How To Handle Students Who Beg You Not To Hold Them Accountable

Smart Classroom Management: How To Handle Students Who Beg You Not To Hold The Accountable: How To Handle Students Who Beg You Not To Hold Them Accountable“Please, just give me one more chance.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“I promise, it won’t happen again.”

“I know it was wrong.”

“I messed up, and I’ve learned my lesson.”

“Please . . .”

They plead. They beg. They petition.

They dramatize, beseech, and implore with puppy-dog eyes.

And it’s hard not to be sympathetic, especially when they take responsibility.

So what’s the harm in letting them off the hook?

If a student is truly repentant, if they admit their mistake and show remorse, why not just let it go?

Why not accept their assurances and move on?

Well, for starters, you’ll open the floodgates to more and more pleading and pressuring every time you try to enforce a consequence.

And if you don’t let them all off the hook, then you’re going to create resentment. “Why did you let her get away with it and not me?”

Even students who never misbehave will view you as hypocritical and unfair.

Furthermore, the moment you head down this slippery path, you’ll begin losing control of your class. It’s simple math: Inconsistency equals more misbehavior—every single time.

So how do you say no to a desperately apologetic student? How do you hold them accountable when it hurts almost physically to disappoint them?

How do you stick to your guns when every bone in your body is screaming to give them a break?

You don’t allow yourself another option.

You commit mind, body, and soul to following your classroom management plan as it’s written, no matter what and ASAP.

Because as soon as that student sees you thinking about it, they’re going to lay it on even thicker and heavier. And every second that passes will make it that much harder to follow through.

This underscores the importance of walking away after delivering your consequence.

But what happens if you can’t do that? What happens if the student raises their hand and requests to speak with you? Or what if they follow you down the hallway after class?

In this case, the simple truth is best and most effective.

“I wish I could, but if I let you get away with it, then I’d have to do the same for everybody else.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t, or I’d lose control of this class.”

“I made a promise to follow our classroom management plan, and I want you and everyone else to be able to trust me.”

“It wouldn’t be fair to those who have broken the same rule.”

It’s okay to be sympathetic. It’s okay to tell them that you’re sorry and that you’d love to be able to let them off the hook.

It’s okay to tell them that you still think they’re wonderful and that there are no hard feelings.

But you must never, ever give in.

Because once you prove that you’re the real deal, that you really do what you say you’re going to do, they’ll stop trying to sway you. They’ll stop begging and groveling and looking for a way out.

They’ll accept their consequence straightaway and learn from it.

What still surprises me is how many students approach me later in the year to shake my hand and thank me for being fair with them.

Which means the world, of course, and shows that they’re different people than that day they chased me down the hallway.

It also makes it that much easier to say no, to follow through, to do the right thing.

To be the leader they need, not the weak-kneed friend they don’t.

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16 Responses to How To Handle Students Who Beg You Not To Hold Them Accountable

  1. Muhammad Abdullah Javed July 1, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    Excellent piece of writing. The beauty is that for an apologetic student the response of a teacher is of two prong. One lets the student realized the erring self and the second, it helps other students have a self introspection. Thanks for sharing

    • Michael Linsin July 1, 2017 at 11:16 am #

      Thanks Muhammad!


  2. Giulie July 1, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    Excellent. It is the area that I am going to put my focus on this school year. I have the added challenge that I loop with my class, so unfortunately, I have some habits with my class to break this year but I’m determined to do it!

  3. Eugenia Collins July 1, 2017 at 11:00 am #

    Thank you for all your wonderful articles! This will really help me next year!

    • Michael Linsin July 1, 2017 at 11:14 am #

      You’re welcome, Eugenia! Glad to hear it.

  4. Angie July 1, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    tSo,in a situation where you tell a student to move his seat, leave your classroom, etc, They don’t budge. How do you enforce a physical change & still stick to your rules of classroom management?

    • Michael Linsin July 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

      Hi Angie,

      We’ve covered this topic extensively, but will cover it again in the future. In the meantime, when you get a chance, please check out the Difficult Student category of the archive.


  5. Betsy July 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

    Hi, Michael. Great article and a good reminder. Ty!
    This is off topic, but a while back you mentioned that you’d be covering another topic more fully: students who want to tattle about incidents that happen when they’re under others’ care (PE, specials, lunch, etc.). Is that article still in the works?

    • Michael Linsin July 2, 2017 at 11:51 am #

      Hi Betsy,

      It’s a long list of topics, but I’ll definitely keep it in mind.


  6. Carena Wood July 1, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    I would love to see an article on writing the classroom plan.

  7. Marlene Gay July 2, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    I remember in my early years of teaching, I had a marvelously accommodating principal. I made the mistake that you mentioned of not applying consequences, giving in to pleading. Big mistake. The principal found out about it. It was very hard to undo. Sticking to your guns with confidence makes all the difference. You don’t have to be mean, but you have to be consistent. That’s how to win their respect.
    They were challenging 12th grade students (a disadvantaged area) for whom I had one year to prepare them from beginners to the final matriculation exam. Years later, a waitress at a wedding came to me saying she was in my class then and how we worked during school breaks “marathons” to prepare them for the finals. All of them passed (except one girl). One girl is even working for a lawyer.We had hurdles to get through, but we did it anyway.

  8. Joyce Blaas July 4, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    I was planning on taking your on line class but I didn’t get signed up in time. I have been a special education teacher most of my teaching career of 27 years. The last 3 years I was teaching 2nd grade. My classroom management needed help to say the least. I am planning on teaching 6th grade next year. Which of your books would you recommend for me to read this summer to get me on the right track next year. I hope you offer our on line class again in the future. Sorry I missed it.
    Thanks, Joyce

    • Michael Linsin July 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

      Hi Joyce,

      I’m sorry you missed the course. I recommend The Classroom Management Secret.


  9. Tammy July 5, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    Great article. I am a believer. However, it’s very difficult and frustrating for a teacher when administration is not supportive and does not apply the consequences of wrong behaviors. What advice do you have for my circumstance of no supportive administration?

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