Rules and Discipline

Rules are meant to control—not inspire.

Rules are necessary in games. Between people, however, rules result in adversarial relationships and actually increase discipline issues. Why? Because rules require enforcement. In addition, rules are often stated in negative terms and imply an imposed consequence if not followed.

Rules place the teacher in the position of the enforcer—a cop wearing a blue uniform with copper buttons—rather than of a teacher, coach, mentor, facilitator of learning, or educator.

Enforcing rules can result in power struggles that rarely result in win-win situations or good relationships.

Upon analysis, you will see that rules are either procedures or expectations. Therefore, rather than relying on rules, you will be much more effective if you teach procedures, which is the essence of good classroom management. And as a natural by-product, your discipline issues will decrease.

Rules are “left-hemisphere” oriented. They work with people who are orderly and structured. “Right-hemisphere” dominant people act randomly and spontaneously. Teaching procedures, rather than relying on rules, is more effective with this type of student.

Therefore, instead of posting Rules that focus on obedience, consider posting Responsibilities that empower and elevate. For example:


  • Have my materials
  • Be where I belong
  • Follow directions
  • Do my assignments
  • Be kind to others