There's this thing I do with my students every year. It is kind of a psychological trick.
We always start the year talking about the rules, right? As part of that discussion, I tell students a few things.
First, I tell them I only have one real rule: You can do anything you want or need to do, as long as it does not cause a problem for anyone else, including me.
I ask them if they have ever had a teacher who made so many rules, no one, even the teacher, could remember them all. Every hand goes up. I explain that I can't remember details like that so I don't try.
Instead, I tell them "If you do something, so will I." They ask "What are you going to do?"
I always respond "I don't know, what are you going to do? If you do something good, so will I, if you do something that causes a problem and you can't solve your problem, I will solve it for you."
Often, they start out confused and cry foul "That's not fair."
So I continue "Do you really want me to respond to you the first time you cuss, as I respond to someone else when they curse for 73rd time?" They never say yes.
"The goal of a consequence is stop the behavior that is causing a problem, so I will do whatever works for you. For some of you, that may be detention, or a phone call home, or a quick email to your coach. For some of you, it may be a quiet reminder, a secret signal, or a quick time out. But I want to change your choices, not punish you."
None of them really challenge the logic of this approach (which is not mine, by the way, it comes from Teaching with Love and Logic, a brilliant book everyone should read imho), and we begin to develop a partnership in that moment.
We also talk about fighting and I tell them that I don't hit back. To me, hitting someone back is an invitation for them to hit me again and I am going to lose any physical fight.
Mostly, they find this pretty unbelievable and they disagree vehemently. I tell them they have the right to disagree, but that is how I am. I also make it clear
The funny thing is, by this time, we are starting to get to know each other, and at this moment, the majority of them experience a psychological shift. In the event of a fight, my first instinct will be to break it up; their first instinct will be to protect me.
For years, I have seen the results of this experience manifest in student behavior.
A few years ago, I told some students that I tell them this in part because I know it will change their behavior. It works anyway. They told me that even knowing I manipulated them in this way, they still felt like they would protect me and it didn't really bother them.
I don't know why I think this is a good thing. I guess because it confirms my belief that I do more good than harm. Maybe because it affirms my belief that most of them prefer to prevent undue violence.
For whatever reason, I find these conversations powerful and ultimately positive.