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Ask Dr. Lynch: Creating an Effective Behavior Management System

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader Rachel A. asks:

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


Hi Rachel, nice to meet you, and thank you for the question. No matter what your philosophy of education or 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.


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!

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

Be positive.  Set a positive tone in your classroom by avoiding negative words such as “no,” “not” and “never.”

Allow the class to help you choose the most important rules. Students are more likely to remember and follow the rules if they participate in their development.

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


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

Develop a way to keep up with it. Develop a system for keeping up with behavior and maintaining consistency.

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

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

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


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

Customize the rewards to fit your current class. What are their interests? What special privileges mean the most to them?

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

Allow the class to help develop the list of rewards.  Students know what will work for them—make sure to gather their ideas.

Over half of new teachers leave the field within the first three years. Why? Many cite the stress of dealing with disruptive and problem behavior in the classroom. Yet if you follow the strategies I have outlined, you will have no problem managing students’ behavior. Good luck!


About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.

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