Home Children's Ministry Leaders Children's Ministry Blogs Discipline By Design Series- Part 4 of 12 – Disciplining with Multiple-Intelligences

Discipline By Design Series- Part 4 of 12 – Disciplining with Multiple-Intelligences

Last week we discussed some negative forms of discipline that we want to avoid. This week we will focus on positive ways to discipline by utilizing a child’s personality through the concept of multiple-intelligences.

Both the classroom and the home are mini-societies in which we need order and an environment that fosters respect for each other’s differences and a willingness to facilitate each other’s successes.

The concept of multiple intelligences, first developed by Dr. Howard Gardner, helps us see that there are different ways of being “smart.” When children are learning, interacting, and being disciplined through their intelligence strengths, they can achieve optimum success.

(Over the years the list of multiple-intelligences has expanded to include some types not listed below. I chose to focus on the original seven here, but if you’re interested, you can research more about them on your own and apply the lessons outlined in this list.)


Linguistic children like words. When given a choice to use this strength, they can employ “self-talk” to train themselves into more positive behaviors.

Explain to the child WHY we don’t accept a specific behavior. When the child is tempted by an unacceptable action, give her a positive alternative.

Collectively come up with a short list of reasons why we do a certain activity in a positive way. Let the child create three fun words that rhyme with the positive behavior. Suggest that she recite these rhyming words to herself when she feels tempted to try the more negative route.

As stated in the previous post, I want you to think through some questions about each type of child and situation. Again, don’t be afraid to struggle, because the most lasting lessons we learn are from the ones that require the most effort.

How would you employ this approach with a word-smart child who is teasing another child about weight?


Logical Larry may give you a hard time at home or in class, especially when he is in the middle school years!

When you tell him to do something, he wants to know  why . The temptation is to say, “Because I said so. That’s why!” However, Logical Larry will not be moved by this argument and will continue to act out until someone respectfully gives him an explanation.

Discuss the situation with him in a calm manner either immediately or when you get a chance. Tell him the reason for the rule, why he has to follow it, and what will happen if he chooses not to follow it.

These children are rarely discipline problems if the rules and consequences are clearly stated and consistently enforced.

How would you employ this approach with a logic-smart child who stubbornly refuses to play with other children outside during recess or after school in the neighborhood because they don’t like playing the group games the other children enjoy?


Picture Patty can cause discipline problems. She may not do well in school. She may do poorly on tests. Children like Patty often have behavior problems because they think in pictures that are global (right brain) and concrete (the need to see and touch).

A picture-smart child doesn’t easily see the pattern when it is only presented in words on paper. Picture Patty can often draw a concept with perfect understanding, but she may not get good grades on objective tests.

When students like Patty are asked to process information in a structured, abstract way, their brains don’t “get the picture.” They may feel stupid and inadequate as a result. When this happens, they may channel their energy into misdeeds instead of focusing on the task at hand.

Use these strategies with disciplining picture-smart kids:

  • Since they think in pictures, help these students see the “big picture.”
  • Show videos that depict the character qualities you are teaching.
  • Replay the discipline scene and pretend it’s a sitcom. Have them create a new ending.

How would you employ this approach with a picture-smart child who absolutely does not “get” long division and thus disrupts class during every long division lesson?


Once again, if we only ever ask these children to sit still, listen, and then write out answers to questions, they will fail to reveal how smart they truly are.

They often cause discipline problems, until you let them  do something. Body-smart children aren’t easy to manage, but they can be managed if we work with their need to move, both at home and in the classroom.

Imagine that you want to teach mapping skills and topography concepts to middle school students. Your body-smart students are throwing paper wads during the mapping exercise. How could you better teach mapping and topography to body-smart students?


Signs of this intelligence often surface sooner than signs of other intelligences – sometimes as early as age four. In these kids, music ability seems to bubble up spontaneously, often without formal training.

Try the following strategies at home or in class with music-smart kids, then come up with some of your own:

  • Let them use headphones and listen to music as they read and study.
  • Allow them to sing their rules or facts they need to remember.
  • Let them come up with a song for classroom or home procedures that occur regularly, like cleaning up or transitioning to something new. You will be amazed at how well children will respond to a song that is age appropriate to get through the more mundane, everyday tasks.

Come up with two more on your own. Then answer this scenario: How would you harness this intelligence in a child who hates to read?


These kids may be loners. You may have difficulty persuading them to participate in group activities. These children respond well if they feel you have respect for their individual styles. They enjoy talking with you one-on-one outside the classroom.

Use these strategies with self-smart kids:

  • Give individual attention.
  • Use individualized behavior contracts.
  • Don’t pair them up with active talkers to help them come out of their shells. They like being quiet!

Imagine that you have a self-smart child who refuses to participate in group-learning activities, especially those where the group creates a project and gets a group grade for it. His complaint is that he does all the work and the others benefit from his effort and get a good grade. How would you handle this situation with a self-smart child?


Students who are people smart have great people sense, and discipline can be accomplished through developing relationships with these children. They respond well to a town hall-type class meeting. These kids like to see the people part of discipline and readily respond accordingly.

Use these strategies with people-smart kids:

  • Let them participate in peer-group mentoring or counseling.
  • Teach them concepts of mutual respect.
  • Listen to their insights concerning classroom issues.

How would you employ this approach with people-smart children to get them to quit teasing others?

We’re one-third of the way through! I’m glad you’re going on this journey with me to becoming a better disciplinarian. You might not like the sound of that title, but I promise that as you begin to incorporate these practical strategies, you will see that having discipline in place allows for all the good stuff to stand out!