Signup for email updates!

Email signup

Discipline Theorists Part III

The Ginott Model

Haim Ginott was a clinical psychologist and child therapist of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Ginott, author of several books on child psychology, is regarded as one of the leaders in controlling the behaviors of children. Ginott emphasized that parents needed to limit the unacceptable behaviors of children but, at the same time, safeguard and protect the children’s feelings and emotional well-being.

The major theme of the Ginott model is that the overall classroom atmosphere should be dealt with, not individual behavior problems. To that end, teachers should address the class personally, using "I" statements. According to Ginott, “Congruent Communication" should be used with students, which basically means dealing with students using non-aggressive language. Children’s self-esteem is greatly affected by their interaction with adults. Listed below are four of Ginott’s axioms relating to how teachers can establish and maintain positive classroom discipline.

  1. Learning always takes place in the present tense. This suggests that teachers must neither prejudge students nor hold grudges against them for previous misbehaviors. The effective teacher should correct students by directing them to proper behavior examples.
  1. Teachers should always be respectful of student needs. Students should never experience any teacher belittling them.
  1. If teachers want civil behavior, they should model it for students.
  1. One of the best ways to improve student behavior is for the teacher to actively confer dignity on the students.

Ginott’s theory of "correcting by directing" hinges on redirecting the student’s behavior patterns to more acceptable ones. Ginott also felt that successful discipline happens when the student learns self-discipline. Students’ self-discipline happens when teachers build trust and mutual respect with their students. If the student trusts the teacher, then the student will most likely cooperate if problems arise. Also, so many times, students feel like they have no control over what happens. With a behavior contract, students can feel like they have a more active role in their own education. Contracts take the "bossing" out of discipline and promote mutual respect and understanding, hence, producing better behavior. Ginott’s model promotes or provides students with intrinsic motivation, builds confidence of students and invites cooperation.

Behavior contracts are a central theme in Ginott’s behavior management plan. According to Ginott, when people in authority, such as classroom teachers, write certain terms into the behavior contract, that act alone is an expression of faith in the child’s ability to achieve success. However, probably more important to the student is the fact that the teacher should feel obligated to uphold the bargain if the specified conditions are met. This gives students a feeling of partial control over and ownership of the outcomes of their behavior.

Ginott introduced the term “congruent communication,” which he defined as harmonious communication between a teacher and student. According to Ginott, teachers should always endeavor to use congruent communication, which is the communication to students about situations and their actions – not negative remarks about students themselves. Teachers using congruent communication do not preach or moralize to students, nor do they impose guilt or demand promises. Instead, effective classroom teachers confer dignity on their students by treating them as social equals capable of making good decisions. Congruent communication invites cooperation, expresses anger appropriately and uses appreciative rather than evaluative praise.

Chart 2: Examples of Congruent and Non-Congruent Communications

Congruent Communication Strengths

Non-Congruent Communication Strengths

Addresses the student’s action rather than the student’s character. “The class moves along much better, Terry, when you raise your hand and I call on you.”

This type of communication allows and even emphasizes name calling and labels. “Don’t act like a clown when you walk up the hall knocking on each door Gary.”

Invites cooperation between the teacher and student. “Devin, would you please take our new student to the restroom? I would, but I am expecting his mother for a conference.”

It denies students’ feelings and attacks the character of students. “Greg, you have yet to complete one assignment this week! Yet, you must spend a great deal of time coming up with these lame excuses. If you spent more time on your assignments and less time trying to get out of them, you would be a much more productive student.

Congruent communication accepts and acknowledges the feelings of both students and teachers. “I realize, Martha, that you would prefer not to speak at the graduation. However, your parents would be so disappointed if you let this opportunity pass by. You one day would also feel terrible about not seizing the opportunity.”

Demands rather than invites cooperation “Lee Ann, you will complete the assignments tonight. Better yet, I think I will have you stay in during your recess period so that you can get a good start.”

Congruent communication uses brevity in correcting misbehavior “Stacy, please put that away.”

Shows students that the teacher can not maintain their own temper – and therefore why should they? “I am getting sick and tired of the noise in this room. Every day I remind you of the classroom rules, yet every day is the same thing. I have to yell and holler at this class to get them quiet enough so that two or three of you can perhaps learn something.”

Expresses anger appropriately. “Victor, I am sorry that your aunt felt that I was mistreating you. I do not remember ever calling you down for attempting to answer our Daily Oral Language answers. But, if I have, I will do my best to make sure that you do get an opportunity to respond with your answers occasionally.”

Invades students’ privacy “David, come here for a minute. I need to look in your backpack. Andy’s toy has disappeared and your desk is next to his.”


Ask An Expert: Real Questions, Expert Answers

Ask your Question