Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Language-Based Discipline- Part 1: Manipulating Perceptions Using the Right Tenses of Verbs

We classify verbs tenses the following way:

a.     Present Tense. The action is happening now.

b.     Past Tense. The action happened at a specific time in the past.

c.      Future Tense. States an action that will take place.

In addition, verb tenses can be perfect or continuous. The perfect tenses are:

a.     Present Perfect Tense. States an action that is still going on; for example, “Learning about verbs tenses has always interested me.”

b.     Past Perfect Tense. States an action that began in the past and was completed in the past. For example, “Dr. Taylor had served in the Peace Corps.”

c.      Future Perfect Tense. The action will begin in the future and will end at a specific time in the future. For example, “I will have studied for three hours.”

The continuous tenses are:

a.     Present Continuous Tense. States an action that is not finished at the time of stating it; for example, “I am learning about verb tenses.”

b.     Past Continuous Tense. States an action that was happening at a certain time in the past. It can also refer to an event that took place for a limited time; for example, “I was studying about verb tenses before I went jogging.”

c.      Future Continuous Tense. States an action that will take place at a specific time in the future. For example, “In two weeks, I will be studying more about verb tenses.” Alternatively, “I am going to be learning about the verb tenses.”

How verb tenses and classroom discipline relate? There is plenty that the tenses of verbs can do to help teachers improve students’ behaviors. Tenses of verbs are crucial in creating and/or in reinforcing message meaning, or the specific goal and/or purpose of our communication. In addition, verb tenses help in connecting students’ self-perceptions (how children see and interpret all kinds of events, positive or negative; also, how children interpret and evaluate their behavior) with the specific images that we want to convey. Most specifically, verb tenses help us shift a student’s negative and pessimistic self-perception of an event into a more positive and optimistic one. Each verb tense can be seen as one “door” that specifically connects the mind to a particular time frame, attitude, and mental state.

The Three Doors


v First Door/Past Tense: The door of memories or how things were. When we put the action (e.g. disruptive behavior) or feeling (e.g. anger) in the past, we start talking the language of memories. In addition, we can give evidence that demonstrates change and improvement. This is the best tense of verbs to use when we are trying to manipulate negative perceptions, suggesting that things in the present are different and better. With this purpose in mind, when we discuss disruptive behaviors or troubling feelings, we get better results by just placing those behaviors and feelings in the child’s past. For example:

·        You made the wrong choice.

·        You blamed yourself for this bad choice.

·        You felt disappointed.

·        You fought for what you believed was unfair.


v Second Door/Present Tense: The door of action, now. When we put the verb or action in the present, we create a sense of immediacy, making things tangible and unavoidable. Simply put, the present tense of the verb indicates action. This is the best tense of a verb to use when we want children either to act or to take responsibility for their behaviors. Examples:

·        This negative consequence warns you.

·        You put this mistake behind you, and you move on.

·        You feel optimistic.

v Third Door/Future Tense: The door of possibilities, goals, and dreams. If the past is the language of memories (how things were), the future is the language of dreams, or how we want things to be. Right-in-between those two, the present is the language of actions. Goals and dreams, or possibilities, can turn into reality with action. Help children connect those three (memory-action-dream), and you will have more engaged and motivated students. To inspire and to motivate students, teachers need to start talking about goals and dreams using the language of possibilities. To do this, we need the future tense of the verb. When we put the action in the future, we create a sense of possibility, strengthening the pull toward what might be. Some examples:

·        You will resolve this issue with Sammy.

·        You will feel better when you do.

·        You will no longer feel distraught.

Creating Completion with Verbs


Verbs can be perfect or imperfect. The perfect forms of the verb are the ones that indicate completion, therefore, when we want to give closure and show completion, we need to use perfect tenses. For instance, if we want the child to put a troubling feeling or a disruptive behavior behind her, we move the discussion toward completion in the past, but, if we want her to feel confident about a planned action (goal), we use completion in the future. For example:

v Past Perfect: You had blown this issue out of proportion.” (The action began and ended in the past. The past tense of a verb always increases completion.)

v Future Perfect: “Sooner than you expect, the anger will be gone.” (The action begins in the future and ends in the future.)

Projecting out a pessimistic feeling, or an optimistic dream, to a time in the future when the negative feeling is gone, or the dream is completed, motivates the child by showing her that it can be done. Creating completion in the future also makes the action easier to accept, increasing the probability of the child complying.

Creating Continuity with Verbs


Verbs can also be simple or continuous. The continuous form of verbs is the one that shows continuity. When we want the child to act; for example, we want the child to think again about a poor choice, or we want to show him that there is still work to do; we can do it with continuous tenses. Some examples:

v Past Continuous: “Are you still thinking about what can be a better choice?” (The action is not finished at the time we state it.)

v Present Continuous: “Your behavior is improving with each passing day.” (The action is still in progress, or the action continues from the past into the future.)

v Future Continuous: “You are going to be learning several anger management strategies.” (The action starts and continues in the future.)


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