Ask Dr. Lynch: Creating an Effective Behavior Management System

Question: I am a novice elementary school teacher who needs help with her behavior management skills. What can I do to create and implement an effective behavior management system into my classroom this fall? Rachel A.

Answer: Hi Rachel, nice to meet you and thank you for the question. No matter your philosophy of education or your educational beliefs, one thing holds true for all classrooms -- a behavior management system should be implemented consistently from day one. A behavior management system might include, at a minimum, a set of rules, a set of consequences, and a set of rewards. Below are some tips for creating and implementing your behavior management system.


1. Choose no more than five or six of the most important rules. If students have too many rules,
they will not remember any of them, and therefore, will not follow any of them!

2. Keep it simple. The fewer words in each rule, the greater the chance that it will be remembered and followed.

3. Be Positive. Set a positive tone in your classroom by avoiding negative words like no, not, and never.

4. Allow the class to help you choose the most important rules. Students are more likely to remember the rules if they participate in the development of them. In addition, it will provide them with a sense of control and responsibility to follow the rules since they are the ones that came up with them.

5. Post them clearly and legibly. Students should be able to remind themselves what the rules are at any moment during the school day.


1. Make it a process. Start out with something that doesn't affect them too much and make
each consequence that follows a bit more severe.

2. Develop a way to keep up with it. Developing some way of keeping up with behavior and being consistent is a must.

3. Follow through. Schedule a time each day to address the behaviors and their consequences.

4. Provide feedback. Be sure that students know why they are receiving a consequence and that they know how to avoid receiving future consequences.

5. Avoid punishing the whole class. It isn't fair to those who do follow the rules.


1. Limit tangible rewards. Tangible rewards are typically not approved for purchase with school money. Therefore, the teacher usually provides them out of his own pocket.

2. Customize the rewards to fit your current class. What are their interests? What motivates them?

3. Change it up! When you notice students are no longer motivated by the rewards, rethink your rewards system and present it to the class.

4. Allow the class to help develop the list of rewards.

If you follow the strategies that I have outlined in this column, you will have no problem
managing your student's behavior. Good luck!