Behaviour - effective punishment

29th April 2011 at 01:00
The problem: I have a group of Year 2s who are always in trouble - outside the head's office, on report or in the naughty corner. They don't seem to care, and see being sent to the head as exciting. How do I get them to care about being punished?

What you said

"We use a visual behaviour chart. If a child needs to have a time out, they miss three minutes of playtime. The second time, they miss five minutes. I take "golden time" away from children who have not made good choices about their behaviour and we often talk about consequences in class. It has taken a lot of time and hard work, but I feel like it's finally paying off."


"If you have persistent offenders, make sure that during their time out you engage the rest of the class in an activity you know the child would enjoy. They may not be bothered about listening to a story, but if they missed out on a more exciting interactive whiteboard game they might think twice about misbehaving."


"Misbehave again and get to go for a wander, probably with friends, and have a good laugh? It doesn't really sound like much of a deterrent. Be specific about where you want them to sit and that you expect them to be silent."


The expert view

First, being sent to the head's office isn't a sanction unless something uncomfortable happens there. For instance, perhaps every time it happens the child's parents could be phoned, they could be excluded from lunchtime football or have to work sitting at the scary school secretary's desk.

Second, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If the naughty corner doesn't work, find something that does - perhaps sending them to the corner in a classroom with older children. Some people would avoid singling pupils out in this way, but teaching good behaviour involves differentiation. Of course, remember that sanctions must be undesirable - even unpleasant - but must never harm or humiliate children.

Look on limit-setting as a short-term strategy. Children will behave to get something nice or avoid something nasty, but only until the novelty wears off or they realise the sanctions aren't that bad. Measures such as good behaviour models, visual and audible reminders and encouraging engagement with the rules are the next steps. Eventually, they should learn why it is best for them to behave for everyone's sake: that means work on emotional intelligence, perhaps by discussing incidents after they have happened. Aim to leave limit-setting behind, remembering that you can impose them again at any point.

Raymond Soltysek lectures in behaviour management at the University of Strathclyde. For more behaviour advice, go to



  • Find out what happens at the head's office. If it doesn't feel like a punishment, it's not a worthwhile sanction.
  • Differentiate your sanctions depending on the pupil.
  • Model good behaviour and discuss incidents after they happen.
    • DON'T

      • Keep using the same strategies if they don't work.
      • Humiliate the children - you need to boost their emotional intelligence.


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