Why You Should Never Give Choices Instead Of Consequences

Why You Should Never Give Options Instead Of ConsequencesHere at Smart Classroom Management we hear from teachers and administrators from all four corners of the globe.

And one of the more perplexing trends in classroom management is to give students choices instead of consequences.

For example:

Let’s say a student named Jason is up and walking about your room while the rest of the class is working independently.

He’s tapping his pencil on various objects. He’s shuffling his feet.

And although capable, he’s grumbling under his breath that he doesn’t want to do his work anymore.

But instead of simply giving him a warning for breaking a class rule, you negotiate with him.

You try to coax him away from disturbing others by giving him options to choose from.

Hey Jase, do you want to do just a few problems instead of all of them?”

How ’bout if you did your work on the rug? Would you like that?”

Would you prefer to draw a picture instead of writing it out?”

Why don’t you take a little break and work on your iPad?”

What about taking a walk down the hall, and getting away for a few minutes?”

Do you want to be my helper, and do your work another time?”

You get the picture. The idea is to remove the source of his discontentment, to entice him with alternatives so that he will no longer engage in unwanted behavior.

And as long as you’re willing to go far enough (“Hey, do you want to sit in my chair?”), the strategy will work. It will indeed stop him from disrupting the class. No doubt about it.

So what’s not to like?

Well, as poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote so beautifully, “Let me count the ways.”

1. When you appease difficult students by lowering academic or behavioral standards, you send an unmistakable message that they can complain, disrupt, and misbehave their way out of anything they deem unpleasant.

2. Offering choices rewards bad behavior, defiance, selfishness and the like, thus encouraging more frequent and more severe misbehavior. Unless, that is, you continue lowering the bar and sweetening the choices.

3. By giving in so readily, even voluntarily, you’re essentially telling them that you believe they’re incapable of changing their behavior. This is a form of labeling, and it is devastating to difficult students.

4. It’s confirmation from an authoritative source that misbehavior isn’t just something they do, but it’s who they are, like eye color or shoe size, and something they have little control over. Unless this label is reversed, they will continue to misbehave year after year.

5. It’s a philosophy that believes that an upset or uncomfortable child is to be avoided at all costs, which not only doesn’t reflect the world we live in, but it makes a mockery of the critical role of perseverance and hard work in academic as well as personal success.

6. Offering choices assuages misbehavior in the moment, but does nothing to curb it going forward. In other words, it’s a band-aid that sacrifices the child’s future for the here and now.

7. When you excuse, enable, and offer escape routes, you set limits on students and their capacity to rise above challenges and overcome difficulties. You lead them away from success, not toward it.

8. Letting students off the hook is akin to telling them they’re not good enough or worthy enough to be held to a higher standard, which strips away dignity and self-confidence faster and more effectively than yelling, sarcasm, or any other harmful method.

9. Going back on your word by failing to follow the rules of your classroom causes resentment and distrust from all students and severely limits your ability to lead and build meaningful, influential relationships.

10. Baiting students with more attractive choices creates an environment of entitlement and causes them to react to firm direction and accountability with aggressive push-back.

Yes, They Can

It is possible to temporarily placate difficult students into better behavior.

But the cost is their very future.

It’s a shameful strategy that hands leverage and control over to students who frankly don’t know what’s best for them. Our job is to teach our students how to overcome obstacles, not avoid them with excuses and manipulation.

When you offer choices in exchange for not disrupting the class, when you lighten the workload and remove responsibility, you are in every sense giving up on them. You are in every sense telling them that they’re not worth holding accountable.

As a result, they come to believe that they’re weak-minded and incapable of improvement, incapable of sitting, listening, and learning, and incapable of being anything other than the court jester your words and actions suggest.

It’s tragic and demeaning and so, so sad.

The truth is, no matter how difficult a student’s home life, no matter how tough they have it, or how emotional and angry they can get when things don’t go their way, you do them no favors by letting them off the hook.

You do them no favors by giving in, making excuses, or offering a bunny hill when the rest of the class is testing themselves on K2.

So what’s the alternative?

You follow your classroom management plan. You let accountability and your undying belief in them do their good work.

You let the hard lessons that are part of every well-lived life embolden them to become better, more resilient, and more capable than they themselves ever thought possible.

In other words, instead of offering choices and telling them they can’t, give them consequences . . .

And tell them they can.

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67 Responses to Why You Should Never Give Choices Instead Of Consequences

  1. Aimee February 7, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    I have been using your techniques since September. Overall, it’s been extremely effective. Thank you!

    I am a substitute for Computer Lab and Library, so I can have about 10 classes a day. Once they understand my rules, class time is ideal. Of course, I have to start over with each school each class each time, unless I get a repeat school.

    Out of 10-11 classes (200+/- students), I will have 1 student that is so out of control (talking out, making noises) that I can’t maintain authority for 10-15 minutes. I know the consequences are warning, time-out, letter home. What can I do for a third consequence since I am not a classroom teacher? Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin February 7, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

      Hi Aimee,

      That’s a big question that we don’t have the time or space for here. However, you can find the answer and a lot more in the book, Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers. Don’t let the title fool you. The book was written for all specialist teachers, including yourself. 🙂


    • Alana June 21, 2016 at 12:02 am #

      There is a big difference between “negotiating” with a child, bribing, or changing the demand and offering choices. It’s important that the distinction is clear! I work with students with special needs who often escalate with consequences delivered to the student while misbehaving (I.e. If they know they’ve lost something, then they’ll continue to engage in the behavior – maybe even at a higher intensity). The choices you deliver to a student might be choices about how they’re going to get back to their seat, or if they need a break before re-engaging with the demand, etc. However, all of that being said, the function of a student’s behavior because that will always give you greater insight on how to wisely respond! I do respect your message of setting high expectations for students:)

  2. Leigh February 7, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    Thank you for this article, Michael! I am a substitute teacher looking for a full time job. I’ve subbed at many different schools around the area. Some schools are adopting discipline policies about giving kids choices rather than enforcing consequences. I disagree with giving choices because you’re right. Students will continue to be disruptive if they are not given a consequence. Thank you for writing this!

  3. Nancy Broyles February 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

    What if a child has an IEP that requires you to offer those choices rather than discipline the student?

    • Michael Linsin February 7, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

      Hi Nancy,

      You should always honor the IEP, absolutely.


      • Karol May 17, 2016 at 8:36 pm #

        Perhaps we should stop putting such things in an IEP. Aren’t we saying the same thing, they cannot rise to the occasion? I do all this constant cajoling now and it never ends. There is no good enough for this student. Always appeasing him. I have created a monster in my opinion, instead of someone who needs a dose of reality. It’s rampant in the SPED world.

    • Lisa Atwood March 24, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

      I work as a speech therapist in the schools and just wanted to say that when IEPS are written with the provision of choices, what we are usually referring to is saying something like “Would you like to do the questions from front to back or back to front?” Both choices should always be a desired behavior. We don’t want to give the child an “out”, but provide them a small sense of control over what they are doing.

      • Sharon Shaw April 14, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

        Thank you Lisa! It’s not giving choices that is the problem, it what the teacher outlines for choices that can cause a problem. For example, if you give the choices of sitting down to the task or missing some recess time to make up for the lost on task time, you are giving a choice but it also outlines the consequence.

      • Anne May 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

        I teach twelve students in a self-contained multi-categorical classroom with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities. All my students are on IEP’s and I do offer choices, however, my choices do not reduce the workload or expectations. My most frequent choice is “Do it now or do it during recess, work at your desk or work at the table, sit down and do the work or stand up and do the work, start with the addition page or subtraction page, either way, you have to do both.” Other staff and teachers frequently comment on how well behaved my students are, in my classroom and throughout the building.

        • Karol May 17, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

          I need to do this.

  4. Vince February 7, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    Multiply Jase by 8 (average) class size 38, friends all participants. 6 attempting to listen to lesson or participate in any way. Average day in most core classes & some electives. Teacher having to ignor the disruption and just deliver lesson over noise. Only way to get any removed is to sit down and input referral prior to sending out. Most of time back in under 5 minutes. Calls to parents have kids deniing all, blaming teacher, or in some cases cusing out parent at top of lungs while friends laugh. I’m inclusion teacher. Never see it end. Seen 4 with teacher of year award leave without completing contracts. All manner of classroom management books have been corporately implemented by principals lasting 1 year on average. Teachers 2. Your suggestions?

    • Michael Linsin February 7, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

      Hi Vince,

      We believe strongly that the approach offered here at Smart Classroom Management can transform your school no matter how bad things have gotten. I recommend spending time in our archive, checking out our books, and/or signing up for personal coaching.


  5. Suzi February 7, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

    My choices that I give are different from what the article mentioned…I give a student in my class a choice to do her work now or later at a less desirable time like during developmental centers…she could choose to do it later, but she usually does not and if she does, that was her choice and she has to live with the consequence of not getting as much time to do the things that they all love to do.

    • Buffy May 16, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

      I give choices. You can do your work now or during recess…you decide.

  6. Christine Foley February 7, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

    After raising 4 children and teaching for…a long time, I disagree with these methods. The same children will always receive the warnings/consequences and will come to expect their yellow card or time out. It doesn’t work. Criticize privately, notice positive behaviors publically. Choices work but have to be offered WAY better than described in the article.

    • Adrian D June 5, 2016 at 11:25 am #

      Can you elaborate on your better methods. Thank you

  7. Mark Maya February 10, 2015 at 6:56 am #

    You use words like “entice”, “coax” and “negotiate”. These words are the opposite of choice.

    Wondering if you’ve read “Love and Logic”?

    • Michael Linsin February 10, 2015 at 7:19 am #

      Hi Mark,

      The article refers to a specific type of choice involving a lowering of standards that is currently and rapidly gaining in popularity. The type you’re referring to I hope to tackle in a future article.


  8. Lynn Mode February 10, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    Hallelujah!!!! Somebody gets it!!! FINALLY….

  9. Greg February 15, 2015 at 12:08 am #

    Thanks again, Michael, for another great article! If I may humbly offer advice to your readers; ” Use these concepts!” Many classroom management books are written by people who have never taught children. Some authors( that have been mentioned by other readers) are college professors, whose ideas are great (in theory). By contrast, Michael IS a classroom teacher and he writes for us, who are on the classroom, not the university. I am currently reading “Classroom Management for Art and P.E. Teachers”. Even though I am a self- contained teacher, it is fantastic and highly recommended. ” Dream Class” is indespensible.

    • Michael Linsin February 15, 2015 at 8:09 am #

      Thank you, Greg. I appreciate your kind words.


  10. Mrs. Anna Nichols February 20, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    I second Greg’s comments – Michael is a gifted educator and understands how to manage kids. Period. There is a book by Doug Lemov called, Teach Like a Champion, where the author describes a concept called “Warm-Strict.” This fits with Michael’s philosophy beautifully:
    Mr. Lemov states;
    “We’re socialized to believe that warmth and strictness are opposites: if you’re more of one, it means being less of the other. I don’t know where this false conception comes from, but if you choose to believe in it, it will undercut your teaching. When you are clear, consistent, firm, and unrelenting and at the same time positive, enthusiastic, caring, and thoughtful, you start to send the message to students that having high expectations is part of caring for and respecting someone. This is a very powerful message. Not only should you seek to be both (warm and strict), you should often seek to be both at exactly the same time.”

    Mrs. Anna Nichols
    Visual Art Instructor, grades 6, 7, 8
    founder, editor, MANAGING THE ART CLASSROOM

  11. Stephanie September 10, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    I teach in a title one school that is 95% minorities. The district has been told by the state during an audit that there are too many African Americans who are suspended or put in in school suspension; therefore, students sre given unlimited chances. We are told to use/teach champs (expectations) and follow a campus discipline management plan (5-6 steps, warning, conference with student, calling parent, go to counselor, parent teacher conference and then referral). Often times students still don’t receive consequences after a referral is written.
    What am I supposed to do then? Let students disrupt the learning environment? Oh, I can’t put them in the hall either.

    • Michael Linsin September 11, 2015 at 6:56 am #

      Hi Stephanie,

      At SCM we believe in following a classroom management plan exactly how it’s written. We also believe in building influential relationships and taking care of all misbehavior in class (w/ the notable exception of fighting or dangerous behavior which must be documented by an administrator). For how and why we believe in these principles and how they can and will be predictably effective if you follow our guidelines, please consult our books or keep reading through the archive.


  12. Richard Lyon November 11, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    I actually do believe in giving choices. But in the situation above, my student’s choices would be limited to 1) You can choose to sit quietly in your seat and not cause a problem for anyone else or 2) You can sit down and participate in the lesson. By giving her this kind of choice, I’m trying to tell my student that learning in my class is ultimately up to her. At the same time, I’m sending the message that I have a responsibility to maintain a classroom environment where those who choose to engage are free to make that choice without distraction. Of course, a great deal depends on how sincerely I offer her the choice. If she does choose to do nothing, I can check in later to see what is going on, without disrupting my class.

    Ultimately students do have choices. We can never make them behave or make them learn or make them do anything. Giving them a choice that I am okay with hopefully puts the emphasis on me trying to keep my classroom a productive place to be, rather than make the student feel that I am imposing my will upon her.

    Thanks for this website. It’s wonderful.

    • Michael Linsin November 11, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

      You’re welcome, Richard. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  13. Cheryl November 25, 2015 at 7:15 am #

    In the comment section I see you make a reference about addressing the concept behind Love & Logic in a separate article and I am relieved to know that. So, I’m only responding to the information in THIS article.

    Respectfully, I disagree with a lot of points made because I feel add if they may be misinterpreted (specifically regarding students with challenging behaviors due to an IEP) . I am a learning specialist for students with special needs so I understand I have a different viewpoint.

    Giving choices builds up the opportunity to make, for lack of a better word demands. In some cases, it just doesn’t matter what the child uses to me, because *I* picked them and they are (often) inconsequential. For example, if they want to use a big pencil or a small pencil, write on the floor with a clipboard or sit at the table, sit at the round table or carpet square, etc. Giving choices avoids unnecessary power struggles and, in my case, prevents a lot of potential behaviors and often lessens an emotional crisis (what most classroom teachers call a “meltdown”). I only ever give my students, and suggested classroom teachers, they only offer two choices that the teacher is completely fine with that I’m doing.

    Prior to being a teacher, I worked in the business community for several years. My boss never told me which seat I had to sit in or what type of writing instrument I needed to use in a meeting. I never once threw a chair across the room or decided I wasn’t going to actively be engaged in the meeting. However, there were certain expectations that were required that I complied with and never questioned. Mostly, because they were clearly explained to me when I began working there and the reason behind them.

    First, it’s imperative to know that bALL behavior is communication…as educators, we need to know our students well enough to understand – or at least investigate – the function of the behavior. I also give logical consequences (positive and negative) with a discussion as to why it was given. My classroom is one of the most efficiently run and respected environments in our building – and the majority of my students have emotional or language deficit disabilities which can cause some serious, and unpleasant, behaviors. (I’ve spent my fair share of time in urgent care; not one of those visits were a result of offering a student choices.) Ultimately, all of my students know that I make the final decisions. However, we begin the year knowing we are a community of learners and everyone has the right to be heard and respected and I will always consider reasonable requests. We spend a lot of time going over routines rituals and expectations the first week of school and we continue discussions throughout the year.

    I very much appreciate you informing people who have asked about the question regarding choices and an IEP. Absolutely, they have to follow it and it concerns me that question was even asked. I’m not sure if all classroom teachers understand that it is a legal document which, as a result, has ended a lot of teachers and districts and some pretty awful lawsuits because accommodations and modifications were not followed. To be clear to anyone else who’s reading my comment you do not have a choice to disregard the IEP, unless you are wanting potential legal recourse.

    Hopefully, classroom teachers reading this are realizing that choices are only offered with reflective thought and proactive planning to promote compliance. Choices can be a successful proactive behavior management tool when used as intended. The teachers that use the “my room, my rules” mentality without ever given choices, are the ones that are must often calling for administrative assistance or special education guidance.

    Thank you.

    • Kate March 23, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

      Thank you for this comment! I agree with all of the concerns you presented and was thinking of exactly what you wrote when I read the article. I’m an SLP and I too know the challenges of working with students with a variety of disabilities who do require choices in order to be successful. I love that you brought up the choices both being something you’re ok with. I love this model and use it all the time- the kids feel like they have control and we are working either way!

      I also agree with your statement about the “my classroom, my rules” mentality and it really goes beyond that too. “My house, my rules” is something I hear parents tell their kids all the time and I always cringe because my reflex response when I hear it is to be defensive. If you think about how kids learn best, putting them in fight or flight mode is the opposite of what you want to be doing. Building relationships and having kids understand that learning is a safe space has shown remarkable results in my experience.

      This is way longer than I intended but I agreed more with your comment than with many things stated in the post and I wanted to say “thank you”! I may use this post and your comment tomorrow at work to discuss how we can better serve some of our families. 🙂

  14. Yvette November 28, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    Thanks for such a great article and reminder for many! Unfortunately, my principal has been offering up choices for disruptive students and has enlisted her 3 vice principals into the insanity and all it has caused is mass chaos in a school I have LOVED for over a decade! Students hit, bite, punch, and drop F-bombs on a daily basis in our PreK-5 school. It sickens me and after having a real heart to heart conversation with the principal to try to problem-solve and share my concerns, she has stuck to her guns… All to the detriment of students and their futures. Teachers are viewed as the “bad guys” and now MORE students want to disrupt and get sent to the office as a “punishment”. And by punishment, I mean a talking to followed by a reward of a Jolly Rancher, Doritos, gum, game time on an administrator’s cell phone, etc.
    Your article was written just for my principal! Maybe she will find a copy of it in her mailbox soon….

    • Michael Linsin November 28, 2015 at 8:23 am #

      Hi Yvette,

      Thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, your story isn’t unusual. More and more schools are becoming exactly as you describe.


  15. Christi November 29, 2015 at 5:43 am #

    I’ve got a few issues with this article. First, saying never give choices in place of consequences is silly. I read the choice examples and those were very poor examples. I’ve not ever worked with a general education teacher that gave these low expectation choices. Those are just silly. As a special education teacher that has and does work with difficult children, I truly believe and often use controlled choices. An example would be, “Would you like to do your work at your desk or on the floor?” The expectation of work never changed, just the location of the work. Student needs vary from child to child and sometimes controlled choices can avert an episode from a child with behavioral challenges.

  16. Melissa Adams December 2, 2015 at 8:52 am #

    I always give my students 2 choices when they are misbehaving/disrupting. The 2 choices consist of the expected behavior and the negative consequence for the misbehavior. For example, “Johnny, you can either sit in your seat quietly, or you can go to in school detention.” I have had a few students choose the negative consequence. But, that is their choice. Usually, they make the good choice and behavior improves. I feel this puts the behaviors and consequences in the hands of the students.

  17. Kate December 5, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    Choices should be given with a means to accomplish the overall goal not time to avoid a situation. If the goal is to write then why does it matter how or with what utensil. If the goal is to use a pencil then give the choice of type of pencil. Choice does not take away from control but it allows students to feel valued and become accomplished. It also avoids power struggles which the student almost always wins. The examples given in this article are not choices. Those things are said with ignorance or fear. In order to have a successful classroom you but be clear with your expectations and give choices that supports the goal.

  18. Matt December 11, 2015 at 5:55 am #

    There is a significant difference between negotiation and giving choices. Giving choices is a basic, yet effective behavioral tool. On a side note, research and experience continually show that a behavioral management system thaf focuses, or relys on, “consequences”, is not effective.

  19. Jennifer Lages December 13, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

    Your approach works for normally developed and functioning students.
    However, please don’t discredit the progress made through appropriate, safe choices to students who have experienced developmental trauma. Their struggle is real and they are not capable of the level of sophistication required to manipulate such choices that normally functioning students can.

    • Jay July 18, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

      For kids with developmental trauma, my experience is the opposite. They are *more* sophisticated than many at manipulating others to their will. To operate with the thinking that ‘they are not capable’, runs counter to the very points this article illustrates, and there wouldn’t be any rationale to expect otherwise from them.

  20. Louise December 19, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

    Working in class of 6 year olds with a collection of boys with EBD especially one extremely disruptive child with attachement disorder, I’ve had a kind of breakthrough lately after a very stressful and trying time since September and that had come from offering choices. Specifically offering choice I want, a strategy that worked with my own toddler children and seems to work with the emotionally immature children. An example, my disruptive boy can have meltdowns over small issues so I have to be proactive and head things off, so when he’s off task/not listening/shouting out/arguing I simply say “Either you stop talking or leave the class ( time out) I don’t care which, you make your choice” and then I walk away and leave him to it. either way the disruption ends and we get on, he very rarely choses a time out and usually quits his behaviour. I always thank him for his choice BUT I don’t get into an argument or a stand off with him as it whips up into something aggressive, destructive and frightening very quickly. He believes he has a choice but I get to modify his behaviour without confrontation, whereas using our schools behaviour policy with consequences has been counter productive. It’s taken trial and error to find this out and there have been a lot of tears and stress to get to this point, my only concern is now we are on Christmas break and I might have to start all over again in the New Year!

  21. Cynthia December 27, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    I am interested in consequences that actually work to change behavior. In public schools, we do not have options that are effective. I teach elementary school, so “sitting on the wall at recess” for a specified number of minutes depending on how many times your card was turned, or missing recess altogether and spending it in the office or some other teacher’s classroom never changes behavior. The same kids are always on the wall watching their friends play, or in some other location sitting it out. We also try as grade level teams to remove a child to another teammates classroom, with work to do, for a specified amount of time, and that is great if you really need the child out of your classroom. But it doesn’t change behavior, and then they miss important instruction or work in their own classroom. This also can show a child that you (the teacher) can’t really handle them which is not a good option either. I would love ideas for consequences are highly effective.

    • Michael Linsin December 28, 2015 at 9:03 am #

      Hi Cynthia,

      Please check out the Classroom Management Plan and Rules & Consequences categories of the archive (bottom right sidebar). You’ll find what you’re looking for there.


  22. Michelle December 28, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Hi there.
    I am a SPED teacher and I also train teachers, aides, administrators, etc in NCI (non-violent crisis intervention ) we teach to offer choices but in such a way that it does provide a consequence, such as “you can do your math now or during recess” and always offering your preferred choice first.

  23. M. Fsoter December 28, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Whatever method you choose for discipline will only work after you have developed a warm relationship with that child. Although I see the author making some distinctions in in the comment area, the article itself makes it sound like every child is treated in exactly the same way. I disagree whole-heartedly. Some children come to school with good impulse control , ready to learn, good coping strategies, and good social skills. Some lack one, two, or all of these. I need to treat them differently. I have children begin with an assortment of reading levels and although I have the same end goal for each child, grade-level reading or above by the end of the year, I certainly don’t teach them all the same way. Last year I had a second grader with serious anger and impulse control issues. The year before in first grade he had been suspended a total of 11 days. His reading was at a Kindergarten level. My main goal for him was to keep him in school and in class for as much time as possible. I explained to the class, while he was not there, that just as they might struggle with reading or math, he struggled with controlling his temper and we were going to work together to support him with that. I did not confront him over issues where I knew I would not win. When I asked everyone to come to the carpet, he stayed at his seat and listened from there. He was daring me to try to make him and by not making him I was the one in control. When he refused work I always quietly gave him the choice of doing it at the time or during recess. After the first time, and always with great disgust, he would choose to do the work at the moment. As the year went on, he participated more, made friends, and gained 9 levels in reading so that he was on grade level by the end of the year. This relieved a lot of his frustration. I had great support from the special ed. teacher. We finally narrowed his academic problems to one area: writing. By the end of the year he was on grade level in reading and math. He was suspended for only one day during the year. He’s in third grade now and although he sometimes still challenges the teacher, he is doing well. Social skills and classroom behavior are things to be taught, not just demanded.

  24. Pat January 30, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

    I have a lot of experience with disruptive students and use a classroom management system that is very direct, with clear expectations spelled out. Due to my husband’s job relocation, I have started teaching in a fourth grade inclusion classroom half way through the year. The school philosophy is to deal with 99% of the behavior issues in the classroom and they offer no consequences. The teacher I took over for ran a very relaxed classroom and allowed a lot of talking and walking around. The kids ran the room essentially. It has been very difficult to come in and implement my style. My math and ELA block are taught as guided groups, so I allow a lot of movement, but they have been allowed to be out of control for a semester. Any suggestions? I have two students in particular that seem to have been allowed to run the show. When I observed for a day it was complete chaos and like nothing I have ever watched. The teacher has now become an administrator in the same building.

    • Michael Linsin January 30, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

      Hi Pat,

      My best advice is to start over from scratch by teaching a classroom management plan, routines, and an entirely new way of doing things.


  25. Kathy February 13, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    In response to the question about a student with an IEP…..I am sorry to say that seems to be the first ‘go-to’ when creating an IEP — give choices. Which has the exact effect you describe, the student is placated and the problem goes away, but at the expense of the student learning. I am hopeful that we can find alternatives to this when we are creating those IEP’s!

  26. Haniah March 5, 2016 at 7:32 pm #

    I strongly disagree with this article. It is unclear from your article how long you have been in the teaching field, but not giving students choices when they are showing signs of difficulty following a direction, is certainly not the way I was taught to teach.

    Every student learns in a different way and should not be forced to fit into a one-size-fits-all mold, and then be punished for not doing so. As a teacher, I learn as much from my students as they do from me, and that includes how to best help each of them meet my classroom standards through the path that is right for them. If that means letting them sit on the carpet to do their work, instead of at their desk, I see nothing wrong with that. They are still being held accountable for their work, just their situation has been adapted so they can reap greater benefits from their learning time.
    As a teacher, I feel one of the most important parts of my job is building a relationship with my students. That does not mean that I will hold not hold students to classroom standards or require them to treat myself and others with respect, but it does mean that I will listen and observe the ways that each of my students learns best and adapt my teaching accordingly.

  27. Asma March 8, 2016 at 1:44 am #

    Hi Michael

    Could you please tell me ,how many times a warning is supposed to be given before sending the children to time out

    • Michael Linsin March 8, 2016 at 7:47 am #

      Hi Asma,

      Once, although if you teach kindergarten or you’re using a classroom management plan for the first time in the middle of the year, you may want to give two warnings.


  28. Jen March 23, 2016 at 3:51 am #

    A choice of “You may go to your seat or take a break” gives the student the ability to save face. Behavior is often the root of a problem. The student doesn’t understand the work or needs taught in executive functioning. Maybe he lacks task initiation, impulse control, or has poor emotional response. It sounds like the instructor needs more training in effectively dealing with this type of behavior. As another commenter posted it’s not about negotiation, the author is correct that that is not an appropriate response. Responsive classroom is another option. There is a lot more here that meets the eye.

  29. Royce Anne Henley March 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

    I believe you can give choices, but not in the manner you described above. The teacher was using a passive voice. ” Johnny, you can start at the top of the page or the bottom of the page, which I is best for you?” Said with an assertive voice is an affective way to offer choices. If the child does not comply repeat the choice, “You can start at the bottom or start at the top, but you must get started and complete your work.l. If they still do not comply, deliver the consequence. But if you have a connected classroom a child will comply with very little coaching.

  30. C B Davis March 27, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    I see your point, but those examples are the wrong choices to offer. I think some teachers misunderstand the concept of offering choices. In the case of a child who is roaming the room, tapping pencil, basically disrupting the class. I offer the choice of “Would you like to sit down and finish working, or go have a talk with the Principal?” or “You can sit down now, or we can call your parents at the end of class and set up a detention.” This is a firm warning and choice rolled into one 🙂 Any gentle warnings I gave would have happened before he ever got out of his seat. There would be signs of being off-task. But my kids are Jr High. Any dawdling about offering that chance to get it together can result, as someone mentioned above, in more disruption or aggressive behavior.

  31. Helen Ann March 29, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    Hmm…these sounded more like pleadings or appeasements more than choices. I don’t know many seasoned teachers who would offer those kinds of optiond. The kinds of choices I give are things like “Well, Jason, these are your choices: you can sit down and finish your work now or you can enjoy a detention after school when you should be at soccer practice and finish your work then.” He has now been empowered to work out which time will work best for his schedule. 🙂

  32. BERTA April 3, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    You can choose to stop (whatever the behavior) or I will see you after school today (or other consequence). Make a good choice. That is how I do it.

  33. Julie April 8, 2016 at 9:00 am #

    Best article I’ve ever read on classroom management. Ever. Every single point you make is solid and sound. Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin April 8, 2016 at 9:08 am #

      You’re welcome, Julie! I’m so glad you like it.


  34. Erin Cole April 10, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

    This article is incredibly damaging. It assumes that teachers are placating their students because they dont want the class to be disrupted. It does not take into account that the teacher knows that “Jason” is living in an unstable home environment and needs a break in the work day. It also assumes that fair means equal and that students are to be treated as assembly line workers. This article aligns with the ideals of corporatization education.

  35. Amy Ryan May 15, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    I would suggest reading the book Lost At School by Ross W. Greene.

  36. Laura May 25, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

    I think people are confused about methods that involve “choice,” at least as I’ve been trained. Talking about choices with students has to do with whether or not the student is going to make the right choices or accept consequences. Not what they feel like doing instead of what they’re supposed to be doing. What method do the choices you cite in the article come from?

  37. Tamara Bonn May 26, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    Can I say AMEN! I teach in an underprivileged district and the answer here to misbehavior is choice-positive statements-and no consequences for breaking either school or classroom expectations. I have watched students do as they please knowing there is no consequence-how can I make the change here?

    • Michael Linsin May 26, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

      Hi Tamara,

      You can find everything you need right here on our website. When you get a chance, check out our archive, where you’ll find over 350 articles on nearly every classroom management topic imaginable.


  38. Lyne July 16, 2016 at 5:36 am #

    I have a fealing this is in the States so it’s not the same views on education.

    The choices in the article are bad examples and that will cause trouble. I work in 1st grade (5-6 years old). At that age, they want to learn and they are not lazy. Most of them love school. I had that one kid who didn’t behave properly in class. Kids do that for a reason. They don’t misbehave because they feel like it. That one kid had ADHD. It is known that brain functions for ADHD are different than a “normal” brain. It’s not his fault for acting like that. He couldn’t tell me why he was doing those things. I did observe him and noticed he wasn’t doing that behavior in science. Why? He was good in science! Everything else was too hard for him so he didn’t feel like he could do it and get frustrated. Thats when bad behavior start. Forcing him to do the work didn’t help him or me. So I started helping him, giving him more support, lowering the work he had to do. And you know what? No more bad behaviors and he was actually learning faster that way! He reached the rest of the classroom except for French (I teach in a French school)

    Anyways, what I’m saying here is that a kid who doesn’t do what is asked is doing it for a reason. Finding that reason will help a lot.

    Some times, that kid was frustrated for some reason. He needed time to calm down. If I was telling him: “ok time out to calm down”, it was frustrating him even more. My trick was to tell him: ok 5 minutes to calm down and then we’ll talk about whats wrong and you’ll be able to go back to what you were doing. He needed to know that he wasn’t going to be on time out forever.

    Ps. I had a really well behave classrooms. Took some time for some of them, but they were really good. One time, I was doing interviews at the back of the class one at a time and the kids understood they had to be in complete silence. The pricinal came in and thought the class wasn’t there because they were so much in silence.

  39. Stacey Windle September 18, 2016 at 3:39 am #

    Should students be required to fill out a form about their misbehavior? My principal is asking for students to complete a behavior writing.

  40. Henry Gu September 27, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    Does misbehave discussed here all caused by the child’s ‘misbehave’? Or are we considering the different reasons behind the so called misbehave? My son (8 yrs old) is way ahead of his class in math and feels bored in the classroom when it is math time. I can tell him not to distract the class and he will follow. But does this solve the fundamental problem? I bet, good behave will only last for one week.

    There is no one solution that fits all. I’d rather the teacher give my son some challenges to work on instead of making him listen to the thing he already knows.

  41. Karen December 1, 2016 at 7:13 am #

    I’ve found a lot of good advice in your words, and thank you for that. I’m having difficulty right now with a student who does nothing but sit and stare or try to put his head down (not taking notes, not participating in the more engaging activities beyond at most walking around and socializing), which breaks the rule to follow directions. A time-out is ineffective (because he’s happy to do nothing in a different location and in case of an activity like a math scavenger hunt will pick up the paper and pretend to do math while continuing to just walk around and socialize)) and parent contact does nothing. Right now I have him losing all lunches until he makes up some particular work. Should I really continue to go through the standard consequences every single day with him? Do you have any additional advice?

    • Michael Linsin December 1, 2016 at 9:16 am #

      Hi Karen,

      I wrote an article you can search for called “How To Motivate Unmotivated Students.” I also wrote an entire chapter on motivation in The Happy Teacher Habits.