top of page

A Limit Setting Moment

What is Limit Setting?

Limit Setting involves the use of body language. It is the way "natural" teachers carry themselves that says, "I mean business." Fred Jones has studied these teachers and decoded what it is that makes their moves convincing. He writes about how students read this body language and how you can acquire it.


How can you get it from a book?

An email passed on to us from the Atlanta, GA area is an example of how someone can put Limit Setting into place by reading the book and doing a few exercises. Jennifer Blaske is a music teacher who has not taken the training, but has read the Positive Classroom Discipline,upon the recommendation of a friend. The friend, Ken Moore of Sacramento, CA, told her that in order to be able to do Limit Setting, it is necessary to practice Limit Setting. Habits of a lifetime, like disciplining with your mouth instead of your body, are hard to break. His advice paid off.


How to practice Limit Setting

To practice the relaxed look that Fred refers to as the "Queen Victoria" look, step in front of a mirror: You are not agitated, nor are you amused. Two cleansing breaths, relax your jaw, relax your hands. Check to make sure you aren't giving a mixed message by grinning. Put your tongue behind your front teeth, you can't smile or clench your teeth if you do.


Try role-playing with a colleague, friend, or spouse. The idea is not to open your mouth during a confrontation. Stay Relaxed. Have one partner play a student who has been caught "goofing off" and claims innocence. The student then tries to engage you, the teacher, in a conversation about what he or she might be doing or not doing. This is called "backtalk." Whatever role your partner takes in this game of backtalk, do not get sucked in. Remember: "It takes one fool to backtalk. It takes two fools to make a conversation out of it."


Reverse roles so you can also experience the difficulty a student will have keeping this interaction going with no one to feed off of.


Jennifer Blaske's example of Limit Setting on the job


After practicing relaxing at home, Jennifer tried it out in the classroom. This is what Jennifer wrote about a Limit Setting moment with an eighth grade boy in her music class:


"Had a good but simple moment the other day - we had had ice (an unusual event in GA) and an eighth-grade boy came in the room with a big icicle he had bitten off the top and was chewing it. I walked slowly over to his chair but said nothing.


"He looked up and said, in kind of a smart-ass way, 'It's an icicle!'


"I still said nothing. The great thing about Limit Setting is that often you're not sure what to say, so just waiting works perfectly!

"A couple of his friends said, 'Yeah, I think she knows that!'


"After maybe ten seconds he said, 'I'll go put it outside.' Then he came back and started working.


"And as simple as that was, I thought, 'You know, this is just perfect. I said absolutely nothing and got a kid to do exactly what he needed to. Almost zero energy on my part, no real time wasted, I'm not tense or stresssed, I didn't embarrass myself ... how perfect is this?'"


We appreciate Jennifer sharing her moment with us. We invite you to think about what might have happened had she opened her mouth.


  • How much longer might the interaction have gone?

  • What would her stress level have been?

  • Who would have postponed instruction time?

  • Who would have been a hero?

  • How much more time would have been involved if it had escalated to "Down to the office!"

bottom of page