I have heard you say that not knowing a consequence is more effective than telling a student what the consequence is. How is that since we are required to post consequences for inappropriate classroom behavior?
When the concept of posting consequences was first introduced, I was an assistant principal of a high school of 3,200 students. My experiences at that suburban school, as well as my counseling and administrative experience in urban schools in Los Angeles, prompted the thought—which I still believe: When dealing with inappropriate behavior, not knowing is more powerful and effective than knowing.
When someone knows a consequence for an inappropriate behavior the risk is reduced. But when the person does not know the consequence, the mind cannot make a connection and leaves the person “hanging.” The insecurity of not knowing what will happen is unnerving and is more effective than the security of knowing.
You can prove this to yourself. The next time a student is behaving on an inappropriate level on the hierarchy of social development, just whisper in the student’s ear, “Don’t worry about what will happen. We’ll talk about it after class.”
The student will immediately stop the disruption (your desired response) and think about what is going to happen. The reason is that you have redirected the person’s thinking.
In addition, an imposed consequence has little effect on changing future behavior. The proof of this is the number of times the same student is sent to detention or referred to the office. Something IMPOSED lacks ownership. Ownership of a consequence is necessary for promoting responsibility, and it is essential for long-lasting behavioral change.
A more effective approach than imposing a consequence is simply to explain that the behavior was inappropriate, and then ask, “What do you suggest we do about it?” In the process, develop a procedure to help the person respond to his impulses in an appropriate way. Without some procedure or some technique, the youngster is just as likely to become a victim of his impulses in the futre as he has been in the past.