Effective Discipline Is Not About Punishment
Discipline comes from the Latin word ‘disciplinare’, which means, ‘to teach’. Discipline is simply a way to guide and manage a child’s behavior.
Discipline is based on the quality of a child’s relationship with the care provider (a teacher in the classroom, or mom and dad at home). When a child receives a consistent response from a caring adult, trust, deep attachment and a sense of being wanted to develop. This forms the foundation of good behavior and effective discipline.
The key is to ensure that these relationships are respectful, responsive and reciprocal.
We have all experienced corporal punishment at school or at home, perhaps in the form of caning, slapping, pinching, being made to kneel in the sun or generally being humiliated. We have all grown up witnessing its regular use, and as a result, we have come to think of corporal punishment as normal. Because our parents and teachers used it, we have come to understand corporal punishment as an acceptable way to relate to children. However, times change, and with change, we gain new knowledge. As custodians of children’s hopes and aspirations, we must accept the responsibility for creating an environment that will help children thrive. There is now a widespread understanding that corporal punishment is unlawful child abuse and harmful. It no longer has a place in the education system.
As a teacher, I understood establishing a daily routine and frequent communication was vital to develop respectful and meaningful relationships which directly affect behavior and a child’s ability to learn.
For instance, as children arrive into my classroom, I always make sure to greet them at the door; just as they greet me. I’m never ‘busy’ planning curriculum, checking attendance or talking, texting or tinkering with my phone at drop off and pick up times. To take no notice of a child left in my care would send a message saying, ‘You’re not worth my time’ which begins a cycle of mistrust.
Positive reinforcement comes in many flavors: smiling, sharing a high five and giving effective praise. In the classroom, I’ve noticed that effective praise is selective, specific, encouraging and positive. It avoids comparisons and competition.
Most teachers are bewildered by their classroom children’s misbehavior. Punishment is a popular method but it is generally ineffective. When we make the kids feel bad for what they have done and we punish them, they don’t usually feel sorry for what they did, nor do they think about how to do better the next time. They usually feel angry, defensive and vengeful. It is not easy to easy to stay calm in the face of misbehavior. It is helpful though to remember that children usually don’t misbehave on purpose or just to bother you. It’s possible that they are just usually not aware of the rules, overwhelmed, tired, hungry or frustrated. In that case, a gentle approach helps them think about what they have done wrong, does not push them to defend their actions while letting them know that we believe they are capable of setting things right!!!
Always remember ‘A good school educated the whole child’.