How To Get Difficult Students To Listen To You

Smart Classroom Management: How To Get Difficult Students To Listen To YouYou offer encouragement.

You give reminders. You supply wisdom and inspiration you hope will make an impact.

But your words fall on deaf ears.

Nothing you say to your most challenging students seems to make a difference.

They continue to misbehave, ignore your advice, and disappoint you day after day.

What you need is a way to get through to them, a secret something that resonates and shakes them to the core.

What you need is influence.

Influence is that missing ingredient that will make your words matter and affect lasting change in behavior.

So how do you get it, especially with students who don’t appear to listen to anyone?

You get it by adhering to three guiding principles:

1. Don’t create friction.

Every time you lecture, scold, threaten, argue with, or glare at difficult students you sabotage your influence with them. You create a you-against-them relationship that severs the line of communication.

Nothing you say, then, will have an effect beyond the few seconds they dutifully (or not) nod their head as you’re speaking.

2. Be consistent.

In an effort to build rapport and influence, many (many) teachers will look the other way in the face of misbehavior. They’ll let some things go. They’ll offer a reminder instead of a consequence.

But this communicates loud and clear that you can’t be trusted. It tells them that when you say something, it may or may not be true.

To build trust, and ultimately influence, you must be consistent day after day after day. You must follow your classroom management plan precisely as it’s written.

3. Be kind without strings.

Extending simple kindness to your most difficult students, without manipulation, flattery, or expectation of receiving anything in return, has an almost magical way of unlocking powerful and influential rapport.

Random smiles, hellos, chitchats, and fist bumps out of nowhere cause even the most jaded students to look at you differently than any adult they’ve ever met.

They appreciate this no-strings-attached interaction so much that despite themselves they’ll like and respect you. They’ll want to please you and listen to you.

Your Words Will Matter

The cumulative effect is that those little gems of advice or encouragement you just know they need to hear . . .

Will matter to them.

They’ll have meaning and relevance. They’ll cause them to stop and think and really listen.

They’ll stay with them and echo in their mind.

Often for a lifetime.

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32 Responses to How To Get Difficult Students To Listen To You

  1. Samina Iqbal February 18, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    I just want to say thank you. I look forward to receiving your gems of wisdom, and have very successfully used some of your advice and techniques.

    • Michael Linsin February 18, 2017 at 10:44 am #

      Awesome Samina! You’re welcome.


  2. MarinaB February 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    I ‘discovered ‘ your pearls of wisdom last year when I was on leave to recover from a very stressful stint as a graduate teacher. Two books later and Reading every post I’m back at work with a new attitude and renewed energy and I’m loving being a teacher! I practice what you preach and it works – thank you.

    • Michael Linsin February 18, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

      So great to hear, Marina! Way to go! And thanks for sharing your success with me.


  3. Sajeev.B February 18, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

    Thank you so much for your great piece of advice. It helps me a lot. God bless u.

    • Michael Linsin February 18, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

      You’re welcome, Sajeev. Thank you!


  4. Chris February 18, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

    It’s wonderful the way you’ve articulated this tried-and-true advice. This restorative process takes time, just as the students’ bad habits took time to form, but it works!

    I’ve seen frustrated teachers violate these principles day after day, then give up on students as being hopeless. Such a sad and needless situation. Thank you so much for getting the word out there so effectively!

    • Michael Linsin February 19, 2017 at 8:04 am #

      You’re welcome, Chris! Thanks for sharing.


  5. Robyn Williams February 18, 2017 at 11:55 pm #

    As usual, i have appreciated your clear, commonsense strategies. The suggested practice is logical, but so easily a frustrated teacher can slip into the lack of consistency and negative responses. Your article gives a clear, convincing strategy for successful classroom practice.
    As a temporary relief teacher, some of the suggestions are more difficult to implement. I would hope that with clear instructions from class teacher and my early arrival in class to allow adequate time for sound preparation, i would be able to apply the positive strategies for optimum student engagement.

    • Michael Linsin February 19, 2017 at 8:05 am #

      Thanks Robyn.


  6. eva constantino February 19, 2017 at 12:44 am #

    Thank you very much for another knowledge you have really matters .More power, more wisdom to share …struggle is real…

    • Michael Linsin February 19, 2017 at 8:06 am #

      You’re welcome, Eva.


  7. Muhle asamoah February 19, 2017 at 1:56 am #

    Hey there I wanna say thank you you are inspiring me a lot. I hv a problem with my assignment would u be able to help me with or help me choose the right book that would help me here it says. How to being a professional teacher?, it a discussion

    • Michael Linsin February 19, 2017 at 8:08 am #

      Hi Muhle,

      It’s my pleasure. I’m glad you’re a regular reader. I’ll think about your question. In the meantime, email me with more specifics about what you’re looking for.


  8. Noga February 19, 2017 at 7:16 am #

    That’s wounderful

  9. Susan February 19, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    HI, love all your articles!
    I understand nrs 2 and 3, but nr one has me stumped!
    What should I do instead?

    Every time you lecture, scold, threaten, argue with, or glare at difficult students you sabotage your influence with them. You create a you-against-them relationship that severs the line of communication.

    Nothing you say, then, will have an effect beyond the few seconds they dutifully (or not) nod their head as you’re speaking.

    • Michael Linsin February 19, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Susan,

      Number 2, last sentence.


  10. Angelica Andrea February 20, 2017 at 2:17 am #

    Hi Michael, I am so pleased with your articles.

    They are very inspiring. In short you are a teacher of teachers.

    Thank you so much and keep them flowing.

    • Michael Linsin February 20, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      Thanks Angelica! Will do.


  11. ignatius February 20, 2017 at 3:39 am #

    I thank you for the wonderful job you are doing,we are going to follow your advise,i believe, it ‘ll work positively.

    I thank you.

    • Michael Linsin February 20, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      You’re welcome, Ignatius.


  12. Karen February 20, 2017 at 9:16 am #

    Michael – Thank you for your wisdom and great advice. First let me say I completely agree with your advice but have had difficulty being consistent. I have gotten into an awful cycle with one group of students and just today did exactly what you advise not to do in #1. Sadly, this isn’t the first time either. One of the situations that seems to really bother me, and frankly makes me feel as though I just don’t have the right “stuff” to do this job, is when this group of students giggles and laughs at everything I say as though I had used a dirty slang phrase but didn’t know it had another meaning. I have spoken with each of them individually at different times and in various situations but this again falls under a #1 violation because I definitely lectured etc etc. I know it shouldn’t bother me because I’m an adult and most of the time I can take it in stride but I admit it often gets under my skin and it is hard to hide my feelings. Also, how do I start over with this group of 9th graders or do I just do better from now on? Again thank you so much for the work you do.


    • Michael Linsin February 20, 2017 at 9:30 am #

      Hi Karen,

      To start over, you just say “I’m unhappy with how things are going, and we’re going to make some changes.” Then model the exact behaviors you’re seeing from these students, define them as disrespectful, show what rule they are breaking, and begin enforcing it right away.


      • Karen February 20, 2017 at 11:25 am #

        Thank you I will start tomorrow.

  13. Rosanne February 21, 2017 at 9:35 am #

    Thank you for this information. I work in students services/discipline at my high school. There can be trying times dealing with our students. I look forward to receiving new article updates in my email every week.

    I know this will be truly helpful for myself as well as the students.


    • Michael Linsin February 21, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      You’re welcome, Rosanne.


  14. Anna February 21, 2017 at 10:25 am #

    Michael, thank you so much for articulating the complex nature of our jobs in such a clear and obtainable manner. I work with new teachers as a mentor and I often send them your posts as another source of information, support and direction. Even though it is February I remind them that there is a lot of school year still left. Make it the best it can be and don’t be afraid to ask for more from your students; behaviorally, academically, and socially.

    • Michael Linsin February 21, 2017 at 10:29 am #

      So true, Anna. I agree that it’s good practice to continue to ask for more all the up until the final bell. Thanks for sharing!


  15. Juli February 22, 2017 at 9:32 am #

    Is it possible to offer a print version of your articles?

    • Michael Linsin February 22, 2017 at 11:28 am #

      We’ll look into it, Juli.


  16. Janice Wiggins February 26, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

    Hi Micheal,

    I am an art teacher. I have read your Classroom Management and The Happy Teacher Habits books. I used the same classroom management plan outlined in your book,1 reminder, 1 warning, timeout, phone call home. For most students this works. I do have a few students that will refuse to go to time out, make noise while in timeout, and a phone call home does not seem to motivate them to want to change their behavior. I also use positive reinforcement, school wide PBIS incentives, class incentives, and visual cues. What would you do in a case when a child refuses to go to timeout?

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