How To Avoid Big, Dramatic Misbehavior

Smart Classroom Management: How To Avoid Big, Dramatic MisbehaviorMany of the article requests we receive at SCM center on big problems.

Readers want to know how to rein in an out-of-control class.

They ask about how to handle defiance and disrespect.

They inquire about tantrums, incessant talking, and entire classes that disregard their directions.

We’re happy to tackle these subjects. All have been covered extensively and can be found in the archive.

But one of the keys to effective classroom management is to avoid big and dramatic misbehavior from happening to begin with. It’s to do things correctly from the get-go.

It’s to focus on the little things.

A common mistake struggling teachers make is that they don’t teach their behavior expectations with enough detail.

They think they do. After all, they talk a lot. They remind a lot. They repeat themselves a lot.

But they don’t show their students what fulfilling those expectations actually looks like. They don’t walk them through the precise moves, attitudes, and actions they wish to see.

They don’t model how to sit and listen, how to ask questions, how to follow directions, or how not to behave. They don’t allow their students to experience their expectations. They assume that saying it is enough.

It’s not.

You see, when you communicate what you expect using words alone—or with halfhearted demonstration—students hear only preferences.

When they witness well-defined actions, on the other hand, and are given a chance to try them for themselves, they understand that you really mean it.

In fact, there are times when words aren’t even needed.

Details, however, are always needed. They are must-haves—because the more explicit you are, the less your students will stray from your desired path.

Big problems and issues aren’t given room to breathe, fester, and grow. They’re eliminated before they even occur to students.

They’re eliminated because all children crave boundaries that mean something, that are more than the lip service paid by so many teachers before you. They crave them because they’re a tangible expression of love.

When students know precisely where your boundaries are, they’re able to relax and revel in the freedom that comes with staying inside of them.

It makes them feel safe and cared for. It frees them to listen and learn and love being part of your class without worry, stress, or the desire to misbehave.

Detailed teaching, however, doesn’t mean tight, confined spaces. It doesn’t mean inflexibility, stinginess, or limits on fun and friendship.

It isn’t a constriction of personality. Rather, it’s just the opposite.

It’s only when boundaries are inarguably defined and faithfully defended that students are truly free to be themselves.

Explicit teaching of the little things keep students from big, dramatic acts of misbehavior.

It keeps them inside, where it’s safe and warm. Where they can learn and enjoy school without interference.

Where there exists a world that makes sense.

Quick update: My new book, The Happy Teacher Habits, has just entered the formatting and design phase and is on track to be released in early May.

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25 Responses to How To Avoid Big, Dramatic Misbehavior

  1. Michelle Morimoto February 13, 2016 at 10:12 am #

    I completely agree! Boundaries are a tangible expression of love for our students. They keep everyone safe and free to truly learn and grow.

  2. Emily February 13, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    I recall one suggestion of silencing the class for a good five minutes. I’ve used this a couple of times and found it a great technique when you slip up and the class goes nuts.

  3. Beth February 13, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    What a great reminder on modeling and how it frees the students! Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin February 13, 2016 at 11:29 am #

      You’re welcome, Beth. Thanks for commenting.


  4. Emily February 13, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    What I like best about modeling and rules and procedures that a teacher really can make it fit their personality, be it looser or strict.

  5. Melba February 13, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    I would like help with handling the “little” things that seem to be defiance or disrespect. Things that distract like an inappropriate comment, a snicker, a moan or groan….”little things” that build and delay time and attention from the lesson. Things that parents and students lay to “just being a kid” but you are certain the timing, tone and body language reveals that it’s much more. And how to handle these so that they don’t disrupt the learning time and make extra paperwork for the teacher.

    • Michael Linsin February 13, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

      Hi Melba,

      When you get a chance, please check out the Difficult Students category of the archive. Look for articles about disrespect. They should answer your questions.


  6. Deborah Morgan February 13, 2016 at 2:05 pm #


    Thank you for the wonderful articles you write each week to help us teachers manage the classroom effectively. Over the past year or so I’ve used many of the strategies you discuss week in week out and I must say they actually work!

    This year im back to relief teaching and because I’ve moved house I will be teaching in new schools with students who don’t know me.

    Do you have any strategies for relief teachers in the archives? I’m just afraid I won’t have the time to establish boundaries etc on a day to day basis.


    • Michael Linsin February 13, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

      Hi Deborah,

      No, I haven’t written about relief/substitute teaching, but plan to in a future ebook. Stay tuned. 🙂


  7. Carol February 13, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

    Please give an example of a modelling session.

    • Michael Linsin February 13, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

      Hi Carol,

      Please check out the linked articles as well as the Teacher Modeling category of the archive.


  8. Penny February 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    I think it would be great if you did a video demonstrating the things you talk about!

    • Michael Linsin February 14, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion, Penny. I am considering offering a video course.


  9. Linda February 14, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    I’m a bit insulted that you write that we teachers “don’t show their students what fulfilling those expectations actually look like.”

    How do you know this? Why do you ASSUME IN ALMOST all of your articles that we teachers keep messing up?
    We have implemented PBIS IN OUR school and we spend most of our days modeling what students should be doing when in the halls, going to their lockers, recess rules and the list goes on and on and on!
    This is nationwide! All schools continually try this program and THAT program!!

    We HAVE WALKED them through every type of expectation possible and teaching today?… Well when you have parents that do everything for their kids..(quite often including homework !) teaching is more difficult today because of the way kids have this detached sense of respect and regard for adults in general!

    So please don’t generalize that we teachers don’t teach behavior expectations with enough detail!

    When I was a young girl, “stop”, meant “STOP!”
    Today, it’s pretty much kids getting away with all sorts of misbehavior because we’re sugar coating everything! “It’s not nice to kick Julia little Johnny!” We’re expected to say this 25 times & Johnny doesn’t care if he gets written up because his mother doesn’t care because Johnny’s dad left them and she has 100 other excuses as to why he misbehaves!

    Oh give them a reward for turning in their homework! Rewards rewards rewards for doing the simplest of expected tasks that in my opinion are just that! It’s expected! Welcome to the real world! But today’s kids won’t have to work at Burger King, Taco Bell or mcDonalds because their parents will pay for EVERYTHING FOR THEM!…. Hand it out on a silver platter!

    MANY Parents today DONT want their kids “to work hard!” We’re (school districts) spending way too much $$$ on THE implementation of PBIS, Character Counts, PLC AND so many other programs that we’ve lost site of the basics!
    That’s why you feel a need to address “how to handle angry parents”???
    Tell the parents how it is! Just cut to the chase and I think we need to go back to suspensions for some of the INTOLERABLE behavior that goes on in schools today! Make the parents accountable!
    We have more behavior issues than ever before Michael!
    Why is that?… According to almost ALL OF YOUR WRITINGS?.. It’s because of the teachers doing this wrong or that wrong!
    I’m sorry!! But it’s the kids and their parents that aren’t getting it right!
    Parents need to support us and use discipline strategies at home that coincide with our school rules!

    Please write a book about teaching parents to support their child’s teacher and to put forth a sincere effort when there’s a problem!
    Of course this does not pertain to your obedient, kind, respectful & considerate students!
    It’s just too bad that the very ill mannered and misbehaved students take quality instruction time away from the ones who want to learn and are happy to be there.

    My new policy (after horrific misbehaviors, writing up minors repeatedly and calling home to parents) is dismissing trouble makers to the office where they sit and the principal can deal with these young men. This has worked like a charm! The rest of the class and I can share in our engaging lessons and the boys are learning I mean what I say when I explain their constant inappropriate behavior is unacceptable!

    • Michael Linsin February 15, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Linda,

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment. My aim is to help teachers where they are, to show teachers how to be effective despite outside circumstances. I try not to blame anyone or paint with a broad brush, but I do point out mistakes because they’re instructive. This particular article addresses struggling teachers.

      Paragraph eight says, “A common mistake struggling teachers make is that they don’t teach their behavior expectations with enough detail.” It’s up to the reader to decide whether this is an area they can improve or whether they’re on the right track.

      I hear your frustration over rewards. They’re definitely making your job more difficult. This topic is addressed in detail in my new book The Happy Teacher Habits. If you’d like, email me and I’ll send you a copy of your choice of any of my books, including the new one when it comes out in May.


  10. Aziza February 15, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    Hi Michael

    I strongly agree with Linda about unruly students.

    What we have in most schools are some parents who wants to dictate how their kids should be taught and will run to the head master with any problem. It is time that some parents take responsibility for their rude, spoilt brats. After all, we, as teachers do not have the time, resources, let alone energy to discipline their kids.

  11. LaWanna Beggs February 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    I enjoy reading these articles because they address present issues. One of my pet peeves is having to repeat myself despite demonstrations, practice, etc. My principal told me last week I needed to change my tone of voice and volume level . I naturally talk loud and I am hearing impaired. I do get loud when I get excited or frustrated. I addressed the fact that many teachers raise their voices because our students ignore soft spoken directions. However, I am trying new strategies and timers to create a smooth transition during groups I just don’t understand why everyone talks because they can recite the rules to you! Class today is an environment of mixed races, broken homes, lack of parental support with discipline and school work. Parents are expecting teachers to raise their children. Frankly, I am disgusted that Ga has adopted the TKES evaluations and hold teachers accountable for everything. Children must practice reading and math at home to reinforce the daily teachings. I’m in my 15th year and seriously wishing it was my 25th because I would retire in an instant!

  12. Javad February 18, 2016 at 4:12 pm #


    I want to add another consequence to time-out in cases that time-out becomes normal for students. Is extra homework a good option? :

    1st time: warning

    2nd time : time-out+extra homework

    Thank you.

    • Michael Linsin February 18, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

      Hi Javad,

      I don’t recommend connecting academic work to behavior expectations. For more on how to make your consequences stronger, please check out our archive.


  13. Javad February 18, 2016 at 10:14 pm #


    Yes, I cancelled “extra homework” idea , and read “How to make time-out a stronger consequence” article.

    I will practice its points.

    Thank you again.

  14. Karen Nolen February 19, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    At my school site, we have an increasing number of children with explosive, chaotic behaviors and are facing larger class sizes next year! I value your opinion and feel that it would benefit us greatly if you came to our site to spend time observing / interacting with the teachers & students, followed by modeling for us how to deal with these issues in the classroom while trying to balance everything else that is required of us. Maybe an extensive visit like this, including the modeling sessions, could lead to future articles and / or training videos for all of the other frustrated / overwhelmed teachers out there and could bring in sales for you as well… a win win!

    I am SERIOUS about this invitation! Please let me know if there is a chance; I will speak with my principal or give you her contact info. if so. She and I are big fans of your articles!

    Thank You,
    Karen Nolen

    • Michael Linsin February 19, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi Karen,

      It’s definitely something I would enjoy, but I’m focused on other projects and just don’t have time to travel and speak at schools. Thanks so much for the offer and for thinking of me. I’m hoping I can get out there and interact directly with teachers in the near future.


  15. Luca Lutzow March 21, 2016 at 12:44 am #

    Hi this is my first time visiting this page, and I am fascinated 😉 I am a grade 12 student, who now and then steps in, when the teachers are absent in primary school. This gives me a whole new perspective and is a super good guide, helping me to cope better with these classes. Thank you very much!!!!

    • Michael Linsin March 21, 2016 at 7:14 am #

      You’re welcome, Luca! Glad you found us.