Instead of NoNO!  STOP!  DON’T! Students hate to hear it. Teachers wish they didn’t have to say it. But, do negative words such as these really even work? And, when does “no” lose its luster?

I’m reminded of just how much disciplinarians overuse these words at the start of each school year when we create our ‘Class Constitution’ together. During this activity, students are given the opportunity to devise their own set of rules.  And every year we’ve done it (10…but who’s counting), my students share ideas that require me to encourage a shift in mindset.  With a little grappling, they do end up getting it.

Here are a few examples:

No hitting.  Keep our hands to ourselves.

You can’t cuss.  Use kind words.

No running.  Walk in the classroom and halls.

Don’t be mean.  Treat each other nicely.

You can’t steal people’s things.  Respect people’s property.

My point is, students must be hearing this type of talk somewhere. And while phrases such as these may temporarily stop the undesired behavior, they don’t teach, train, or show students love.

See what I did there? 😉

Instead of always telling students what NOT to do, let’s be specific in telling them exactly what we want. This will teach children to self-regulate, leading to better long-term results. It’ll also preserve the teacher/student bond as well as their confidence. So, save the negative words for dire times. That way when you drop one, they know you mean business.

In the meantime, try these:


Please ____ instead.

Why don’t we…

In this class, we…

Thank you for…

Please show me…

Tell me the better choice…

When you ____, I feel ____.

I like it when you ____ better because _____.

Our rule is ____.

Sure, as soon as you ____, then you may _____.

Here are your choices…

Rather than ____, please _____.

I know you feel ____, but _____.

This is what I’d like to see… (model)

Also, be sure to check out The Heart of Positive Discipline for 101 ways to discipline a child without having to result to punitive language or harsh punishments.

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