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Children sit next to each other on a classroom carpet. One child has her hand extended, thumb raised.


Paulette Maggiacomo

Paulette Maggiacomo

July 1, 2021

The Transform Challenging Behavior Virtual Conference provides an abundance of speakers offering strategies and tips to help improve the climate in your classroom thereby reducing behavior issues. Teacher Tom is from Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool and the title of his discussion piqued my interest: Could the Words You Use Be Inadvertently Contributing to Behavior Problems?

I was fascinated to learn that my Conscious Discipline journey aligns with the concept of language in the classroom. I can recall Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor, Jessica Flowers, saying over and over again, teachers talk too much (guilty as charged)! Research has shown that 80% of sentences said to children are directives or directional statements: You need to share; Come here; Pick up the blocks. We complain that children are not listening to us. Teacher Tom makes the counterpoint that they are, but they don’t like the choices given to them. The Power of Attention in Conscious Discipline states that what you focus on you get more of. If you want positive behavior in your classroom, then use your words to narrate what you want. Are you willing to flip your words and instead say: Lisa is being kind by sharing her crayon with Samaya. Daniel heard me when I called his name and he came to me. Rebecca and LaShanda are being helpful by picking up the blocks.

Here is another strategy - try using Name, Verb, Paint. Giving a child the clear and specific visual image wires the brain to successfully meet the expectation.

Alex keeps bumping into her classmates when they are walking in line.

"Alex, walk in line just like this" (demonstrate with your body) "leaving plenty of space for your neighbor so everyone is safe, including you."

Not only do our words matter, but so does the tone of our voice. Many times teachers will state a request followed by the words "okay," and/or "please." This allows the child the choice of whether to cooperate or not.

"Omaya, it’s time to clean up, okay?"

"Omaya, it’s time to clean up please."

If I am Omaya, you have given me the power of whether or not to clean up. Well guess what, I don’t want to, so I am not going to. Can you see how this is going to escalate?

Once again, go back to the Name, Verb, Paint tip. When you do this there is a tone of no doubt and comes from the intention of helping the child be successful.

Are you willing to commit this summer to being mindful and shift your language to create a classroom where there are fewer behavioral issues?

Until next time, I wish you well,


A woman sits at a table with preschool children. The teacher and students are playing with blocks.
A child jumps into plastic hoops on the floor. A teacher and other students sit behind him.
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