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Discipline By Design Series – Designing Your Own Discipline Plan (Part 5 of 12)

It’s time to design your own customized discipline plan. While this might sound intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. But it does require planning beforehand.

As we discussed in Part Two of the series, discipline procedures need to be in place from day one – whether in the home or in the classroom.

How you put that together, though, is a mix of your personality along with the situation you find yourself in — meaning, there is no one approach that must be used. Your want your discipline plan to have some flexibility in it.

However, the old “bend but don’t break” adage is true here, too. While you need to be able to adjust to different scenarios without seeming schizophrenic, you must find some consistent elements that you rely on regardless of the group you have, whether a classroom of third graders or your two children ages three and eight.

Personally, I am fairly eclectic in my approach to education in general. For example, when I started in education, I was deeply in love with the Montessori method. When I became a Christian, I was told I needed to use Abeka. What ended up happening (the details will be in my School Whisperer book I am currently writing) was I combined the two. I’m pretty sure I am still the only educator to have ever made that combo!

In discipline, I continue to borrow my favorite parts from others’ approaches and then integrate them with my own theory I have developed from years of experience. This keeps my discipline flexible, able to adapt to the various groups I encounter from day-to-day.

That being said, I also have a core number of elements I use consistently, regardless of whether I am at school or at home. Although my kids are grown-up now, I still use the same foundational elements with my grandkids that I use each day at Grace Academy:

  • I speak in a soft voice
  • I have clearly defined rules that are consistently maintained without preference for any child over another
  • I show respect for each child and treat them with dignity
  • I am firm but fair
  • I allow feedback but never compromise

With these core elements in place, I can then use my knowledge of the individuals – their personality, ages, gender, chemistry as a group, etc. – to further sharpen my interactions with them.

That should be your goal, too. Below I will share with you seven of the top discipline models and encourage you to take what you like from each as you customize your own discipline plan that pulls not only from the experts but from your own experience and personality, as well. And feel free to pull from what you have learned from this discipline by design series!

A quick note before we begin: Remember, no one discipline model can be a cure-all for every classroom situation. These are simply other voices to help guide you as you form your own philosophy of discipline.

Also, you might not like one or more of these theories and will naturally gravitate toward others. That’s fine. I list these here not as theories that must be implemented (as I myself borrow more from some than others) but as indicative of the different approaches available, some of which you might not have thought of but instantly wish you had been using all along.

The following theories are objectively listed here without comment from me so that you are free to form your own opinion of them. They are intended for the classroom teacher, but as we have stated in previous articles, children are still children, so these ideas can be applied to the home as well.


Lee and Marlene Canter emphasize creating a calm environment. The primary focus is on assertively requiring proper behavior from students. There are well-organized procedures for consistent follow-through when students do not exhibit proper behavior. The teacher teaches the students how they are to behave. The discipline plan is designed to build trust between the teacher and students.


This system states the rules well in advance. Positive behavior is rewarded immediately, and defiant behavior is swiftly punished. Verbal reinforcement can be the strongest motivator of human behavior. The thought here is that if students like the rewards that come from their behavior, they will be inclined to repeat the behavior.


All students want recognition, and most misbehavior occurs from their attempt to get it. When unable to get the recognition they desire, their behavior turns toward four mistaken goals:

  • Attention getting
  • Power seeking
  • Revenge seeking
  • Displaying inadequacy

Democratic teachers provide firm guidance and leadership. They allow students to have a say in establishing rules and consequences. Discipline is not a punishment, but rather it is teaching students to impose limits on themselves. Since all students want to belong, their behaviors will be geared to belonging. Teachers provide negative consequences to inappropriate behavior.


Discipline is a series of little victories brought about when the teacher demonstrates self-discipline. The teacher also uses sane messages, that is, messages that address the situation rather than the student’s character. The purpose of these sane messages is to guide students away from inappropriate behavior and toward behavior that is appropriate and lasting. Teachers should never use sarcasm and should use praise sparingly because of the potential negative consequences.


The Jones model emphasizes helping students support their own self-control. Toward that end, Jones emphasizes effective body language, use of the say-see-do teaching model, and nonverbal communication. He believes firmly that keeping the student involved and engaged in the learning process limits misbehavior.


Teachers should always know what’s going on in all parts of the classroom. When teachers correct misbehavior in one student, it often influences the behavior of other students. This is know as the ripple effect. The ability to provide smooth transitions between activities while maintaining consistent momentum is crucial to effective classroom management. Teachers can avoid student boredom by providing a feeling of progress and adding variety to curriculum and the classroom environment.


William Glasser’s Reality Discipline model holds the child accountable for what he has done as a means of teaching him the consequences of making a poor decision. Reality Discipline emphasizes accountability. Children learn through consequences, such as not being able to reschedule a test if they miss too many classes. Thus, it is based on real-life experiences.

Today’s Part Five concludes the mini-series-within-this-series on the preparation that must occur beforehand, from learning to view yourself as the authority, to understanding that clear procedures must be in place from day one, to the importance of discovering the power of bringing the concepts of personalities and multiple-intelligences into your discipline plan.

Now you are ready to customize your own discipline design. Which means next week we can begin discussing the difficulties presented by each age group.