Homepage | Introduction | Parenting Columns | Travel Features | Misc. Musings | Contact | Purchase Info


There are many ways
other than punishment
to get children to behave.


450 words


Another way to get kids to behave
by Dianne Roth


When I was a first and second grade teacher, I had pretty good luck managing a classroom full of six and seven year olds. A few months ago, I wrote about the power of knowing who the adult is and who the child is. That bit of information was perhaps the best strategy I ever used. Here is another.

For two years I had the principal’s daughter in my class. It was a great group of kids and she was one of them. That is not to say that I didn’t bend and break every now and then.

One morning the principal showed up at my classroom door. She said that at dinner the evening before, her daughter had asked, “Do you know what Ms. Roth does when she gets angry?”

I shriveled. What had she told her mother?

As the adult in a classroom of 25 youngsters, there is all manner of behavior that needs tending moment by moment. There are throwers, hitters, pinchers, kickers, screamers, tattlers, refusers, criers, and stubborn little bunnies that need kind and firm limits set throughout the day by their ‘adult’ teacher.

I am good, though not 100%. And every single lapse in my perfection came flashing through my mind with the mother of a student, my principal, standing before me.

I forced a smile and hoped for the best.

She told her mother, “Ms. Roth barks!”

I nearly collapsed in relief.

It is true, I would bark. And, I would growl. And, believe or not, it worked!

It was an independent work time strategy. I would be meeting with children about their writing, one at a time, at their tables. Keeping everyone busy is tough when you are occupied with one student. Inevitably, someone starts some monkey business that distracts nearby students.

Calling a name only gives the culprit attention. Children soon learn that making me say their names for everyone to hear is more fun than doing their work.

So, I would give a low growl followed by a sharp little bark.

You’d think they would love it and do things to make me bark. You might also think it would be distracting to the other children. No on both counts.

And, most interesting, the only child to look up at me was the culprit. Everyone else ignored me. As soon as we made eye-contact, I’d give a stern look, then a questioning expression. The child would nod and I would nod and, without a word being spoken, we would both go back to work.

Don’t ask me how or why it worked. Amazingly, I growled and barked for years and my principal was the only parent to check it out.


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.




Last updated on November 3, 2015