A recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all schools teach self-regulation skills to their students.
There are mounds of research showing how incredibly damaging corporal punishment — hitting, paddling, swatting, and other forms of physical punishment — is on the child’s developing brain and their risk of developing eventual mental illness, addictions, and behavior problems.
Yet, there are schools in 18 U.S. states that allow corporal punishment within the classroom. These schools, coincidentally, tend to be located in areas fraught with other risk factors for brain-altering toxic stress on children, such as poverty, abuse or neglect in the home, and parental mental illness or addictions.
It is also well-known that children learn healthy — or unhealthy — social-emotional skills from their interactions with both key adults, like parents and teachers, and peers, like siblings and school mates. It stands to reason that for children who spend a significant part of their day at school outside the home, that those schools would take a more active role in helping children to develop healthy social-emotional skills — particularly children who have at-home risk factors.
A recent report issued in December by the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all schools teach self-regulation skills to their students.
Self-regulation skills encompass managing thoughts and emotions, controlling impulses, and problem-solving. These skills not only boost academic performance, but what is learned in childhood sets the foundation for later career and relationship success, mental health, and even physical health.
While early childhood is the period of greatest development in self-regulation skills, later interventions are able to influence at-risk children — which is what the report hopes schools would be.
I would also think that bringing self-regulation interventions into schools would serve them well beyond raising test scores — doubling as an anti-bullying and school violence prevention initiative, as the same behavior problems linked to these prevalent issues share some of the same roots in dysfunction of self-regulation.
Perhaps this is the sort of push those 18 states need to finally move away from school corporal punishment.
Of course, the best “teacher” of self-regulation skills are parents. With so much political discussion in the last few years surrounding the idea of universal preschool, there has been blatant disregard among proponents for research showing that even the best non-parental childcare situations and schools cannot trump an emotionally healthy home environment in terms of influence on child outcomes. What about universal parent education?
While the tide is slowly changing on school corporal punishment, hitting is still rampant in the home. Schools will be more likely to let go of corporal punishment if the culture in those school districts readjusts their perspective on it, too.
Certainly, though, parents who homeschool are at an advantage here. They can choose to not only immerse their children in a nonviolent culture but also control which adults and peers are teaching what self-regulation skills. Perhaps more universal emphasis should be given to the value of homeschooling.