What to Say to Disruptive Children

Whether in the classroom or at home, all children act out at times. When it occurs, rather than discipline them by imposing a punishment if they continue or promising a reward if they stop, try a few verbal techniques that promote responsibility in the youth and reduce stress for you.

  1. Rather than telling the child that he or she is off task, not doing something correctly, or acting irresponsibly, ask the child to reflect on the level of chosen behavior of the Raise Responsibility System’s hierarchy.
  2. Children with short attention spans have a difficult time getting started on a task and staying on a task. Therefore, give clear, concise, directions. In the classroom, rather than just say, “Get ready to take your quiz,” the teacher could say, “Put your feet on the floor, sternum up and out, pencil and paper in proper position.” At home, rather than just say, “Clean up after dinner,” the parent could say, “Bring the dirty dishes to the sink, rinse them off, and then put them in the dishwasher.” To reinforce the directions, have children complete the following to themselves: “The first thing I see myself doing is …”
  3. When a child is off task or exhibits inappropriate behavior, be positive by stating what you want—not what you don’t want. Simply tell the youngster what you would like to see happen. This helps the child understand your desires and stops him or her from engaging in one behavior only to engage in another, non-productive one. This suggestion alone will greatly reduce discipline problems at home and at school.