Why You Shouldn’t Try To Convince Difficult Students To Behave

Smart Classroom Management: Why You Shouldn't Try To Convince Difficult Students To BehaveIt happens every day in classrooms from Fresno to Kathmandu.

The teacher pulls aside their most difficult student for a private meeting.

Sometimes it’s a lecture.

Sometimes it’s a pep-talk. Sometimes it’s to threaten or praise or question like a trial lawyer.

But in every case, the teacher is trying to convince the student to behave.

They’re trying to use their tone of voice and creative use of words to inspire a change in behavior.

And although there can be some immediate improvement, it never lasts. In fact, the likely result is a worsening of behavior.

Because, when you try to convince students to behave, you’re showing how much it means to you.

You’re letting them know how much their behavior affects you, stresses you out, alters your mood, or gets under your skin.

And in so doing, you give away your leverage. You weaken your influence. You’re cede the upper hand in the relationship and give your most challenging students the power to make or break your day.

This isn’t something they consciously think about, mind you. It’s just human nature.

When there is a crack in the foundation of leadership, however small, your students will fill it—or wrest control of the classroom right out of your hands.

To turn around your most difficult students, and actually change their behavior, you must never show how much it means to you.

Unless you need private information, it’s best to refrain from pulling them aside for one-on-one chats.

Instead, if they misbehave, follow your classroom management plan. Enforce your consequences calmly and matter-of-factly. Pretend you don’t give one whit whether they misbehave or not.

Deliver your news, then turn on your heal and walk away as if nothing happened.

Never let them see you sweat.

If, however, you notice real improvement in behavior, then let them know it—directly and honestly.

“Now that’s how you do it!”

“I thought you were great today.”

“You can’t do any better than that. Way to go!”

“I knew you could do it.”

In the meantime, strengthen your leverage, influence, and leadership presence through your steadiness—your day-after-day kindness, consistency, pleasantness, and humor.

Show them, prove to them, through your smiles and hellos and friendly banter that every day is a new day.

Be the leader they need, not the weak-kneed groveler they don’t.

Your refusal to pull them aside to woo, plead, coax, cajole, or manipulate communicates loud and clear that you believe in them.

That they really can do it.

It’s an undeniable truth that they’ll see in your eyes, your face, and your entire being every day of the week.

And it will change them.

PS – I’m hard at work on our first ever online course. It’s called The Total Classroom Management Makeover and will be open for enrollment just in time for summer.

If you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.

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38 Responses to Why You Shouldn’t Try To Convince Difficult Students To Behave

  1. Samyan March 25, 2017 at 7:47 am #

    Love it! Thank you so much! Your articles have done miracles for me!

    • Michael Linsin March 25, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

      You’re welcome, Samyan. Glad to hear it.


  2. Gini Larson March 25, 2017 at 7:56 am #

    Do you have a specific date for when your online course will be available? I have a deadline for credits. Thanks!!

    • Michael Linsin March 25, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

      Hi Gini,

      Not yet, but probably late May/June.


  3. Sofi March 25, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    I truly love your website.

    • Michael Linsin March 25, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

      Thanks Sofi!


  4. Tehreesi March 25, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Very good write-up. I certainly love this website. Thanks!

    • Michael Linsin March 25, 2017 at 3:13 pm #

      You’re welcome, Tehreesi. I’m glad you like the article. 🙂


  5. Kerri March 25, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    It’s amazing how timely your posts are! I really needed this today.

    • Michael Linsin March 25, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

      Great Kerri! I’m happy to hear it.


  6. Bonnie S March 25, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    This makes a lot of sense but I deal with the subtle rule breakers. The face maker who illicits laughs and giggles from the class, The boy and girl drama where everyone is offended when someone won’t play with them or tells someone they don’t want to be their friend. I’ve been addressing for 130 days the many students who get out of their seat for one reason or another. Also, The students who can’t stop talking during transition time or those who are reading a book during my teaching a lesson. The only leverage I have is taking time from their recess or calling home. It doesn’t change their behavior and parents get upset when a student misses recess for what they view as children needing to move and squirm. Very frustrating when you can’t specifically address a major offense.

    • Angela G. March 26, 2017 at 6:57 am #


      I’m clearly no expert, but I have seen improvement by doing the following.

      I started keeping a daily chart of behaviors and I explicitly mark them. So whatever behaviors are a problem for you are listed and then I notify the student every tI’m an “infraction” is made.
      I don’t care how trivial the infraction is, it’s added to that student’s record.

      I tried to use a number for each infraction, but that was too difficult for me. So I ended up using letter to notate each I fraction. Example: os- out of seat without permission, so- shouting out, t- talking without permission…even if it’s just whispering to their neighbor, ot- off task (like reading during your instruction), c- being on wrong computer site. Whatever makes sense for you.

      Then I let them know they get two warnings before consequences start. Maybe the 3rd I fraction is a letter home to notify parent of infractions and must be signed. 4th one is loss of recess, 5th one is time out…..

      I hope this helps.


      I notice when I slack off, start just saying for kids to stop talking and I don’t follow through with writing down the infractions and I don’t follow through with consequences, everything goes to hell in a handbag.

      Also this discipline plan gives you very specific documentation of each student’s behavior. Great for making g future claims with administration.

      Hope this is helpful.

  7. Erika March 25, 2017 at 11:50 am #

    Thank you so much! Most of teaching envolves discipline. I wish parents would try it at home too. It takes a village to raise a child. Well, we are raising them wheather was initially the teachers job or not.


    • Michael Linsin March 25, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

      You’re welcome, Erika.


  8. Samantha March 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    Some students will take this as a challenge to break you by being as disruptive as possible, and they use their knowledge of the system to make it work for them.

    • Emmanuellle March 25, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

      So true! Dealing with the emotions that are stimulated in us is the first step towards dealing with the challenging behaviors…then I can stay cool…otherwise, i let my emotions rise to the surface

  9. Barbara Fabius March 25, 2017 at 7:53 pm #

    Wow…you speak to me every time…I know what to do it’s just me trying to implement….my very reactive attitude is my downfall (I have been a little better lately) …but thank you again for the reminder…I try to be mindful of myself daily. I’m a work in progress…with God I will get there……your posts keep me alive . .thank you!

    • Michael Linsin March 26, 2017 at 10:32 am #

      You’re welcome, Barbara. Indeed, you’ll get there. 🙂


  10. Cheryl March 26, 2017 at 6:30 am #

    About how many hours are needed to complete this course/how many credits?

    • Michael Linsin March 26, 2017 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Cheryl,

      The course will be offered exclusively through us and thus not associated with any college (or college credit). It will be about an hour of video consisting of 21 short lessons.


  11. AmyJo Vazquez March 26, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

    Love this website! I read it and share it regularly. These are words that are common sense, respectful of the children we serve, and empowering. Because you take the same approach but spread it out over a variety of scenarios, every time I read it I can take a bit of wisdom and apply it differently. Thank you!

    • Michael Linsin March 27, 2017 at 8:11 am #

      I’m so glad you like the website, AmyJo! Thanks for being a regular reader.


  12. Heidi March 26, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    Completely on target with me! I just might get it now!

  13. Lee March 26, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

    I wish I could get my assistant on board. It’s like there’s a clear cut line across my classroom floor. There’s too much old school vs new school. She’s starting to respond to whole brain teaching cues, but we’ve got a ways to grow. We’re using your books for a book study pd next year. Thank you so much! I appreciate your insight, your consistentcy and your dedication.

    • Michael Linsin March 27, 2017 at 8:12 am #

      It’s my pleasure, Lee.


  14. Sam March 27, 2017 at 9:40 am #

    I was so tired of this nasty behaviour children indulge in, I gave up. So you can’t show them you care. You can’t discipline them by talking or lecturing them. You can’t praise them or pep-talk them. You can’t overuse sanctions. You can’t make them miss their play-time- guess what? They need to let off more steam than they did in the classroom with a miserable teacher like me.
    I was not definitely cut out for it. Some teachers can, some teachers do. I can’t. I loved teaching and I was always passionate about my subject but I couldn’t get it right with them. I did and do feel like a failure when I remember all I endured, unsuccessfully!! Seriously, I need therapy now but who cares? I am a good teacher but if I can’t discipline them and use all these ‘party tricks’ that successful teachers do, I am a BAD, BAD, BAD teacher! And I have tried!

    • Carol Jones March 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm #

      Sam, I will give you a bit of encouragement, if you’re a great teacher, passionate engager, able to motivate the learning with those who are interested, but aren’t the elite (I’m with you) class-manager as far as all this “little (but really big) stuff” called procedures–how to line up, when to turn in homework, which basket for graded/to be graded papers; seriously consider an online school situation. I absolutely loved it, but we moved recently, so I’m back in the physical classroom this year. If you want more specs, I’m happy to share what I know.

      Carol Jones

      • Sam March 28, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

        Thank you, Carol. I’ve heard of online classes but never heard of online school.
        The thing is I am a specialist teacher, so I would only see each class once a week. I taught languages but ended up in a horrible situation where a student made a false allegation against me- of hitting him, when I didn’t. They have so many rights, so much power and they know how to push your buttons if you do not bear a controlled surface. This article made me see how much I cared about their behaviour, which is why I lost control. The worst thing you can do as a teacher.

        I teach adults as well and that gives me a boost as I can be myself. Teaching adults may offer problems too but nothing I can’t deal with professionally. I enjoy the whole thing and that has helped me restore my confidence. But I’m not going to lie. I still have nightmares about what happened. I still wake up in the middle of the night wondering why. It hurts, still hurts. I can’t teach children anymore. When I look at all the resources I made, prepared and bought off my pocket, all stored in so many boxes in my spare room, I want to cry sometimes.

  15. kathleen cline March 29, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    You have a great heart and passion for knowledge, never give up on caring and imparting knowledge. May God’s unconditional love continue to heal and strengthening you and may His spirit of wisdom clothe your actions. May you be equipped with and model healthy emotional intelligence, understanding and may you model and teach healthy boundaries. Continue to learn all you can from resources like Michael Linsin teaching. Thank you for all you do, I will be praying for you to be with the right support circles, you are off to a great start coming to this site. Pray changes things and brings hope!
    Kathleen Cline

    • Sam March 30, 2017 at 7:20 am #

      Thank you, Kathleen. Yes, I need emotional intelligence. I can only be me but what is me if it causes hurt? Meditation and prayer help. But the practice of emotional intelligence is everything.

  16. Eric March 30, 2017 at 9:07 am #

    I’m very excited for the online course. I’ve read Dream Class and a ton of your articles, but I am someone who needs to see things in action. Videos would help me a lot. Just like students need modeling, teachers can benefit from it, too!

    • Michael Linsin March 30, 2017 at 9:36 am #

      I’m glad to hear it, Eric! The course consists of 21 video lessons of me giving simple, step-by-step advice of which you apply and succeed.


  17. Raquel April 2, 2017 at 7:43 am #

    Is it easy for you to judge, Michael?

  18. Linda April 7, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

    Sam’s comments resonated with me. I have felt like a failure so many times. It took strength and even courage for me to try Michael’s plan. But I have, I do. It was not pretty when I first began. But my class this year is by far the best class that i have ever had – thanks to my very simple discipline plan which i got from Michael Linsin. For me, I write their name and the rule broken on my lesson plan for the day. I know it’s effective because they really don’t want to take a note home. I have a new very difficult student, but because I never confront him, or yell, etc., he respects our rules. We’re not perfect, but I know he likes our class and me! Michael’s plan is just a miracle to me. So simple, but, for me, hard to enforce. But I know that I have to. And the effort is worth the reward. And, you know, my students feel good about themselves too. A comment from a student – Well, you know we’re good! Michael’s discipline plan is a blessing to me and to my students. I hope Sam will really give it a good try. I know that it works!

  19. Lisa DeComo April 13, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    I am very interested in the online course. Will there be contact hours available? And have you established a cost yet?

    • Michael Linsin April 14, 2017 at 8:01 am #

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for your interest. The course isn’t affiliated through any college, so no official credit will be offered. As for the price, we’re not quite there yet.


  20. Ms. E April 14, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    I think there is a difference between convincing and explaining though. I’ve worked with quite a few students with challenging behaviors in gen ed and SPED programs, and I have to say that I have noticed improvements in behavior if AFTER the incident when everyone is calm you explain “hey, when you…what caused that behavior? That really interrupted your peers learning because… let’s figure out a way to help you be a more successful learner and friend next time ____ happens. I know that I really want you to be able to (stay in the classroom/sit by a friend/etc) and I bet that would make you happy too.”
    Explaining why the behavior was inappropriate without bringing in your emotions but still showing that you care about their success seems to work best for me and my team. Especially with kiddos in behavior programs, explaining how the expected behavior benefits them helps a lot.

  21. Paul February 23, 2018 at 3:04 pm #

    My most troublesome students don’t care one bit if I discipline them. They’ve even told me so. It takes all of my power away and make me so angry. I’ve pretty well just given up when I have their class and pray they don’t disrupt class TOO much. I hate that I can’t control them.