

      Please look through the Routines & Procedures category of the archive (top right-hand menu bar). You should find what you’re looking for there. Both books are available through Amazon.com.


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