‘Right you are in detention…..er…..next Thursday’


Delayed sanctions have less impact


The longer a sanction is delayed the more disconnected it becomes from the original behaviour. Children who find themselves in detention regularly often forget why they are there, even who put them in.  For your higher order sanctions to have the best chance of being effective they need to be:


v      Executed as soon as possible (immediately or on the same day)

v      Not deferred for another teacher to impose

v      Used to reset and reaffirm expectations with the child

v      Proportionate


If detention (be it after school, at break or lunch) is ever effective the time is used for the teacher and child to reflect on the inappropriate behaviour, renegotiate what will happen in the next lesson and build understanding in the relationship. Although it may relieve your frustration temporarily to give a lengthy detention, it is not the length of detention or severity of punishment that will change future behaviour. It is how the time is used that it crucial.


A planned, private five minute conversation can have a more positive impact on the child than more punitive measures. If sanctions are really just retribution then the effect on the child is likely to be negative. How many children spend their time in detention thinking about how they are going to change their behaviour? How many spend their time planning the weekend or planning revenge on their teacher?


I realise that supervising all of your own sanctions is time consuming and, at first, difficult to manage. The investment of time is worthwhile as you are working to change behaviour not simply to punish it.  Try structuring your hierarchy so that you leave the sanctions that are most time consuming for the children who need your time most while executing lower level sanctions immediately.


v      Verbal warning

v      One minute after class (to speak to the teacher about the behaviour and agree what will happen next time)

v      Moved in the room (away from peers or to sit with the teacher)

v      Helping the teacher organise the classroom at break

v      Lunch with the teacher

v      Impositions (extra work to be completed at home, counter signed by the parents and brought to you before school the next day)

v      Reducing after school detentions to 10 minutes so that you can supervise them personally

v      Early to school detention – child reports 10 minutes early to prepare the class alongside the teacher



If your sanctions are efficient, designed to promote understanding of appropriate behaviour and connect the child with the original behaviour they will be effective. If they are delegated, punitive and disconnected a destructive culture of ‘them and us’ is allowed to grow.


© Paul Dix 2007

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