Discipline: Fostering Self-Discipline and Positive Behavior in Education

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Updated: Aug 26, 2023
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Discipline is a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules. It also knows right from wrong. Teaching discipline should help children engage in acceptable behavior with others and behave better in situations. Disciplined students can modify their behavior depending on any given situation to maintain a positive attitude. According to the Committee for Children, the purpose of discipline is “to encourage moral, physical and intellectual development and a sense of responsibility in children” (Anderson, 2014). In education, that sense of responsibility shows itself in self-discipline.

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Good discipline does not come from a teacher’s desire to control students. Discipline should come from a desire to teach students to regulate their own behavior. A well-disciplined student understands what is socially productive and can modify their behavior when needed. A classroom with rules that support learning cultivates a positive environment for students and guides them toward healthy behaviors. When students visualize rules as guidelines for success, they become self-disciplined, independent learners.


Defining Discipline and Its Purpose

Schools today deal with varied cultures and demographics in every classroom. This has an effect on the set of rules and consequences enforced on each campus. Society has become more individualized, and so have education plans. School systems are striving to reach each student’s behavioral issues and move them forward productively. Educators recognize the importance of positive behavior and a healthy school environment. School districts are increasingly partnering with parents to move away from counterproductive discipline policies and toward restorative approaches in schools. The debate has always shifted around whether it is the parent’s responsibility what morals to teach, and now would you teach those morals.

Discipline as Self-Regulation

This being said, educators are constantly being observed for all types of behavior and are teaching students moral values without even trying through modeling (Lewis, 2005). Teaching values that encompass acts surrounding discipline have become a battleground, with people being afraid that students will be taught to think either “right or left.” Neil McCluskey (1958) stated that ‘historically, the common school has been one of the most effective forces in building a sense of the American community”. He also quotes William Torrey Harris from a report written in 1872, where Harris stated that moral training should include (1) punctuality, (2) regularity, (3) silence, (4) truth, (5) industry or work, and (6) respect for the rights of others (151). Some of these still hold true today, but the majority of schools working on character education are focusing on one topic – respect. So, educators must not let the fear of addressing values mixed with politics steer us away from teaching values based on the morality of human decency. When students are taught how to respect their neighbor and react to situations in humane ways, discipline problems decrease, and the “do unto others” philosophy becomes the norm. This self-disciplined, positive way of thinking should be evident in a teacher’s classroom rules. Rules in a classroom should be positive guidelines for students to follow. Rules should be posted and positive. Each rule should be discussed thoroughly with students and adjusted for clarification. If a rule is broken, the teacher should address which rule the student broke and clarify what behavior the student should have used instead. An example of classroom rules that are guidelines for student success is as follows:


*Respect yourself, others, and your school
1 – Verbal Warning
*Keep hands, feet, and objects to yourself
2 – Time to Think About It
*Speak using polite language, volume, tone
3 – Teacher Conference/Meaningful Work
*Follow Directions
4 – Parent Contact

The personalities of teachers vary, and this plays a part in the classroom dynamic that the teachers build. Successful campuses can have different classroom rules, but these rules should all fall under the same broad spectrum of the campus-wide positive environment guidelines set by the administration.

Evolution of Discipline in Education

Occasionally, teachers must refer offenses to the principal for assistance. These cases, most of the time, are severe or are repeat offenses. The lines of when to send a student to the principal are blurred. The demeanor of the teacher, the relationship between the student and teacher, the demographics of the campus, the age of the student, and many more factors have to be considered when making the decision. Some schools have ‘leveled’ the offenses by their seriousness to help clarify what behavior merits a discipline referral to the office. Most offenses that should be handled by administrators are more severe, such as arguing with the teacher, defiance, inappropriate language/gestures, physical fighting, taunting, refusing to work, and/or throwing objects. If students are sent to the office for an offense, there will be consequences. The debate on corporal punishment is divided between Democrats and Republicans, as shown in the map below.

I am not against corporal punishment, but I believe it has its place in the field of consequences. As a child of an educator, I was expected to follow the rules ALL THE TIME, and as a strong-willed child, I did not follow the rules as I should have. This landed me with consequences, and in my younger years, that meant paddling. This was an effective consequence because I learned that rule-breaking resulted in an uncomfortable situation for me. Not all students respond to corporal punishment. I believe any consequence for broken rules should be what will most effectively change the student’s behavior. Strong-willed or angry students are not affected by corporal punishment in most cases. It is our job as educators to find the consequence that connects with each student. Consequences should begin with verbiage that discusses what the infraction was and how to better handle it next time. If this is not effective, the teacher may need to change the consequence until they get the attention of the student. No matter the consequence, it is the right one when it discourages the students from repeating the negative behavior.


My philosophy of discipline is that if you firmly engrain the belief that each student is capable of self-discipline and adhere to this throughout the year, your students will fulfill their self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe discipline is not a negative word. Disciplined athletes are revered as strong and dedicated, so becoming disciplined means you are training yourself in a positive direction for the betterment of your future. If we explain this to students, they can take pride in their attitude and behavior. I have told my students to “expect more from yourself!” I mean for them to hold themselves to a higher standard. Younger students may need training in how to control impulses and moods, but if done in a positive way, they too can be self-disciplined enough to be responsible for their own behavior.


  1. Anderson, C. (2014, March). Restorative Practices: A Guide for Educators. Retrieved February, 2019, from http://schottfoundation.org/restorative-practices
  2. Lickona, Tom, Eric Schaps, and Catherine Lewis. Schools Should Provide Character Education Ed. Mary E. Williams. Education Opposing Viewpoints. New York: Greenhaven Press, 2005. 108–114.
  3. McCluskey, Neil G. Public Schools, and Moral Education. New York: Columbia University
    Press, 1958. 1-271.
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Discipline: Fostering Self-Discipline and Positive Behavior in Education. (2023, Aug 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/discipline-fostering-self-discipline-and-positive-behavior-in-education/