How To Put An End To Roughhousing

Smart Classroom Management: How To Put An End To RoughhousingRoughhousing can be a tricky area of classroom management.

Although nearly every teacher has a rule forbidding it, it can be difficult to get rid of.

Especially once it gets a toehold in your classroom.

Enforcement and consistency are key, of course.

But because the behavior is so impulsive, some students seem unable to control themselves.

Despite being held accountable.

It isn’t uncommon to have otherwise solid classroom management and still struggle to get students to stop wrestling, play-fighting, and the like.

So what’s the solution?

Well, the first step is to make sure that you’re indeed enforcing your classroom management plan in response to every incident. Consistency is number one in importance and will do a majority of the heavy lifting.

Once that’s established, however, there are two strategies that will make the rule resonate with students and end the behavior.

The first is to model what roughhousing actually is and what it looks like. Many students assume that “keep your hands and feet to yourself” refers only to malicious intent, even if you say otherwise.

Modeling the exact roughhousing behavior you’re witnessing, or have witnessed in the past, makes it real and clarifies the definition.

Just thinking of putting a friend in a headlock, then, triggers the vision of you modeling the same behavior, which gives them pause enough not to follow through.

Although you certainly wouldn’t role-play roughhousing with a student-volunteer, you can act as if you’re grabbing a friend around the collar or feigning a karate move.

Which is every bit as effective.

When you model the exact behavior your students are engaging in, and how you’ll enforce it, you’ll see far less of that behavior.

The second strategy can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s powerful and worth every minute. It has a unique way of deepening comprehension and making the behavior seem absurd or out of place.

The way it works is that you’re going to do your modeling in the area or areas you see the behavior happening.

Typically, it’s just outside in the hallway or while entering and exiting the room. It may also be in line on the way to lunch or during transitions.

Whatever the case, the more you can recreate the scene, the stronger you’ll make the association with it being unacceptable.

By modeling in the place or places where it occurs, it reframes the act of roughhousing from harmless fun to a stigma they don’t want to be part of.

In other words, it makes the line more difficult to cross.

Many teachers try to use the force of their personality to make the point of how egregious the behavior is—or can be. (Roughhousing can both lead to bullying and be a form of bullying.)

So they lecture and raise their voice. They become angry and dramatize their disappointment. They threaten and remove freedoms the entire class enjoys.

But the trick is to bring the behavior into sharper focus. It’s to label roughhousing as silly, absurd, and unacceptable within a place of learning—not through your words, but through your actions.

Your students, in turn, will finally make the connection.

And refrain from the behavior.

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14 Responses to How To Put An End To Roughhousing

  1. Pam March 18, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    I’m so glad you addressed this! Many students engage in non-malicious roughhousing and I can usually get it under control quickly, but once in a while it goes further than I find acceptable (which is not very far because it can blow up fast). Is the object of modeling this behavior to make them laugh, to be silly, or to make them feel foolish if the engage in roughhousing? Should I go overboard in my demonstration? They’ll all start imitating the behavior while watching it if I do. Thanks. I get so much from your column.

    • Michael Linsin March 19, 2017 at 7:48 am #

      Hi Pam,

      In this case, it depends on a few factors. I will be sure to put this topic on the list of future articles.


  2. Shane March 18, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

    This is awesome

    • Michael Linsin March 19, 2017 at 7:47 am #

      Thanks Shane!


  3. Emily March 18, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    My situation is a 1/3 of my class have diagnosed ADHD. Impulse is very difficult to prevent. I shall try these out!

  4. Alyssa March 18, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    I’m supply teaching this term, so encounter this often. Would you recommend doing the same thing, or have other tips for teachers who are in the classroom temporarily.

    • Michael Linsin March 19, 2017 at 7:46 am #

      Hi Alyssa,

      This is a big topic. Supply/substitute teaching is on the list of future e-guides.


  5. Fedup March 19, 2017 at 7:31 am #

    I have been following your model management plan to the letter in my classroom but it’s having no effect on my kids. Parent letters have no impact and I’ve even brought parents in for conferences to no avail. I used your exact rules, the only difference is we have a school wide management plan where we can I ly refer to the office after three incidents in our “red book.” Behavior in my class has worsened since Christmas. Im not sure what I’m doing wrong but teaching is becoming increasingly difficult.wr lose so much to correct information behavior and disrespectful attitudes.

    • Michael Linsin March 19, 2017 at 7:45 am #

      Hi Fedup,

      Although important, a classroom management plan is a small part of effective classroom management. I encourage you to spend some time in the Rapport & Influence, What Effective Teachers Do, and Calm, Focused, and Happy categories of the archive. You may also want to consider personal coaching.


  6. Lisa Turner March 19, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

    Michael’s advice about seeking to build rapport is spot on. I want to also encourage you to get advice from your building’s Resource/Inclusion staff. Attention issues are something that they see so often. Ask one of these professionals to spend some time in your room one day, in order to give you some turn-key advice. You could also ask them which teachers in your school have classes of similar student make-up, in which the teacher is especially gifted at handling this type of management issues. I have the same type of classroom and my students, despite the many disruptions, have very high growth. Consider tweeking structures in your classroom to respect their attention spans. Good luck and keep at it.

  7. Jeanni March 21, 2017 at 3:35 am #

    I love your column and have found it super helpful. As a substitute teacher – managing roughhousing is a big issue It seems that I become an opportunity for this exact behaviour. I am thrown into a situation where I am expected to teach, students are expecting to learn but often my role turns into crowd-control and the entire class misses out on a calm and productive session. Can you offer any further advice on how to manage roughhousing in a ‘temporary’ situation where I don’t have an opportunity to know each student, create rapport and gain more respect?

    • Michael Linsin March 21, 2017 at 8:15 am #

      Hi Jeanni,

      This is a big question that requires a comprehensive approach. I wish I could offer you a few tips, but I don’t want to steer you in the wrong direction or only give you a partial solution. It is a topic we hope to tackle in a future e-guide.


  8. Mark E March 23, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

    As always good stuff Michael.

    I have found that when I modeled the behaviors and efforts I wanted from my students I got more of it.

    The past few years have been rough. They’ve been rough for most teachers. I was pretty sure I was done a few times the last few years. Ready to move on…

    But this year I’ve turned a major corner and your site has helped get me through some rough times.

    I even mentioned you in the book I just completed. I sent you an email about it.

    • Michael Linsin March 23, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

      Glad to hear it, Mark! I’m looking forward to checking out your new book.