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Discipline is more than keeping a group of children or young people quiet while being talked to. Preserving good
behavior is certainly one aspect to discipline, for learning it in an atmosphere of confusion is difficult. Children have
to learn to conform to the rules of behavior needed in a classroom. Teachers have the right to ask for a quiet class,
keep the students in their seats, and have the right to discipline them if they do not cooperate. When a teacher
expresses his or her thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in direct, honest, and appropriate ways that do not violate the
right of others, and when the message does not humiliate, degrade, or dominate the one being talked to, he or she is
using Assertive Discipline. In order for a teacher to maintain control of his or her class they must use Assertive
In order for a teacher to have his or her needs met, they can influence the behavior of the children. Without influence
a teacher is “powerless” and will become “burned out.” (Canter, 2) There is no simple answer to why this happens.
A number of complex factors have combined to create an environment in which teachers are having trouble in
getting personal and professional needs met. Until the past decade, the teacher was looked at as the main person in
the classroom by students and parents. The teacher, simply because of their role status, had respect and authority.
Thus, the teacher was a “powerful” figure in the eyes of the students and could easily influence the student’s
behavior, often with just a look, smile, or a threat.(Canter,3)
All of that is now changed. Today, a teacher has to earn the respect of both the students and their parents. A
teacher’s basic techniques of influence, or discipline, is no longer as effective as getting the desired results. The
discipline approaches of the 1950’s and 1960’s do not work with the students of the 1990’s. In addition, the teacher
cannot rely on the strong support of the parents anymore. Many parents are openly questioning, the education that
their children are receiving, and do not feel they want to support the needs of their child’s teachers.
Teachers cannot get their needs met in a classroom unless they have an effective method of discipline in which they
thoroughly understand and comfortable utilize. An assertive teacher is: “One who clearly and firmly communicates
his or her wants and needs to his or her students, and is prepared to reinforce their words with appropriate actions.”
(Canter,9) When a teacher is assertive, and clearly and firmly communicates their wants and feelings to a child, they
send a clear message. This message simply states: “I mean what I say and say what I mean.”(Collins, 155)
Lee Canter, a child guidance specialist, has found that while most teachers make lesson plans as a routine matter,
very few make discipline plans. Planning is essential to teaching well. Lesson planning is second nature to teachers.
Lesson plans are part of a professional routine, and are done almost automatically when the need arises. However,
planning for discipline is an entirely different story. The vast majority of teachers have learned or have been exposed
to the steps involved in planning discipline programs, especially those to be used specifically with disruptive
students. Because of teachers’ frustrations, all we often hear is their complaining about how difficult the students
Such complaining may help to relieve the strain of dealing with difficult students, but it in no way helps to solve the
problem. Planning your discipline efforts, and utilizing assertive principles, are as essential to teaching as a lesson
plan. (Charles,128) Discipline planning will structure and guide classroom management efforts the same as lesson
planning for academic efforts. Discipline plans are important and helpful to all teachers. Charles, urges to make
discipline plans according to the following steps: 1) Identify any existing or potential discipline problems. 2) Specify
the behaviors you want the students to eliminate or engage in. 3) Decide on negative and positive consequences
appropriate to the student and situation. 4) Decide how to execute the negative and positive consequences.(Charles,
Discipline planning is the systematic applications of the assertive principles the teacher exhibits. It involves focusing
your attention on any existing or potential discipline problems you may have. These discipline problems may
involve an individual student, or a group of students, or an entire class.
Having good discipline enables the teacher to deal assertively with their students. He or she will know how to
maximize their potential influence to get their needs met, with more difficult situations it may be useful for the
teacher to engage in problem-solving and discipline planning with peers, school psychologist, principle or anyone
who may be familiar with the students or have successfully managed similar problems.(Canter,22) One final area
needed for discipline planning are special activities. Special activities are those activities the students do not
consistently engage in, for example, field trips or assemblies. A day or so before such an activity, the teacher must
have some basic discipline planning. Once again, the teacher must determine the behavior wanted and not wanted,
the limit – setting and positive consequences, and how the program will be started.
The assertive teacher recognizes the fact that he or she has wants and needs and has the right to get them met in the
classroom. The teacher is also aware of the limitations and realizes that they have the right to ask for assistance,
whether it is from the principle, parents, or peers.(Charles,37) The assertive teacher should be aware of the child’s
need for warmth and support.
An assertive teacher is aware that a limit setting response must be delivered in as effective a manner as possible. Eye
contact is very important when trying to get a point made. Whenever necessary, the teacher plans how to back up
their limit setting statement with appropriate consequences. This is done in order to maximize the influence that his
or her response can have on the behavior of the child.(Canter, 28)
Whenever required, teachers should be prepared to back up their words with consequences in order to motivate the
behavior of more difficult children. He or she is aware some children need more support than others and is prepared
to give that child as much as they can. (Canter, 32)
The children learn to trust and respect an assertive teacher. The children clearly know the parameters of acceptable
and unacceptable behavior. This gives them an opportunity to choose how they want to behave while knowing fully
what the consequences will be for their behaviors. This does not mean that every child will like an assertive teacher,
and does not mean that every child will behave. Some children may still decide not behave for any reason. All that
an assertive teacher can do by his or her behavior is try to establish an atmosphere where he or she maximizes the
potential for a positive teacher – child relationship.
The major area where being an assertive teacher helps a child is when the student has special needs or problems.
This when a teacher needs to step things up a notch and become more assertive. Some teachers may lose track of
their assertive potential, but they have to teach the child how to behave in the appropriate manner. (Canter, 46)
One problem area where a child needs assertive discipline is when he or she is confronted with peer pressure. This is
when the student’s fellow peers force him or her to do something, like throw spit balls or make funny noises to win
the approval of others. This problem can be solved by confronting the child and telling him what he or she is doing
wrong. This problem can also be solved by giving out a punishment like, writing on the chalk board or may be
standing in the corner with his or her back turned to the rest of the class. If all else fails, the teacher may want to call
the child’s home and plan a conference with the student’s parents.
Though most teachers feel threatened and overwhelmed by parents, especially if they are pushy or manipulative,
they need to take a stand and thoroughly explain the situation going on with their child. (Rich, 145) The teacher has
to be assertive with the parents and the child. The teacher should not down grade the problems they are having with
their child. Instead they should tell the parents the way things are. For instance a teacher should not call the child’s
parents and say, “we have a little problem with your son,” when in actuality, the child had a violent tantrum. The
teacher should let the parents know that they need their cooperation to discipline the child at home for his tantrum. If
the teacher does not tell the parents what they truly feel then the child’s tantrum will be even worse the next time.
The corner stone of assertive discipline is the potential positive influence teachers can have on the behavior of their
students. ” Hand in hand with influence goes responsibility.” (Canter, 57) When teachers accept the consequences of
their potential influence they accept the consequences of their potential influence they accept the responsibility to
choose, or not to choose, to utilize this potential for the best interest of both themselves and the students.
Assertive teachers recognize the responsibilities they have for the children. They know they cannot assert
themselves and get their needs and the children needs met. They know they can have the impact on their classrooms
if they choose to do so. Other teachers choose not to accept the reality of their potential influence. Thus, they are
confronted with the following situations: they place themselves in a powerless position. They view themselves as a
helpless victim at the mercy of the students, their parents, the principle, and the school system. Such teachers
become the complainers. They complain about everyone and everything that “victimize” them. (Charles, 120) They
end up blaming all of their problems on others, and never on themselves.
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