Tips on Positive Approaches to Discipline on Buses

Children being transported to and from their homes can spend substantial amounts of time each day on their fixed bus route. This tip sheet is intended to assist Head Start grantees and delegate agencies with setting a positive approach to discipline. Note: This resource is under review.

The following is an excerpt from Transportation PathFinder.

Children being transported to and from their homes can spend substantial amounts of time each day on their fixed bus route (45 CFR 1310.20(b)(1)). Whatever the length of time, transportation staff can help children learn socialization skills and develop safe behaviors on the bus.

In a community where cultural values may be perceived as different from the majority of society, it is important to understand how adults communicate with their children. This parenting style will support a child's learning about personal space, expressing emotions, and self-control. Together with parents, transportation staff can make the bus route an enjoyable experience.

Transportation staff can reduce the amount of time spent on dealing with discipline problems by prioritizing time to work with children on learning safety procedures. As children gain a sense of self-control, they increase their ability to regulate their own behavior. This situation may be likened to a seesaw with discipline problems rising when procedures are not known and discipline lowering when procedures have been learned.

  • The goal of transportation staff should be for routines and transitions to occur in a timely, predictable, and un-rushed manner (45 CFR 1304.21(a)(3)(ii)). These would include:
    • How to board the vehicle
    • How to take one's seat on the vehicle
    • How and when to leave one's seat on the vehicle
    • How to exit from the vehicle
    • How to participate in a bud evacuation drill
  • Help children understand the words that name things in the bus and are used in the procedures:
    • Aisle
    • Door
    • Emergency Exit
    • Handrail
    • Restraint System
    • Seat
    • Seat Belt
    • Step
    • Window
  • Introduce a procedure and help children practice it with regularity and reinforcement, such as:

    "Everyone must keep on their restraint system when the bus is moving. Look at your neighbor, everyone's nicely buckled up. Good job."

  • Encourage self-control appropriate to the attention span of each child while riding a moving vehicle by teaching strategies (45 CFR 1304.24(a)(3)(i)(C)):
    • How to pay attention to cues
    • How to find their assigned seat
    • How to buckle their seat belt/restraint system
    • How to follow directions
    • How to participate in songs or games
  • Praise a child for doing an action correctly and give appropriate rewards, such as praise, a smile, a high five, pat, or handshake:

    "Hector, you found your seat belt and buckled up. Nice work."

  • Practice Dialogue that conveys and encourages positive behaviors, such as:

    "Remember to say 'Excuse me' when you bump into a person."
    "I like the way Innocente is sitting. She has her restraint system buckled."
    "I like the way Desiree is using words to ask for help."
  • Hearing positive remarks from adults helps children develop a sense of accomplishment at doing things correctly:

    "I see Ali is ready to go to work. I see that Tyree is also ready."
    "Everyone needs to use the handrail to get off the bus. Good job."
  • Knowing that a Bus Monitor is physically close or available to a child builds a level of comfort. This closeness also reduces the need for discipline.
  • It is important to recognize that body language, personality, and the attitude of an adult person on the bus can influence the expectations of students both positively and negatively.
    • Be calm in all interactions with children as hearing a harsh tone or the loud adult voices may frighten children.
    • Speak clearly and with consistency about what children are expected to do and use the child's name when speaking to that individual.
  • Remember that the need for discipline arises when children fail to understand the procedures.
    • When children fail to follow a procedure, it is important to deal with the behavior while maintaining their dignity.
    • Repeat the procedure that is desired and encourage children to practice it.

Note: This tip sheet is intended to assist Head Start programs with setting a positive approach to discipline. Remember that local needs must be considered when a program establishes its own procedures for children to follow.

Tips on Positive Approaches to Discipline on Buses. Transportation PathFinder. HHS/ACF/OHS. n.d. English.

Last Reviewed: January 2016

Last Updated: October 27, 2016