Discipline and “Hard Students”

Teachers often ask me, “How do you discipline ‘hard students’?” They are usually referring to the tough, street-wise kids who seem to have a chip on their shoulder. While people often think these youngsters are only found in the inner city, the fact is that such students are in small towns too.

When working with “hard kids,” it’s important to resist using any coercion with them. Imposed discipline, threats, and/or rewards are completely useless with these students (even more so than typical kids). Instead, speak to them in positive and empowering ways. Let them know that you cannot and will not even try to make them learn—that learning or not learning is their choice. Most important, continually prompt self-reflective questions, as in, “I’m not looking for an answer, but you may want to ask yourself if what you are doing is in your own best interest.”

Be consistent in employing the three practices of the Discipline Without Stress methodology, refer to the levels of social development, and elicit a procedure to help the student redirect impulses. For STUDENTS OF GRADE 9 AND ABOVE, rather than asking them to identify a level out loud, just suggest to them that they reflect on the level on which THEY ARE CHOOSING both to ACT and LEARN.