How to Discipline a Child at School (Without Taking Away Recess)

Discipline is a crucial aspect of every child’s growth and development. Teachers often face the challenge of managing unruly or misbehaving student behavior in classrooms and struggle to find effective ways to discipline them without resorting to taking away their much-needed recess time. In this article, we’ll explore several alternative methods that promote positive behavior management and foster a healthy learning environment without denying students their valuable playtime.

1. Establish clear expectations and consequences

Begin by clearly articulating your rules, expectations, and consequences for various types of behavior. Post these in a visible location in the classroom and frequently review them with students. This ensures that children know precisely what is expected of them and understand the consequences should they choose not to follow these guidelines.

2. Praise good behavior

Offering verbal praise, stickers, or other types of positive reinforcement can be highly effective in promoting desired behaviors among students. Recognizing children for their effort, improvement, or good conduct will make them feel valued and motivated to maintain those behaviors.

3. Implement a behavioral chart or point system

Consider implementing a class-wide system to track student behavior, such as a chart with stars or a point system where students earn points for desired actions and lose points for inappropriate ones. This brings structure to the discipline process, helps children visualize their progress, and provides opportunities for rewards or consequences based on their points.

4. Use time-outs within the classroom

If a child is disruptive, consider giving them a brief time-out within the classroom rather than removing them from the room entirely. Designate an area in your classroom where children can go to calm down, regain self-control, and reflect on their actions before rejoining their peers.

5. Involve parents/guardians

Maintain open lines of communication with parents or guardians regarding their child’s behavior at school. They may offer insights into behavioral patterns or issues at home. Collaborate to develop strategies that can be used both at school and home to ensure consistency in the child’s discipline.

6. Offer choices and promote autonomy

Empower young students by allowing them to make choices whenever possible, fostering autonomy and self-regulation. For example, a teacher might allow a child who has difficulty remaining seated during storytime to choose between sitting on the floor or in a special chair.

7. Encourage social-emotional growth

Promote activities that encourage students to develop empathy for others’ feelings, understand the impact of their actions, and work cooperatively with their peers. This development in their social-emotional skills will enable them to better navigate challenging situations and understand the importance of respectful behavior.


Disciplining children without resorting to taking away recess time can lead to more positive outcomes for both students and educators. By implementing these methods and fostering a classroom environment centered on respect, accountability, and cooperation, teachers can help students build essential skills for success while still allowing them the opportunity to enjoy their invaluable playtime.

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