How to Use Consequences When You’re Not a Homeroom Teacher

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I am a reading tutor. I have had Love and Logic training and feel proficient at behavior management. At the beginning of January I started working at a new school, and I am now working with students who don’t know me very well. In addition, my caseload does not allow me to spend a lot of time with any students for very long. Is it possible to give kids consequences even when we have not built a solid relationship yet? -Morgan, Canton, Ohio


Many educators who pull-out or push-in with kids ask me this question. After all, positive relationships make all human interactions easier and better. Intervention specialists, gifted intervention specialists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, tutors, and Title I reading teachers find it very difficult to have the time to build relationships with students due to the fact that they are not with any one student for a long period of time.

First, if you prioritize building relationships over anything academic, you can quickly build rapport. In the first several weeks working with kids, relationships can be built by using specific Calm/Assertive Procedures. You can use these procedures to give your students personal and small group (team) nicknames. You can greet each kid with eye contact, a smile, safe/appropriate physical contact, and you can use their name and later their nickname. You can have students come up with rules for your time with them. When using these optimal procedures, you can build relationships quickly and efficiently.

While this is happening, you will still have to hold students accountable with consequences. The good news is that kids are great at understanding that behaviors work with certain teachers and not with others. If you consistently hold kids accountable when they are with you, they will be less likely to use negative behaviors in your presence. Oftentimes when a kid is with a teacher in your position for, say, 45 minutes, they become resigned to the fact that they just need to keep it together for 45 minutes, and then they can go back to being obnoxious when they get back to their class.

The key to being in a position like yours is to not attempt to do a lot of immediate consequences. Only use immediate consequences if you know that the child can’t find a loophole. Otherwise, just get to later by telling the student that a consequence will happen sometime in the future.

As a difficult child myself, I remember thinking that I could do whatever I wanted in the last 15 minutes of PE, or art, or pull-out session. After all, what could these teachers and specialists really do to me in 15 minutes? Knowing that they really couldn’t do anything, they would warn and lecture me as I laughed in their respective faces.

Don’t be that teacher.

Instead, do something like the following so that you can do the consequence later:

Kid Whisperer: Oh, Franklin. You tore up my nice game cards that I made for you. (Kid Whisperer starts leading Kid back to class) Yikes. We were going to use these for a fun learning game. I am experiencing ubiquitous melancholy. Ugh. Well, I will have to do something about this situation. Don’t let it ruin your day. I will see you next week, though I may ask you to solve this problem before then. I care about you no matter what. See you soon.

I will then have all the time I need to become calm and come up with a great consequence that I can administer at any time that is convenient for me. Perhaps he can work to create new cards, perhaps he can practice not ripping things up. By doing the consequence later, I have put myself in a position whereby the student will know that I can always create a consequence, instead of the kid knowing that he can become a monster in the last 15 minutes of every session he has with me!