Top 10 Discipline Mistakes

Posted on December 1, 2001
Behavior problems among passengers can lead to more than just an unruly school bus. School transportation managers indicate that rowdy students are one of the main reasons for low driver retention rates. Dr. Frank Finney, a Castlegar, British Columbia-based school transportation consultant, offers the following insights on the 10 most common mistakes made by drivers in trying to manage behavior problems. 1. Yelling — Kids figure out you are yelling because you don’t know what else to do, so they tune you out. 2. Labeling — Using phrases like “You’re ignorant” or “You don’t know better.” Eventually, the child may believe it — and act accordingly. 3. Making idle threats — “Sit down or I’ll throw you off this bus!” Children won’t take you seriously if you threaten what you can’t, or aren’t willing, to do. 4. Nagging — Telling children over and over not to do something often motivates them to do the opposite. 5. Praising instead of encouraging — When you praise — “Excellent!” or “Terrific!” — children don’t learn to pursue goals for their own satisfaction. 6. Using bribes — Rewards to stop bad behavior might produce short-term improvements, but you’ll have to up the ante to control the bad behavior. 7. No consequences — Consequences for unacceptable behavior need to be: • reasonable  simple • valuable • safe • above all, enforced 8. Treating children like adults — Children lack experience and judgment. They need behavior boundaries and someone to look to for guidance. 9. Arguing in front of students — When you argue openly over bus rules or a problem student with another driver, a parent or a teacher, children get confused and become insecure. Also, a united front keeps students from playing one adult against another. 10. Looking for the cause instead of understanding the motivation behind the student’s behavior — When students misbehave, they are usually seeking one or more of the following: • attention • power/control • revenge • fun Some people think punishing or controlling children can make them obedient, but it’s much more effective to show them the important lessons discipline can teach them. The key is to be firm, fair and consistent. Be firm — Establish the limits of acceptable behavior and, with loving authority, firmly enforce them. Be fair — Children, especially teenagers, have a keen sense of fairness. If they believe a rule is unfair, they will resent and disobey it. Be consistent — Once you’ve established rules, don’t stray from them. Contact: Dr. Frank Finney, Educator Support Services, at (250) 365-3482 or
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