Educators, I’m About to Share With You How to Give the Perfect Consequence, Every time.  Please Use This Knowledge Responsibly!

by | May 3, 2024 | Professional Development For Teachers | 0 comments

Teachers need practical, useful teacher professional development, like how to determine the perfect consequence for every discipline issue. To do this, the first important step is to help determine the severity of discipline issues. To do this we suggest that teachers mentally put students into 1 of 3 categories, based on frequency of misbehavior. Those categories are:

  1. Coconuts. Frequently misbehave, hard outer shell, tough nuts to crack.
  2. Oranges. Occasionally misbehave. They are still sweet, it just takes a little work to get to the good stuff.
  3. Bananas. Rarely if ever misbehaves. They are always a delight, easy to peel.

Sometimes, just reminding the students of the rule while reinforcing the value isn’t enough. Once in a while, you need to give a consequence.  Ok, so how do you pick the perfect consequence for every misbehavior that is strict enough to stop the misbehavior, but reasonable enough that you don’t have the student walking away thinking about how mean you are or how you treated them. Instead, they are thinking about their own behavior and considering changing?

How can you pick the perfect consequence for each student in every situation?

Well, the answer is, you can’t!  There are just too many variables.  Maybe the misbehaving student is a Coconut Kid who may need to be removed from the classroom or the school.  Maybe it’s a Banana Kid who made a mistake, and just giving the teacher “Look” of disapproval to her will shut down the behavior forever.

So how can you go about giving out consequences that actually work?  First, I think we have to get clear on one thing:  What is the goal of all discipline?    

Some people believe that the goal of all discipline is punishment.  

“The student made me suffer, made me angry, so I am going to make him suffer.”  I understand that some kids just drive you crazy.  But if a teacher punishes them for their misbehavior, there is an excellent chance that the student will walk away thinking about the teacher’s behavior and how mean and unfair they are, rather than think about their own behavior.  If a student is embarrassed or hurt, it is my experience that they will get back at the teacher one way or another, either overtly by acting out more, or covertly with a sniper attack, doing vandalism or some other disruptive behavior when the teacher isn’t looking. 

I believe that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to create a positive change in a student’s behavior by punishing him and embarrassing him.  I know as an adult I get defensive and angry when people don’t treat me with respect, so I don’t want to do that to a student.  First I think we have to get clear on that one thing: What is the goal of all discipline?

What is the Goal of All Discipline?

Here is something to consider.  What if the goal of all discipline is about…

Guiding Behavior!  

That is such a simple, yet powerful concept.  If the goal of discipline is guiding a child toward a more positive behavior, then I don’t have to worry about punishment and suffering.  All I have to do for the perfect consequence is to find something that will help guide a student, and lead them toward a positive change in their behavior. That’s all! I don’t have to worry that the kids, or my teammates or teachers will think I’m “Too tough” or that I’m “Too easy.  All of that goes out the window. As long as the consequence leads toward a long-term behavior change for the student, it is an effective consequence.

For some kids, an effective consequence could just be “The Look”. The look is what we call that adult facial expression that let’s students know you disapprove of their behavior. That could be enough of a consequence for many kids to stop doing whatever it was they shouldn’t be doing!   

Some kids may need more of a consequence, like a verbal warning, a seat change, lunch in the principal’s office or even removal from school.  I would suggest having a list of all the possible consequences somewhere where you can access them, or maybe even have them posted for the students to see. 

When it comes to giving a consequence, you can take your time, be thoughtful, look the list over and choose the one that you think has the best chance with this student, at this time, for this circumstance, of stopping the misbehavior and getting a behavior change. Let’s remind ourselves of some different types of consequences:

Logical Consequences

One type of consequence is a logical consequence.  For example, if I am late getting to the airport, I will miss my plane. That is a logical consequence of me being late. If a student makes  a mess in the classroom, is it logical that she cleans it up? 

Along those same lines, if they aren’t following the rules, and since all kids are supposed to be following the rules, the logical conclusion is that they don’t know the rules.  Perhaps you can plan ahead and have a Rules Test ready for kids.  Since they aren’t following the rules, you could assume it’s simply because they don’t know them, not that they are choosing to break the rules. You could give them the rules to study during 1 recess (if you are in the elementary level), and the next recess, they take the test. Once they get 100%, they can go back to recess. It’s important to approach this with the student as a learning opportunity, not a “gotcha” type of situation

Generic Consequences

There are also generic consequences that are not situation-specific.  Some ideas for generic consequences include:

  • “The Look”, That facial expression that let’s students know you disapprove of their behavior
  • Temporarily moving a student to a new seat.
  • If quite a few students in the class are part of the misbehavior, you can change the seating chart and have them sit boy/girl or alphabetically for a couple of days.
  • Have the difficult student work in a different area, like the classroom next door or the main office.  
  • Proximity.  One of the adults in charge just goes over and stands next to or behind the students in question for a period of time.  
  • A verbal warning.  This is when  you remind them of the value, and enforce the rule.


One of the most effective techniques that experienced educators use is called Proximity. This is pretty simple, but works very well.  You just go and stand by the misbehaving student or table.  Many times you don’t really interact, just stand by them. This lets them know they are not invisible, and their misbehavior can be seen, and is not acceptable.

I know this sounds like Teaching 101, but I am in classrooms all the time, and I see teachers camping out in the front of the room, instead of moving over to the trouble area. I do think that this is the kind of teacher professional development, on a regular basis. Students today are different, and we need to discuss how to manage these new students.

It is best practice for teachers to constantly be cruising around the classroom as much as possible. Fight the urge to stay at the front of the class while teaching. Be cruising around the classroom constantly!

By the way, there are some inherent issues with systems that include automatic consequences, like, the first time a student breaks a rule, X happens, and the second time the same student breaks the same rule, Y happens, and so on.  Inexperienced educators often try this and come across a difficulty.

If the first consequence is always  a warning, then the second consequence is a name on the board, then a phone call home, that kind of thing.  Well, what happens if a student, who is usually pretty good, gets really mad at someone out of the blue one day and throws a chair that breaks a window?  

That student may argue that, since this is the first time they broke a rule, they should just get a warning.  Uh, no, you threw a chair and broke a window!  Yikes!  Seems like more than a warning is in order.  

But if the adult has an if…then kind of system, that takes away the adult’s authority to guide the student toward a behavior change. The adult has the authority to choose the consequence they believe will change the student’s behavior.   For one student who keeps getting out of her seat, just “the look” will suffice. Another student might need a seat changed or some other consequence. 

And if they protest and say the consequence isn’t fair, “Suzy gets out of her seat all of the time and she doesn’t have to move her seat”, they just need to be reminded about…

Treating Everyone Equally

This can be a great point of discussion during a teacher professional development session. It is ok to give different students different consequences for the same offense. Treating everyone equally isn’t the same as being fair. Treating everyone exactly the same is like going to the doctor, and on your first visit, you get an aspirin.  It doesn’t matter if you have a headache or a broken leg, everyone is treated equally. Everyone gets the exact same thing the first visit. Well, an aspirin won’t really help too much if you have a broken leg! Occasionally you need something more.

That is just like students. I’m sure we would all love it if anytime something happened, we could just give a warning and it would all be better, but often that just isn’t the case.

As I mentioned earlier, I would recommend having all possible consequences listed in your classroom somewhere in an area that is not frequented by students.  I start with “The Look” and, depending on the grade level, add “Removed from school”.  If I am up by my desk with a misbehaving student, I will look up t the list of consequences and choose one.  If the student really disagrees with the consequence, or brings up the fact that another student did the same thing last week and you didn’t do anything! If that happens, you can agree with him and say “No problem, what I really want is a behavior change. The final decision is mine, but what would your suggestion be from this list of a consequence that would make you stop the undesirable behavior next time? If I just give you a warning, can you make the promise that you won’t do that again?”  “Ok, I’ll let you choose this time, but if this ever happens again, the consequence will be (whatever you choose).

That would be an interesting thing to try.  That keeps you in control, and gives him voice and choice in the classroom. I have used this method many times, with great results.

We hope that this article has given you some things to think about and some practical ideas for you to try. This is the type of content and rich experience that we bring to all of our teacher professional development.  Feel free to check out all of the free resources for teachers on our website, 212 While you’re there, explore some of our most popular offerings for teacher pd. Every teacher in every school for which we conduct a workshop receives a complimentary subscription for 1 year to our innovative teacher professional development program, 1 Minute Mastery. This is a perfect way to keep teacher professional development happen a little bit at a time, every week, all year. Looking forward to working with you soon!