Let’s Say ‘YES‘ to Positive Disciplining

Is ‘disciplining’ synonymous to ‘punishing’? Let us have a look at the various steps rendered by those who take a more traditional approach to the process:

Action taken How we look at it How the student looks at it
Step I Verbal warning “Our sincere hope is that you repent right there on the spot.” “Big deal!”
Step II Detention after school “Please change yourself after this” “My problem is solved if I can find an excuse not to turn up.”
Step III Conference with parents “They have demonstrated their total incompetence.” “I remember what Mom said last time. ‘I can’t do anything with him at home, either. He’s driving me crazy!’”
Step IV Sent to the office “Do you have any idea what is going to happen there” “Is that it? All I get is a ticket out of class?”
Step V Suspended! “I hope you return to school with an entirely new attitude toward education. Do I make myself clear?” You just keep pushing the rules. You never know when to quit.


simiIt is insane, it’s said, to do the same thing over and again and expect a different result. Rather than triggering responses of passive-aggression from the students, a popular workaround for this issue is one of Positive Disciplining.

Children require a positive figure to guide them in the process of understanding what acceptable behavior is and what is not. For example, in instructions like “Do your work properly!” the word ‘properly’ is both too vague and too stringent a quality for a child to comprehend the limits and implications of.

Positive guidance is the process of establishing and maintaining responsible, productive and collaborative behavior in children. Setting realistic expectations for children, guiding them and showing respect for their progress, can not only help them feel good about themselves, but also motivate them to respond with the same interest and respect. This makes for a far more mutual and healthy teaching-learning environment.

Affective guidance keeps children safe, prevents behavioral problems and helps them regulate their emotions, which are three major prerequisites in the student-teacher rapport, in order for your disciplinary ideals to be effectively put across to and accepted by them. This builds a solid foundation in children’s positive interaction with others too.

Certain guidance techniques that could potentially facilitate positive disciplining:

  • Create a Predictable environment and schedule: Do so by ensuring that the student knows the importance of what you seek to convey or gain from your sessions with them. Project the collective goal of the class, and in a concise manner at that.
  • Keep your messages consistent and firm: Here, the word firm implies that the messages be well-founded and self-explanatory, and not that it should be something that is enforced upon them.
  • Be trustworthy: It’s okay to be a stickler for rules, but you cannot expect the students to trust you with their choices in conduct, unless you trust that they will do so on their own without you having to tighten the reins every now and then.
  • Be responsive to each child’s strengths and needs: Look at the classes not as individual groups, but as groups of individuals.
  • Be an active listener: Focus your undivided attention to the child’s needs and wishes
  • Model: Demonstrate the behavior that you expect from them in return.
  • Be Consistent: Consistently follow through the consequences to enforce rules.
  • Appreciate: Respond to positive behavior with a descriptive personal praise.

As a crash course, let us look at potential alternatives for ‘no’

Negative statements Positive statements
Don’t repeat this word again Let us choose another word
This isn’t yours. Don’t take it. That’s ________’s, Can I offer you this one instead?
Stop screaming! I am not able to understand. Please say it such that I may understand.
Stop playing! Maybe we can play later / after we finish ________
Only small babies cry I know it hurts. Let’s see what we can do about it
Don’t spill the paint! Be careful. The paint belongs on the paper.

Love is both a bond and a motivator. It is the universal incentive to do good things, and conform to another person’s needs.
Believe that children are good at heart. In the end and as a hand-rule, just make sure the message of love gets through!

Go positive!.

Ms. Simi Sheffi
Primary Coordinator, International Centre for Excellence

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