Is it ever appropriate to just ignore misbehavior?
As a teacher you are called upon to make many on-the-spot judgment calls. What is the best thing to do at this particular moment for this particular situation with this particular student?
Determining the probable cause of the problem helps you decide which direction to go.
For example, if a child acts up because he wants to display his power or because he is anti-authority then ignoring his activity only challenges him to try harder to unnerve the teacher.
But, if the student misbehaves because of a deep need for attention then ignoring may be quite appropriate. To this child even a negative response from the teacher is better than no attention. By reacting to his attention-getting devices, you are reinforcing his behavior and consequently he will continue his attempts. Usually if you ignore his misbehavior and respond only to that which is appropriate, the negative attention-getting activities will diminish.
Of course, a line must be drawn when the conduct is disruptive or harmful to others. In determining whether or not to ignore a child's misbehavior, ask yourself the following questions:
- Would I be endorsing an activity in which I do not want others to engage? Students may interpret your silence as permission to do the same.
- What would happen if I did not interfere? Would the behavior diminish or would it spark further disruption?
(Last updated 12/01/14)
For more training to help you with Classroom Discipline:
Read more tips in the Handbook on the Basics of Classroom Discipline.
Or, go beyond by using the Effectively Handling Classroom Discipline Workbook.
Learn the difference between Biblical Authority versus the Authoritarian and Permissive Teachers Worksheet and the implications for your teaching.
Think through the challenges, causes, corrective measures, and ways to circumvent 56 different discipline issues using the one page sheets in the Discipline Issues: What to Do About Specific Challenges resource.
And, click below to read helpful articles on classroom discipline: