How to Get a Student to Keep His Hands Off Other Kids

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I have a 1st grade student who can’t keep his hands off other kids. He pokes girls and spanks boys. I’m having a hard time coming up with good consequences for him. What would be a good consequence for this? -Terri, Iowa City, Iowa


I agree that this behavior needs a consequence. When everyone else is going to recess, I calmly and sadly pull the kid into my room.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. I am really sad that you have chosen to hurt people. It would be wrong of me to let you go out to recess any more this year until you have gotten really good at not hurting people. There are a lot of chances for someone to hurt people out there, and we have to have a safe school. I’m not mad at you, though. I’m just going to have you practice not hurting people until I think you are ready to practice not hurting people at recess. You may have noticed that I put this stuffed animal in the chair next to yours. I want you to pretend that it is a student in our class. I’m going to ask that you sit here at your desk and practice not hurting him. You can read or just hang out while you are practicing. I’ll give you a choice: do you feel like you need to practice not hurting for two recesses or three?

Kid: I think two recesses would be sufficient.

Kid Whisperer: Fair enough. And I’ll tell you what. Would you like me to count your time in class while you are not hurting people as practice?

Kid: That would be fantastic.

Kid Whisperer: Cool. Okay. So if you successfully practice not hurting people during class, you can go out to recess sooner, and if you show me that you need more practice by hurting people, you will have to do more and more practice at recess.

Kid: That seems reasonable, even though I really do enjoy poking and spanking.

Kid Whisperer: Okay, we’ll start practice as soon as you sit next to our pretend student.

Remember, this needs to be done with sadness and empathy. Once he has practiced enough, ask him if he needs to practice any more. If he says “no,” it’s a great time for a handshake, a smile and a “congratulations.” Also, congratulate yourself for improving your relationship through this kid’s negative behavior! Pretty awesome, huh? Let me know what I missed, what questions you have, and please let me know how it’s going.