Kathy Schwartz

After 30-plus years in education, I have seen the pendulum swing in classroom management.

I remember when we spent most of the first day telling the kids what they couldn’t do and the consequences if they chose to do them. Then came the choice method and, finally, the abstract messages painted on hallway walls. I soon found out that kids like short-but-sweet parameters for what is expected in their behaviors, whether it be in a classroom or a living room.

I created the Four B’s, which I posted and explained the first day. I found out quickly some of my students had to be instructed on the meaning of the words. When I saw a child not following one of the B’s, I simply asked them what B were they choosing not to follow. I never had a student guess the wrong one and often he would include one or two other B’s in the mix. I also found out that there was never a behavior I wanted to modify that didn’t fall under one or more of the B’s.

First and foremost: BE SAFE

I explained that there are behaviors that put yourself or others in line for injury. I did not want to have to call the EMS or send someone to the nurse because they chose to do something that was unsafe. I would let them make a list of unsafe behaviors. It was important that some behaviors are OK in some circumstances and unsafe in others. An example of this is running. On the playground, running is good, but in the hallways it is not.


A person is responsible for getting his work done. He is responsible for completing classroom duties. In short, a person is responsible for his actions, not his friends, not his parents and not his teacher.


This is so important for a child to understand he needs to respect others around him but also himself. I would split it into three categories: Respecting yourself, respecting others and respecting your community. The first category seemed to be the most difficult. We had discussions on what it meant to be true to yourself and your beliefs. Respect doesn’t mean you agree with someone else’s beliefs, but respect their right to have them.

The fourth and final B: BE KIND

This was actually being the kind of person you would like to know. The kids would get this one the best. All of them knew how they wanted to be treated and what made them feel good.

I would frequently point out children practicing the B’s and thank them. I also would compliment the students that knew which B they were not doing and thank them for knowing what to do differently next time.

The four B’s are applicable to home life as well, maybe even more so. Children need framework for behavior and parents need a short-and-sweet way to remind them of the boundaries. Behavior can be challenging but not bewildering.

Kathy Schwartz is a retired elementary school teacher and serves as a parent education consultant.

React to this story:


Trending Video

Recommended for you