10 Potent Behaviour Management Strategies

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 16 September, 2020

The behaviour management strategies and techniques you use impact on:

  • Your students’ success
  • Your own sanity

However, you may not be sure which behaviour management strategies and techniques have the most impact.

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When behaviour management strategies are talked about in many schools, the conversation focuses on the:

  • Importance of rules and routines
  • Appropriateness of punishments or consequences
  • Need for ‘admin’ to do something about it

You may be surprised to learn that while it is true, that all three of these behaviour management techniques help to reduce misbehaviour, there are simpler strategies that have far more impact. In fact, if you look at the five strategies that have the largest impact, you will not find anything about rulesroutinesconsequencespunishments or the principal. All of these things are important. However, if you want to run a well-disciplined classroom, you need to know which techniques are even more effective.

Here are the top ten research-based behaviour management strategies in reverse order according to their impact. These have been updated for the start of 2020.

Behaviour Management Strategies With a Moderate Impact

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10Consequences or Punishments

The first behaviour management technique involves giving consequences or punishments. Students need to understand there are consequences that flow from the way they behave. Sometimes, consequences:

  • Flow naturally (e.g. you have no hat so you can’t play in the sun)
  • Include formal punishments

While punishments should be a last resort, you must deal with repetitive and serious misbehaviour.

Punishments can include time-outs, working by yourself, detentions and alike. Yet, no matter which specific punishment you use it is critical that you keep it proportional to the crime (Strategy 9 helps here). It is also important is that you explain the link between ‘the:

  • Student’s choice of behaviour
  • Consequences’ that follow

Ninth Behaviour Management StrategyEmotional Objectivity

Managing misbehaviour can be an emotional ordeal. However, you have more impact when you remain cool, calm and collected. When you are composed, you can:

  • Keep things in perspective
  • Deal with them quickly
  • Get back to your main task – teaching your students

To help you do this, it is important to remember that students are people too – they want to have fun, and even difficult students are not all bad. Try not to take things personally, try to see the funny side of sticky situations and always be well organised.


The next behaviour management strategy involves setting rules. Establishing rules formalizes the expectations in your class. There are a few tricks to harnessing the full power of rules. You need to:

  • Keep the number of formal rules to a minimum
  • Explain the reason behind the rules
  • Frame the rules in a positive way, where possible but sometimes don’t … rules are appropriate

By limiting the number of rules, you help your students to remember them. And, your students do not feel overwhelmed.

Explaining the reason behind rules:

  • Helps students see them as being fair
  • Allows for some negotiation (e.g. can they modify the rule while still achieving your underlying goal).

And, framing the rules in a positive way clarifies what students are meant to do (not just what they aren’t allowed to do).

Behaviour Management Strategies With a Moderate-High Impact

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On average, students spend 15% of their class time following routine procedures. These procedures include things such as entering the classroomgetting books out and stopping work to pay attention to the teacher. You establish these routines at the start of the year, and in the words of behaviour management guru Bill Rogers, you establish, what you establish (i.e. it’s hard to change later).  Your students are far less likely to misbehave during these routine actions when you have clarified your expectations and turned them into habitual ways of acting. Research shows most teachers state such expectations, but it is the teachers who get students to practice them (while correcting along the way) that succeed in turning them into habits.

6Individual Reinforcement

Individual reinforcement involves rewarding the desirable behaviour and penalising the misbehaviour of individual students. Rewards can include tokens, such as points, stickers and alike. Yet, rewards can be as simple as good marks, comments to parents and praise. In a similar vein, students view penalties such as informing parents and discussions about their behaviour as being effective. Penalties are really a form of consequence (strategy 1) but tend to be less severe.

Research shows there is no ‘best’ ratio of positive to negative reinforcement. However, the same research also shows that the more genuine positive reinforcement you use, the better your students behave.

High-Impact Behaviour Management Strategies

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5Group Reinforcement

Reinforcement involves rewarding good behaviour while discouraging undesirable behaviour. Group reinforcement involves rewarding or penalising whole groups. These may be small groups within the class, or the ‘entire class group’. For an example of small group reinforcement, you may reward one small group for being the first to be ready for the lesson with a point beside their group name, or you may penalise a small group for not focusing on their work by taking a point off them. As an example of ‘whole class’ reinforcement, you may elect to supervise the whole class for 5 minutes extra play if they are lined-up well and ready to go after their lunch break for 5 days in a row. Group reinforcement works well because of the pervasive power of peers. Yet, to be fair to individuals, penalties should either be tokens (e.g. taking a point off the group) or involve not receiving a reward.

4Nip Small Problems In The Bud

Most misbehaviour can be dealt with quickly and easily. You can do this by correcting minor infringements on-the-spot and then moving on with the lesson. On-the-spot corrective actions include things such as: making eye contact with a studentmoving closer to a student or groupreminding them of a relevant rule or simply telling them to get back to work. There are also some subtle but important tricks to the way you go about such corrections.

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behaviour management strategy 3Structure Your Teaching

There are many aspects to good teaching, but some of them have more impact on classroom behaviour than others. When teaching a new class, or struggling to gain control of a tough class the following aspects of teaching are absolutely critical: clear lesson goalsnever asking students to do something they don’t know how to dojudicious use of group work and holding them accountable for the work they have done (either as an individual or in a group).

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Behaviour Management Strategies With the Highest-Impact

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Students are far less likely to misbehave when they know their teacher notices every little thing going on in the classroom. Students need to think that you have eyes in the back of your head. Start the year by setting up your room in a way that maximises visibility. Then, do simple things such as positioning yourself so you see all of your studentscontinuously scanning the room to see what is going on and limiting times when you have your back to the class can make a big difference. With-it-ness is also essential to the fourth behaviour management strategy in this list.

behaviour management strategy 1Teacher-Student Relationships

Teachers who have strong relationships with their students find it much easier to manage their students’ behaviour. You forge strong relationships by being both firm and caringwhile also expecting your students to do their very best at school. 

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Research & Readings On Behaviour Management Strategies

I strongly recommend the books:

You can also download a list of research studies this article is based on here.

Behaviour management refers to deliberate ways that you nurture positive behaviour in your students while discouraging negative behaviour.

There are at least two reasons that behaviour management strategies are important. First, students in classes that behave well learn more students in classes who don’t. Second, poor student behaviour is psychologically draining for both the teacher and the students in that class.

Behaviour management strategies are specific techniques that teachers use to nurture desirable behaviour and discourage misbehaviour.

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(MEd., MLead.)

Shaun Killian (me) is an experienced and passionate teacher, as well as a past school principal. After a heart transplant and having both my legs amputated, I am not yet capable of returning to work. Yet, my passion for helping students succeed has led me to use my time to research teaching and associated practices. I then share what I find in practical ways through this website. The greatest compliment I have ever received from a past student was I never left any student behind. That is mission of most teachers and I hope you find the information on this site useful.

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