Classroom ManagementCredit: courtesy of FEMA

When teachers are faced with problem behavior in children there are many techniques and theories regarding how to change that behavior.  The discipline model uses a four-pronged attack to find solutions to misbehavior.

1. Behavior- Identify the behavior

 The discipline model contends the first step in changing unwanted behavior in children is first specifically identifying the behavior and its characteristics.

 Zeroing in on the specific behavior, observed or expressed, identifies the exact characteristics of the behavior and helps to avoid generalization, thus targeting the exact behavior to change.  It also makes it easier to describe the behavior to the child or other pertinent people in the child’s life.

 2. Effects: Identify How the Classroom Behavior Affects Others

 Teachers need to identify how the student’s behavior affects the teacher, the other students and the classroom environment.  Identifying how the behavior affects these three areas is important to make any adjustments necessary to change the behavior.

 At times, the problem behavior affects all three areas, but sometimes the behavior may only affect the teacher.  It is counterproductive to imply to the student the behavior is bothering others, when in fact it is only bothering the teacher.

 3.  Action: Identify the Causes of the Behavior

 Any plan developed to change behavior in children needs to address the core issue which is the reason for the behavior.   Every behavior, whether positive or negative, has a reason behind it; something that motivates it, the pay off.  Whenever a problem behavior is addressed, discovering the purpose of the behavior is the first step.

 Though there are many reasons someone misbehaves, the majority of negative behavior occurs because of four primary reasons.  Children are usually seeking one of the following: 

  •              1.  Attention
  •              2.  Power
  •              3.  Revenge
  •              4.  Self-confidence

 Most children gain attention in “normal” ways; ways that are deemed acceptable socially both within the family and in the community.  Other children misbehave as the only means of gaining attention, even if it is negative attention. In the school setting, the students most likely to have this as a reason behind their misbehavior are those who are late for class and those who make strange noises or speak out without permission.

 Children who seek power are most commonly the defiant ones.  Classroom behavior may manifest in refusal to follow rules.  These children are often bullies in and out of the classroom.  These children feel that their lack of power is the cause of all their problems and gaining power is the answer.

 Children who seek revenge have usually already tried the attention and power seeking methods of misbehaving and have failed.  Therefore, they gain personal satisfaction in being violent, mean and vicious. These are the children who beat up others, write on desks and walls, and break things.

 Children who lack self-confidence believe they do not posses the skills to succeed and thus expect to fail.  These children often do well outside the classroom, but in the classroom will not participate in studies.  Instead, they play and talk to others while they are supposed to be studying and then make excuses for not completing school work.  They make comments such as “I’m stupid.”

 Underneath these four major reasons are reasons motivated by the primary and secondary needs of children.  Primary needs are functions that are necessary for human survival—physical and mental. Primary needs include:

  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Air
  • Rest
  • Escape from pain (drugs, cults, alcohol are a few examples of this)
  • Relationships (this could include an infatuation with a teacher)
  • Body waste elimination

 Secondary needs are psychological and learned.  Through these needs goals are reached and self-concepts improved.  While most children will gain these through positive behavior, if there is failure to do so, children will resort to negative means.  Secondary needs are:

  • Gregariousness: belonging or association with a group;
  • Aggression: ability to assert themselves;
  • Affiliation: the need to be close to someone; sometimes identified as the teacher;
  • Inquisitiveness: knowing what is going on;
  • Achievement: the need to succeed;
  • Power:  the need for significance;
  • Status: uniqueness of a person; and
  • Autonomy: independence

 4.  Mistakes:  Common Misjudgments and Errors in Managing Behavior

 Often the first impulse in adjusting classroom behavior is to react personally instead of professionally.  This mistake can exacerbate the behavior instead of adjusting it.  

 Common mistakes in judgment vary depending upon what type of behavior is being exhibited. Each type of behavior has specific errors that are most common when dealing with behavior for that type.  Examples of the over one hundred behavior types include the agitator, the failer, the destroyer, the dreamer, the interrupter, and the liar.  Examples of errors can include:

  • Arguing with the student
  • Failing to see the real reason by the behavior
  • Chastising the student publically instead of in private
  • Refusing to listen
  • Ignoring the problem
  • Trying to bribe
  • Using sarcasm
  • Giving in to demands
  • Skirting the issue with parents

 Teachers can use the discipline model individually or as a group effort in coordination with classroom aids or colleagues.  When using the model as a group solution, the teacher experiencing the problem needs to identify the behavior and its characteristics and determine the affects on others.  With this information, the group can brainstorm possible solutions.

 Teachers often have a difficult task in controlling behavior in children.  Classroom management includes ensuring that all students have an adequate, positive learning environment.  Using the discipline model to help children adjust their negative behavior is one solution in providing such an environment. 



DeBruyn, Robert L. and Larson, Jack L.  You Can Handle Them All, A Discipline Model for Handling Over One Hundred Different Misbehaviors at School and at Home,  Second Edition.  Manhattan, Kansas: The Master Teacher Inc., 2009.


 The copyright of the article “Home and Classroom Management:  The Discipline Model” is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.