The PBIS World Book

Use Calm Neutral Tone

Why should I do it:

  • It is a quick method to de-escalate a student
  • It keeps you in a calm state of mind
  • A student will take your lead in the way you speak
  • Helps keep the student more calm and controlled
  • Reduces tension
  • Keeps the adult in control and in charge
  • Sets a good model and precedent for how behaviors will be perceived and handled
  • Prevents students from making a scene and drawing from an audience
  • Diminishes the student’s power and control of a situation
  • Is perceived by students as a mature and “adult” manner of handling situations
  • Indicates to students that everything is okay, under control, and within the adult’s power
  • Reduces blow ups, tantrums, and other extreme or fringe behaviors
  • Is soothing and calming for everyone
  • Causes students to be extra attentive to what you are saying

When should I do it:

  • When you are processing a problem with a student
  • When a student is reluctant to follow your directives
  • When a student is trying to verbally engage you in an argument
  • When a student becomes loud, yells, gets angry, becomes physically or verbally aggressive
  • When a student is very upset
  • When a student is very defiant and oppositional
  • When a student is anxious, worried, or nervous
  • When a student is scared or afraid
  • When giving directions or directives in an emergency situation or other tense setting
  • When addressing delicate or sensitive topics with students
  • When calming down students who have become aggressive with one another or are in an argument, debate, or disagreement

How do I do it:

  • This technique takes a lot of patience, support, self-control and self-talk
  • Be aware of your own physiological cues to getting angry, annoyed, offended, disrespected and frustrated
  • When you have those feelings/thoughts, say to yourself talk yourself out of losing your temper
  • Use “I” statements, ie: “I would like for you to make a choice between doing your work at your desk or at another desk” Rather than “you need to make a choice now about where you are going to do your work”
  • If possible, remove yourself from a tense situation before talking to the student to calm down
  • Always provide consequences to students in the most non-emotional state possible.
  • Use a calm and neutral tone of voice
  • Use an open and non-threatening body posture
  • Make slow and subtle movements
  • Get on the level of the student(s)
  • Remain calm and maintain a cool and collected composure, even if you don’t feel that way inside
  • Use direct eye contact unless it seems to be provoking the student
  • Use cues and signs, like nodding your head “yes” and “no”
  • If dealing with a student who is emotionally upset, matching your facial expressions to what they are saying can be helpful, for example, when talking with a student who is upset about the death of a loved one, having a solemn look or flashing a frown at appropriate times

Resources & Support for technique: