When Students Break The Rules, Emphasize The Effect On Others

When Students Break The Rules, Emphasize The Effect On Others

by TeachThought Staff

How do you respond when a student breaks a rule?

There isn’t a single right answer, of course. Every situation isn’t the same and ‘fair’ doesn’t always mean ‘equal.’ There are times when holding a student accountable for their behavior is the fastest path towards understanding–and them modifying their behavior.

But why they modify that behavior can have a lot to do with how long it lasts, and how much an improvement it can make on that child’s character. After all, isn’t that why we teach?

In ‘A Really, Really Well-Written Set Of Classroom Rules,’ we shared a teacher’s use of the ‘Love & Logic’ rules, which included the very wise ‘Feel free to do anything that doesn’t cause a problem for anyone else.’ Achieving this requires sympathy, compassion, and even empathy. These emotions and emotional ‘tracts’ and perspectives ‘humanize’ behavior and keep it from being a checklist of either following or not ‘following the rules.’

On Lifehacker, they recently published a post on how to respond when children (and K-12 students are children) breaks the rules.

‘When people are told that certain behaviors come with personal consequences, they rationalize. For kids, that might look something like this:

Parent: “Stop climbing up the slide. You’ll get kicked in the face when a kid comes down.”

What the child is thinking: “Well, I’ve done this 27 times before and emerged unscathed, so yeah, I feel pretty confident about my current course of action.”

But when consequences for others are included (“Stop climbing up the slide. You not letting a friend slide down, and she’s sad”), the magical empathy/guilt combo kicks in. Emphasizing consequences for others is a trusty motivator for grownups, too.’

How applicable this is to your classroom depends on the circumstance. Sometimes ‘rules and rules,’ and that’s not only a consequence of teaching 32 students at once, but is also a part of life. Emphasizing how one student can impact another is not only useful for modifying behavior, but underscoring the interdependence between students as well.

Further, it can lead to a student beginning to see their own potential–how they are powerful, and they can use it create positive circumstances for them and others, or use that power to tear others down.

You can read the full post on Lifehacker.