The Language of Choice: A Graceful Exit Strategy for Power & Revenge Behavior

“A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed without remedy.”

– Proverbs 29:1 NIV

During a recent Cooperative Discipline workshop I co-facilitated, one of the participants asked whether Cooperative Discipline takes into account whether some students are not able to be reached in our efforts to extend the hands-joined approach in managing our classrooms. I responded first by acknowledging that the school community system program PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention & Support) does with their red portion of the tri-colored triangle. The red portion of the triangle, the top portion, recognizes that some students will not buy-in to the recognition/reward school based system PBIS employs, as well as some teachers, but I also believe Cooperative Discipline is communicating that you are never out of options, even when the students refuses to comply. This is why we have administrators, I added, and other professional support staff members, along with parents, to aid us in working with and making progress with our more challenging students.

Dr. Linda Albert, author of Cooperative Discipline, refers to the inclusion of teachers, administrators, counselors, parents and other school community employees as a ‘framework for success.’ Everyone hands-joined with the initiative and intent to encourage cooperation between the student and the school community.

Even from the perspective of heaven, Proverbs 29:1 acknowledges that there will be some who just won’t listen. As I’ve explained to some students, they are teaching themselves the unfortunate lesson of having to learn the hard way, by refusing to listen, believing they are ‘getting away’ with being rebellious. I explain to them the belief alone is a consequence, because they will learn soon enough, as Dr. King has proclaimed, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ Time and experience in the field of education has also helped me to articulate to students misled by misbehavior that wisdom has taught me that students who are determined to remain disengaged in the process of learning and deliberate about being difficult usually do not remain within the school community the entire year. Multiple and long-term suspension become the unfortunate fate for some of our school community students, but for the sake of those whose desire and mission it is to learn and benefit from what we provide in instruction it becomes a sacrifice that affords us the privilege to continue to educate.

All graceful exits are strategies for the classroom teacher to exit out of the ensuing power struggle beginning to occur due to the nature of the misbehavior being exhibited by the student. The intensity of the emotion (between the teacher and the student) involving the conflict, along with the possibility of it escalating, creates the necessity of employing a strategy that allows the teacher to exit gracefully and the student to save face within the classroom environment (see post Insight and Interventions for Power Behavior).

The Language of Choice is an effective strategy of communication between the teacher and student, at the moment of misbehavior, that keeps the teacher from being demanding, sounding threatening and gives the power back to the student to resolve the current dispute by their own choice in how it will be resolved. It disarms the escalating resistance and defuse the possibility of enabling the current power/revenge behavior on display to continue. It allows the student to feel they have a sense of control and the teacher remains in a posture of being authoritative without coming off as an authoritarian.

When the Language of Choice is employed the following occurs:


Student refuses to stop talking.

Desired Behavior  

You may either refrain from continuing to talk,

Consequence (Time-out Placement)

or you can complete this writing assignment

Closing statement

It’s your choice; You decide; You choose

You may either refrain from continuing to talk, or you can complete this writing assignment. You decide.

(Be prepared for some to choose the consequence and be prepared to follow through with the consequence)

The Language of Choice intervention strategy acknowledges the misbehavior, expresses the desired behavior and holds the student accountable to make a choice to either choose the appropriate behavior or accept the consequences of the misbehavior, but at no time were they told to stop, because with power and revenge they won’t when we want them to.

May God bless you and help you to remain patient, use wisdom and apply the principles of love as you manage your classroom and strive to maintain order to help you teach, influence and inspire learning.


About myimmanuel

an inspired writer seeking to become a distinguished published author.
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