20th February 2016

Have you ever wondered, how a teacher manages a class of 20 kids (or more)?

Do you ever look at your child’s class and think – how does the teacher do it?  I can’t even get my own two or three (or 4 or 5 or 6, what the hell was I thinking?) to behave for five minutes?

Well – this blog post I’m going to share with you two secrets that teachers use to manage behaviour all the time.

Secret Number 1

Establish your expectations.

So – in defence of the kids, here’s what happens to them.  They turn up at Grandma’s or the shops or wherever and they start tearing around like a mad thing and then you start yelling at them.  You probably say something like “Stop running around like a mad thing!”  And do you know what the kids think? (Some of the braver ones might say it to your face).  They think:

‘but you never told me not to run around!’

As adults we know the behaviour that’s expected of us.  And we expect that our kids should know it as well – but at what point did you stop and teach them the behaviour you expected?

Teachers know that behaviour expectations need to be made clear before the event.  So when you see kids sitting beautifully in lines at assembly, you can be sure that the teacher told them beforehand that they would be required to sit quietly in rows.  Chances are it was their Kindy or Prep teacher that taught them this during their first year of school and kids, being the clever little folk that they are, catch on pretty quick so by the time they’re in Years 2, 3, 4 and so on they just know the behaviour that’s expected of them at assembly or the sports carnival or in the library or on excursion…

How can you apply this to your parenting?  Well my friends – let me introduce you to The Power Lecture.  Before we go anywhere my kids get a power lecture (1-3 minutes, absolutely no longer because otherwise they start thinking of the funny thing they saw on Ben and Holly).  The power lecture follows the same format every time.  It goes like this (feel free to take this speech as your own – I didn’t make it up – it was handed down to me from other more experienced teachers and parents):

When we get to *insert destination here* you have to *insert behaviour you want here*.  You are not allowed to *insert undesirable behaviour here*.

The power lecture needs to be very specific.  Just the other day my lecture went like this:

When we get to the beach you have to keep your swimmers on.  You are not allowed to play naked.

I’m such a buzz-kill aren’t I?  But it works.  The powerlecture can be as specific as you need it to be.  Here’s a longer example:

When we get to Nanny’s you have to take off your shoes and go upstairs and say a nice hello to Nanny and give a cuddle.  Then you can play with the toys.  You must remember to be quiet.  You are not allowed to play in Nanny’s bedroom and you don’t just help yourself to Nanny’s food.  You ask first.

Depending on the situation, you might want to explain why that behaviour isn’t desirable or why you are setting these boundaries.  For example: I explained to my daughter – in basic terms – why her dad and I didn’t want her to run around the beach naked.  Some behaviours might need that kind of explanation to help the child understand where you’re coming from.

Over time I have found my power lectures are becoming shorter as my kids have learnt the expectations.  Sometimes, if we had a particularly bad behaviour episode the last time we went somewhere, I will remind them of that.  For example:

Remember last time we went for coffee with my friend and you carried on like a pork chop demanding a milkshake?  *pause, wait for them to recall*  And remember how you missed out on going to the park afterwards?  *pause for recall, allow a few milliseconds of residual trauma to flood their system*  Well – we don’t want that to happen again do we?  So this time, when we get to… blah blah blah *continue with standard power lecture*

Secret Number 2

Establish your consequences.

When we tell kids the expectations we have of them, I’m pretty sure that their curious little inner child voice is saying or what? Meaning: if I don’t do all that, what’s going to happen?

Teachers know that consequences don’t actually begin after the event – they are set up well before.  Teachers know that kids are thinking ‘or what’ and we tell them.  Teachers say things like:  People in this class who can’t sit up properly during assembly will have to practise during lunch time or  If you don’t have your work completed by lunch, it becomes homework.

Consequences need to be flagged before behaviour goes wrong.  That way, the child who chooses to misbehave will know in advance the consequence they will experience.  It’s like a pre-emptive strike!

Consequences also need to be immediate, believable and do-able.  That’s why it’s good to have them pre-planned.  Otherwise you find yourself saying crazy things like this:

“Right – if you’re not sitting in the car with your seatbelt on in the next five minutes then you’re not getting any presents for Christmas!”  

This one fails in believability – are you really going to deprive your child of Christmas gifts?  It can also fail in immediacy – if there’s ten months until Christmas are you really going to make a note in your diary that says Remember on 20th February, Johnny wasn’t in the car when I asked, so no presents for him!

“Get your school uniform on right now or I’m going to send you to school naked.”

Fails on the do-able because really… you ain’t gonna put your kid through that.

“You need to get your hair done and your shoes on now or I’m going to explode!”  

Fails on believability and if I was a kid I’d be tempted to push on, just to see how you explode!

Good consequences are things you can enforce easily, are immediate and that you can follow through with.  Some examples might be:

  • limiting the use of a beloved toy
  • leaving the event/ function/ party to go straight home
  • time out in a particular area of the house
  • no tuckshop order, pocket money or beloved treat that week
  • no play on the park or something fun that joins on after the activity

The consequence should be the closing statements of the power lecture.

If you *insert bad behaviour here* then I will *insert consequence here*.

For example:

“If you run around the beach naked then we will go straight home.”

“If you speak rudely to mummy when we are down the street then you won’t watch TV when we get home.”

“If you run around and be noisy at Nanna’s birthday dinner then I will sit with you in the car for five minutes.”  (Obviously you’re going to supervise the child and make sure the consequence is safe.)

Here’s a complete power lecture for you to use as you wish:


When we get to *insert destination here*

you have to *insert behaviour you want here*.  

You are not allowed to *insert undesirable behaviour here*.  

If you *insert bad behaviour here*

then I will *insert consequence here*.

Send me an email and let me know how it all goes!


One response to “2 Secret Tips for MANAGING BEHAVIOUR”

  1. Kirstin says:

    Years ago when my now 18 & 16 yo were tinies – probably 5 & 7, I threatened “If *this behaviour* doesn’t stop right now, there’ll be no tv ‘til Christmas!”
    OMG… well, I’ve always followed through on consequences, so I couldn’t back down. There was no tv in our house until Christmas… it was APRIL!!!
    Probably one of the best things that could ever have happened though… it has made a lasting impression in more ways than one – and shocked many people who said ‘you’ll never stick to it’.

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