Effective Discipline Practices in Elementary School


Education researchers such as Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs have determined that elementary school-aged children respond well to a positive discipline approach in the classroom. Differing from a style calling for rote memorization and capital punishment, positive discipline considers children`s self-esteem and potential to succeed with constructive input from teachers. Positive discipline is kind, firm and consistent and encourages students to do their best and follow rules because they want to succeed.


  • The positive discipline approach has been adapted widely in elementary schools and features four characteristics in the classroom. First, rules and expectations are clear, specific and consistent and empower the child to make choices. Teachers who present clear rules and explain why they are important and helpful to the classroom community are more likely to get a buy-in from students. Supporters of the approach believe it offers students a feeling of connection to the classroom and fosters good behavior choices in the long term.


  • Children respond well to a positive and clear system of motivations and rewards. For example, a teacher might keep a visual tally of points received when the class cooperates and follows directions over a set period of time. Students may anticipate extra recess, a field trip or a class party as a long-term reward. When the entire class is working for the same goal, students probably will encourage each other to follow the system of positive discipline as well.


  • While the approach of positive discipline is firm and kind, a system with clear and consistent consequences helps the system work well. These begin with a redirection and suggestion to change the behavior, may proceed to a warning and continue with other results such as contacting a parent or changing seating arrangements. The idea is that when students clearly understand expectations, rewards and consequences, then any behavior they choose is in their power and is their choice only.


  • As children grow and learn, their self-esteem plays a significant role in their progress. Students who feel good about themselves are motivated to work hard and see positive results are more likely to succeed academically and socially. Specific praise and encouragement add to this positive cycle, as does constructive criticism that provides specific suggestions for improvement. The key is that students do not feel helpless and instead feel they are contributing to the success of the classroom and to their own success.


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