How To Get Your Students To Like Your Class Rules

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of explaining ‘why’ when presenting your classroom management plan.

Smart Classroom Management: liHow To Get Your Students To Like Your Class RulesStudies have shown that people are more likely to do what you ask if you give them a reason.

Even if that reason isn’t terribly compelling.

Just using the word “because” will make your rules more meaningful.

And therefore more effective.

Especially if you emphasize their true purpose, which is to protect your students’ right to learn and enjoy school.

When you make it about them, they’re more likely to buy into your program and even agree with your rules.

And this makes all the difference.

But in that original article we alluded to another reason why this strategy is so effective.

You see, the use of reasoning also sends the message that you respect your students. It sends the message that what is best for them is your highest priority.

It lets them know that you understand what it’s like being in their shoes.

To that end—and this is key here—be sure to include how their non-compliance of the rules affects those around them.

Empathy is a powerful emotion.

And it is especially effective in changing behavior and attitudes and getting everyone pulling in the same direction.

When you fail to explain your reasoning, and how rule-breaking makes your classroom less fun and less conducive to learning, you send a message of antagonism.

You push them away.

You communicate loud and clear that it’s your way or the highway, that they should do what you ask because you said so.

This authoritarian approach to the beginning of the school year causes dislike, rebelliousness, and a desire to misbehave behind your back—which is difficult to reverse.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll be wishy-washy. It doesn’t mean that you’re giving up your leadership or that your rules are negotiable.

They’re not.

It just means that you’re going to give your students the respect they so greatly appreciate by explaining ‘why.’

Interestingly, the research, as described in Adam Grant’s book Originals, shows that not only does explaining why lead to more rule following, it causes children to question rules that don’t line up with societal expectations.

In other words, it causes them to become future leaders and creative thinkers.

And when they do misbehave?

If they know ahead of time how their actions affect others, if they know why a particular rule benefits the class as a whole, then they feel remorse.

They feel the healthy weight of guilt and responsibility. They accept the consequences, see the error of their ways, and reflect on their misbehavior.

They resolve not to make the same mistakes again.

So, when you’re teaching your classroom management plan at the beginning of the school year, be sure and explain why your rules are important.

Explain how they exist for their benefit.

Explain how breaking them affects the peace, enjoyment, and learning rights of everyone in the class.

Do this, and your students will eagerly jump on board your program.

And begin rowing in the same direction.

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22 thoughts on “How To Get Your Students To Like Your Class Rules”

  1. Hi.

    Do you have an example of a management plan that I could follow or stick on my wall in my class?

  2. Hi! Am really grateful to the writer..thank you very much SCM. Am reading all the newsletters. Its really wonderful to know how to manage the classroom which no one teaches and by experience we come to know the things by trial and error method. But after reading your feeling confident to handle my class. – Deepa

  3. I so enjoy the articles you post, and am being very successful in using the “in a moment” technique. My biggest failure to this date is being able to explain my classroom management plan to four and five year olds so that they get it.
    Does anyone have an outline or quotes or something out there that I can use to help my pre-schoolers understand the management concepts?

  4. Hello Michael,

    I just purchased 2 of your books and read one in a day. They are especially helpful as I’m beginning a new position in a different district and I will begin the new classroom management strategies from the first day of class. The PE, and ART teacher book was very helpful because I will have a new position where I will be teaching Spanish to every 6th grader but only once per week.

    In my last school, I had high school students and one of my questions that I wanted to address is sleeping in class. If I give a warning and the student still decides to sleep in class, it doesn’t seem like a time out would work because he would just sleep during the time out. What do you suggest for this type of behavior?

    Another question that I had in high school level was the use of cell phones in class. It was a continued problem. First, we were told to have the students who use the cell phone in class put their phones of the teacher desk for the first infraction and get it back by the end of the period, but after that we were to take the student phone to the vice-principal’s office and they were to receive it at the end of the day. However, that procedure was not enforced on the administration side and the cell phone problem continued for me and for most teachers. One particular incident, when I told a student to put her phone on my desk, she just yelled no, kept texting when she did not comply, she then got up and left the room stating she would go talk to the vice-principal herself.

    What would you place a procedure to prevent this type of behavior and address that in your classroom management strategies?

    Thanks so much for you great advice!

    • Hi Laura,

      I’m working on a classroom management plan e-guide for high school teachers that will cover these topics. It will be available in late July.


  5. Hello. I have a question about giving warnings. Should ther be a consequence for a warning or is that a consequence in itself. You mentioned in the article that a warning loses its effectiveness if it is not followed through with a time out or a letter home. Is that only if the misbehavior continues after the initial warning?
    Thank you for clearing this up.

  6. Michael,
    I am reading your books this summer in anticipation of the best school year ever! As one who is like-minded with your philosophies, what recommendation could you give given the fact that our students pass through 8 classrooms a day and, of course, 8 classroom management styles (mostly bad). As the students go through their day — frustration and misbehaviors abound.

    • Hi Lynne,

      When your students come to your classroom, they should naturally breathe easy because they’re walking into a place and approach that makes sense and that they look forward to. It shouldn’t matter where they come from or how many other teachers they see. Having said that, there are some things you can do, which I cover in my upcoming Art of Education presentation, as well as in the book Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE teachers. I’ll be sure to add this topic to the list of future articles.


      • Thank you! And I generally am the one to start book clubs for staff in my school. Your books are the ones we will be reading this year. Maybe that will help nurture a like-minded atmosphere.

        • You’re welcome, Pam. 🙂 Although they are using my book for that particular course, I’m not teaching it. I am, however, presenting at the Art of Ed summer conference. You can find the link in the PS above.


  7. Thank you so very much. I am truly grateful for all the tips and the theories behind them. The fact that you give this info without charge speaks volumes to your character- a true teacher indeed.

  8. Hello all,

    I’ve been a regular reader since finding this site after a particularly bad start to my second year of teaching, when I felt close to giving up. Luckily, the classroom management plan provided by Michael was clear, concise, and so easy to incorporate into my class the very next day.

    In regard to strategies for cell phones, I give my 9th grade students a 5 min grace period once the bell rings to check their messages, use the bathroom, drink water, take a break, etc. Once that 5 min grace period ends when my timer goes off, I give the class 2 mins to follow instructions for their assigned job that I post on the smartboard (these are usually the same each day: one person makes sure all members of “table team” have a pen or pencil, another collects homework, etc) It is the job of one student on each team to collect their teammates phones and deliver to me at the front desk in exchange for something important they will need that day (classwork, plicker, etc). The phones are stored in a safe and visible spot in a pocket organizer, with each student having their own slot. If student did not submit their phone they miss out on vital class materials and/or lose points. Points add up prizes at the end of the semester.

    I found this to be very effective as I was not personally asking for their phones, by submitting them to their teammate it increased accountability for themselves and cooperation with their team. The student that had the job to collect phones did the coaxing in order to perform their assigned job and get their points. After only a few days nearly all students were submitting their phones with no problems, ready to be an active teammate and engaged student.

  9. Michael, you threw me a rope when I felt like I was drowning. Although I had incorporated some of your principles into my classroom management plan already, you have helped me tweak it to where it will be much more effective.

    I would like your opinion/suggestion on a particularly rough 6th grade class I teach for part of the day. The school decided to put all of the “rowdy” boys in one section for a variety of reasons, number one being the bonding with the male teacher who gains class control with a stern voice and sometimes yelling.

    There is one particular student in this class that wants to be the head class clown. (There are others, but he is the worst.) Nice kid, I think he is pretty well liked, but I know his classmates are getting tired of all the lectures and yelling that occurs because of his behavior. I was joining in on those lectures/yelling, but I have vowed to stop.

    I have explained, and had the kids also verbalize, why it is disruptive to disobey our class rules and that it interferes with other people’s learning. Of course, this was a general class discussion, not aimed at one particular student.

    We are now into our third week of school, and I’m feeling like the class is coming around except for this one particular student. He will be missing our ice cream experiment tomorrow and I hope that will add some emphasis to his misbehavior.

    However, if he continues to talk out and disrupt during his time out after tomorrow, I am wondering about more overtly speaking to the empathy you describe in this article. I would really love to have his classmates write letters to him telling him how it hurts them when he misbehaves and causes the class to lose privileges, get yelled at by teachers, etc. However, I hesitate to single him out, as it feels confrontational. And he by no means is the only problem. But he is definitely the leader, and I feel like if we could turn him into a positive leader, this ship would be sailing in the right direction. Right now I think his classmates feel like they are sinking, and I hate seeing the sad looks on the faces of kids who I know normally enjoy school very much.

    Your thoughts?

    • Hi Julie,

      I would not have the class write letters to him, under any circumstance. However, I would hold him accountable for every time he misbehaves. The key is to create and then teach a set of rules/boundaries that protect learning in your classroom, that encompass all of the behaviors this student or anyone else engages in that disrupts the class or your ability to teach. Then defend them to the hilt.


  10. Hi michael,

    Love your articles, I’m always suggesting other teachers read them too!

    Was just wondering if there was any articles or books by you (or that you can suggest) that can help with classroom management as a substitute teacher? I’ve just started this after a few years as a classroom teacher and am finding it challenging to address behaviour issues within a short amount of time when I don’t know Student’s very well.

    Would love any help!

    • Hi Georgia,

      No, I don’t have any available recommendations for you. We are, however, considering an e-guide for substitute teachers in the future.


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