Responsive Discipline

What is responsive discipline?

It responds to misbehavior through (1) an ongoing process of retraining; (2) consistent reminders of the rules;(3) redirection of improper behavior to better responses;(4) time-out in the thinking chair (See the article for more information.); and (5) expressions of Christlike love, mercy, and forgiveness.

 students-99506 640The following situations often occur in the classroom.

The teacher responses demonstrate how to respond to negative behavior in a positive manner.

Whining or complaining

Teacher response: Tell the child the sound of whining bothers your ears, but you would like to listen if he would talk in a pleasant voice. Then, listen attentively. You will help him know whining is not a successful form of communication, but talking pleasantly is. By listening attentively, you reinforce his attempt to communicate effectively.


Teacher response: Tell the child you never let people hurt others' feelings. He may not call Anthony that and make him feel bad. You will not allow Anthony to hurt his feelings either. Say, "I can tell you are very angry with Anthony. What happened?" Listen to the explanation and help him work out the problem.


Teacher response: Say, "We're not trying to find out who did it. We just want to clean it up."

Shouting at or bossing others

Teacher response: Say, "Carmela doesn't like to hear you shout at her. She doesn't have to do what you say. If you want her to come with you, ask her in a nice way."

Fidgeting, wandering gaze, or being distracted by noises or others

Teacher response: Make sure the method you're using fits the learning style of the age-level you're teaching. Try to structure the environment so there are few distractions when attention is really needed. Say, "When you talk, I look at you so you'll know I'm listening. When I talk, I need you to look at me so I know you're listening."

Ignoring your direction

Teacher response: Say, "I see you don't want to do what I said. Sometimes I let you decide what you'll do, but now it's my turn to decide. I want you to do what I said right now." Make sure there are times the child can decide what he will do, when and how he'll do it, and with whom.

Physically hurting others or things

Teacher response: Say, "You are not allowed to hurt Brian, and he is not allowed to hurt you. Why are you so angry with him?"

Using attention-getting behavior at others' expense; repeatedly interrupting

Teacher response: Say, "You are taking Angela's turn (you are interrupting me). You are trying to get us (me) to look at you, but we are (I am) (listening to a story; looking at Mark's bug, singing.) It isn't your turn now. In a minute it will be your turn."


Sunday School. All rights reserved. Used with permission.