Teacher Tip – Strategies To Be Fair and Firm With Consequences

It can be hard in class to implement consequences in a way that is fair and effective. The first step to achieving this is ensuring students are aware of the ground rules and expected behaviour standard.

What is a Fair Consequence?

When deciding on the consequences I sometimes find it useful to let the group decide, as with the rules. We work on a warning system, with each rule break receiving a warning. Once students reach three warnings they are given a consequence chosen by the group at the beginning of the session.

The chosen consequences range from not being allowed to participate in the next game, to fifteen sit-ups. Sometimes care is needed when gauging the energy of the group as allowing children to choose their own consequence can be counterproductive. If my students are feeling particularly silly, they may break the rules in order to show-off or because they have chosen a silly consequence.

If you feel that it is better that you choose the consequence, pose this to the group as a question. By checking in with your students and asking, ‘Do you think it’s fair if….’ they will still feel respected and part of the decision making process. When students reach an agreement with the teacher, it is much easier to enforce the consequences without argument.

I find that an effective and fair suggestion is that rule-breakers cannot play the next game or cannot participate in the incentive activity.

A way to ensure students do not continue to break the rules is to increase the severity of the consequence for each warning. In my class, six warnings receives an email home. The severity of this consequence really keeps students in check so I have never had to implement it.

How to Implement Consequences Effectively

The most important way to ensure students follow the rules and maintain good behaviour is by implementing the consequences with fairness. How can you achieve this?

  1. Set Clear Rules – At the beginning of each session it is important to set clear rules and consequences. If the students can claim any ignorance about what is expected of them, you may encounter arguments. If the students have agreed on the standard of behaviour, you can clearly justify your disciplinary actions and avoid problems.
  2. Follow Through – If you have set consequences in place but do not implement them, students may stop taking the rules seriously or lose respect for the system. Leniency allows space for the students to argue.
  3. Be Consistent – If the students break a rule, you must be consistent in your warnings. If you do not implement the consequences consistently you are opening yourself up to confrontation. The students may argue that they are being treated unfairly if another student was not given consequences for the same behaviour or if they did the same thing in the last session without warning.
  4. Maintain Your Authority – If you have set clear rules and implemented the consequences consistently, there can be no argument when a child is given a warning. If the students debate your decision, it is important to stand your ground and let the children know that your decision is final. If you back down in your resolve without absolute justification, the students may continue to argue even when they know they have broken a rule. By maintaining your authority you can maintain respect and trust in the system.

Setting the rules and consequences into a clear structure helps the students to feel safe in the classroom and that they are being treated fairly. Try our tips and see if your students are happier and more well behaved.


Rebecca is the founder and chief executive officer of Silly Fish Learning Ltd. She is a children's playwright with a vast and varied career in education, primarily teaching drama and English.

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