Using Teflon Responses in Challenging Situations

  • by Kelly Harmon
  • Oct. 20, 2020, 3:28 p.m.

By Cindy Jones

Some students enjoy “pushing our buttons”. It is very entertaining for them when we lose our cool and get frustrated. So, when you are verbally intervening with a student, do not get into a power struggle. Power struggles tend to damage relationships and escalate the situation. Instead, keep a neutral face and use Teflon Responses to respond to students’ inappropriate comments.

Teflon Responses are neutral statements that help us to stay in control and to keep our power. When you emotionally negatively engage with a student that is being rude or baiting you, you are handing him your power.

Teflon Responses should never be said in a sarcastic manner. Instead, they should be delivered in with a neutral face and a neutral voice.

A neutral face has no expression. And, a neutral voice is flat with no emotion.

Also, after you deliver the Teflon Response, walk away or change the subject. If you continue to stand there, the student will probably continue to be rude.

An example of changing the subject might be, “Hey, John, what should you be working on right now?”.

When we are treated rudely, we sometimes respond in a rude manner. So, pick the Teflon Responses that work best for you and practice with a colleague to make sure that you are able to deliver them with a neutral voice and facial expression.

These are some examples of Teflon Responses:

The ones in bold are my favorites.

  • I see.
  • Hmm (nod head)
  • Thanks for noticing.
  • Thanks for sharing that. Perhaps you are right.
  • That’s an interesting point.
  • I’ll have to think about that.
  • I hear what you are saying.
  • You may be right.
  • You got me! Can we move on now?
  • That’s possible. Let’s talk about it later.
  • That stinks.
  • Oh no. That’s never good.
  • I bet it feels that way.
  • I respect you too much to argue. I like you too much to argue.
  • If you want to fight, fight with someone else. I want to teach.
  • I argue at 3:30. Come back then.
  • You must be really angry to say that. We’ll talk about it in a minute.
  • It is okay to be mad. It is not okay to say that. We will talk about other ways to let me know you are mad without using those words.

Closed ended question:

Is that what you are supposed to be doing? Yes or No?

Calling a bluff

Did I hear you right? You said you’ll get your lawyer? That’s an interesting choice and now please get started on your ________.

You said your mom told you that you don’t have to do any school work? That’s very interesting. Thanks for letting me know. Please get started on your work.

Staying objective is critical when students want to get you into a power struggle. With teflon responses, they quickly learn that you will always stay in control of yourself and guide them to make better choices about how to stay focused on the task at hand.

Cindy Jones is a 50 year veteran teacher. She has co-authored 4 books and written many teacher handbooks for the Bureau of Education and Research. Currently, Cindy provides staff development to schools and districts across the country and in Canada. She presents numerous brain and behavior seminars for the Bureau of Education and Research. Be sure to look for her all new seminar Practical Strategies for Improving the Behavior of Attention-Seeking, Manipulative and Challenging Students

Contact Cindy Jones at [email protected].

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

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Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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