One of the hardest behaviors for teachers to manage is when children do not follow their directions. There are three types of disobedient children:

(1) the passive resistant child who ignores you, takes his time in following through, complains, or does a half-hearted job

(2) the defiant child who flatly says, “No, I won’t do it”

(3) the “I’m-gonna-get-you” child who goes out of his way to aggravate you, or do the exact opposite of what you ask him to do.

All children are noncompliant at some point. Not doing as they’re asked is a way for them to develop independence and control over their lives. For some children, however, saying “no” becomes a habit. This may arise from (a) parents being too permissive, authoritarian, or inconsistent in raising their child; (b) parents showing disrespect themselves towards authority; (c) children having a strong-willed and persistent nature; (d) children reacting to stress, displaying anger, or seeking revenge.


  1. Build a positive relationship with children in your class. The more acceptant, cooperative, and sensitive to their needs you are, the more willing they’ll be to follow your directions. Do not confuse this, however, with being the students’ buddy, because this also encourages disobedience.
  2. Follow the general guidelines in making rules, which head off this section.


  1. Let children experience the natural consequences of their actions, rather than you intervening as the disciplinarian. Children learn more from one personal experience than an armful of reprimands.
  2. For the resistant child who makes you wait, reward him for complying within specific time limits. For example, he earns one point for following through on your requests within five seconds, and two points for following through immediately.
  3. If a child refuses to follow through, assure him nothing else will be happening for him until he does what you asked him to. He has the choice of complying now or an hour from now. By letting the child decide for himself, you’re giving him a face-saving option, which increase the chances of him doing what you want him to.
  4. Have a bottom-line buck-stopper, which you can rely on if a student refuses to do what you ask. Give the child a choice between cooperating now, or facing the final buck-stopping consequence, usually your school principal.
  5. Match your arm and leg positions with the child’s. This gives him the impression that you understand him. When you think he is ready to listen to you, shift your position and see if he also moves. If he does, it indicates he is breaking down his resistance toward you (Maurer, 1985).
  6. Be aware of your body positioning: (a) hold your body still and do not shift your weight; (b) look directly at the child’s face, and make sure he is looking at you; (c) do not hold objects or fidget; (d) avoid head movements, as they might give him the impression that you’re agreeing with him (Maurer, 1985).
  7. Suggest parenting programs or books on managing children’s behavior to the child’s parents.


  1. Stand closer to the child than you normally would. This likely will make him feel uncomfortable, and may disrupt his thinking long enough to short-circuit his defiance (Maurer, 1985).


  1. Trying to get back at, hurt, or put down the child. This often provokes further disobedience, and doesn’t model an appropriate way of managing conflict.