How to Instill Discipline in Subordinates

As I have alluded to in various blog comments and articles here and there, I have worked in various fields that involve me working with the public, particularly children and teenagers—I have been a museum docent, a music teacher, martial arts instructor, and a substitute teacher in my time, and in all of those I have been forced on occasion to discipline unruly children, ranging from infancy to high school (and yes, I emphasize *children*, because being physically mature does not preclude mental maturity). After a few occasions where I felt myself being frustrated and even defeated by the little bastards, I developed a broad theory of discipline that I have used to simple and great effect on the wee children, and you can use too.

Those of you who don’t work with young people might ask what relevance this has to you. As somebody who was once very timid and wishy-washy, training myself to develop the forcefulness to instill discipline helped make me more assertive in life in general. And being assertive is something you always need when dealing with people, whether it be in business or romance.

(A side note: by “children”, I mean “any group of uncooperative people that you have authority over”. Whether you’re starting a new career in middle management, or corrections, these tips may help you).

And so without further ado:

General Tips

The first thing you have to do to command attention and respect is master your body language. And this stuff is really the same kind of stuff that your parents told you as a kid: look them in the eye and don’t mumble. Both of which can be practiced in the mirror, and with the help of the tips I gave in my elocution article.

What your parents didn’t tell you about, and sadly is of the utmost importance, is body language. To put it very simply, you can’t give off body language that makes you look like a wuss. You’ve gotta stand tall, and wide, and show them that you’re not afraid, but also you don’t want to give off body language that makes you appear angry or frustrated either. And when you consciously force yourself to give off body language associated with the emotion you want to convey, you will find that you are more likely to feel that emotion as well. There’s a lot more I could say about body language, and that will undoubtedly come in a future article, but for now, just remember: take up space, and feel like you’re taking up space.

Specific Advice

The first thing you have to do is not show them that you are angry. The italics just emphasize how important this is. If they see that you are angered or annoyed or at all “rustled”, then you have already lost. Why should you be angry at them anyway? You’re an authority figure—they are beneath you, and they are worthy of nothing more than mild contempt. No profanity, no yelling.

(Note: This is a temporary mindset, one that should only exist when you are angry at them. When they behave properly, treat them with respect befitting them).

Then, announce that they’ve got X number of chances to cut the shit (but again, no profanity), and if they don’t, you’ll do X punishment. The key to X punishment is that it has to be something you can IMMEDIATELY do to them. It’s like training a dog—when he does the trick, you give him a treat. When he messes up, you smack him on the nose.

In many cases, this threat alone will work. However, should they persist, you have to be firm and drop the hammer on them. Again, no emotions, calmly but sternly dish out the punishment. In other cases it might be a call to their parents, a performance review, push-ups, or a clip around the ears, depending on what’s legally allowed in context.

And should the problem STILL persist, don’t be afraid to dish out collective punishments, in the vein of “Little Timmy is still misbehaving, which means the rest of the class has no motivated him to behave. I’ve already given Timmy detention, so each time he acts up, I will give the rest of the class detention. Maybe you’ll keep your friend under control, students”.

And if all else fails, threaten to bring in a higher power if they don’t stop, and then deliver on your threats.

Once the class has been subdued, treat them cordially and make it clear that they have now earned your respect. And finally, make it clear that “…you may not like me, but you have learned”.

Some may say that my methods are a little bit harsh—perhaps, but considering that the first week of my teaching career had the kids walking all over me, I don’t take chances. And considering that almost everyone agrees modern American children are spoiled little ingrates, maybe some harsh-but-fair discipline is what they need.