Punitive discipline at schools - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 04-21-2003, 11:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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In our home, we try not to use a punitive form of discipline. At my daughter's public school, though, it is pretty common. No one is hit or spanked, but there seems to be quite a bit of shaming and threatening, with loss of privileges the main way of keeping some kids in line. I don't like it, but on the other hand, I have no creative ideas about dealing with large groups of kids, some of whom are apparently without any social conscience. What do your schools do to avoid punishment?
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#2 of 11 Old 04-22-2003, 12:26 AM
 
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Not sure how old your daughter is but as a preschool teacher (taught this by a first grade teacher, by the way), I found that announcing preferable behaviors to the class gave me what I was looking for. For example, if a child was acting up, I'd notice some others who were following directions (or just doing something more appropriate) and say, "Wow, I see Justin is ready, and Keisha, and oh, Tyler is now ready" etc.. If the child still wasn't ready, I'd put my hand on his/her shoulder and say, "I sure wish ____ was ready!" That would bring the power of his peers looking at him and expecting him to be ready instead of giving him attention for his antics. And, I wouldn't have said anything negative or gotten angry! Takes some self-control on the part of the teacher, esp. if she's been having a rough day.

Might want to mention something to your principal. Actually, on second thought, talk to your child's teacher first; I always HATED when a parent would have a problem and I'd have no clue until my director would call me in and then my name would be MUD for no reason.

~Melissa
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#3 of 11 Old 04-22-2003, 08:24 AM
 
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What I have observed at my children's school is that the best teachers use the power of their relationship with each child to motivate good behavior. My son's teacher this year took the time in the beginning of the year to establish a great relationshipl with each child based on mutual respect. These kids would do ANYTHING for her. My son, who does have a tendency to act out, is naturally ashamed (the "good shame" that comes from a conscience) when he disappoints her. He has not been given any consequences this year. Last year he had a "time out" almost every day, and several visits to the planning room. I can attest that not that much has changed about my son, but his teacher's approach to him is way different. I think it's exciting to watch!

There has been research done (I can't cite it, but I heard it on NPR) that when teachers take time to build connections and relationships with kids, behavior problems go way down. This is just so much common sense, based on what we know from parenting! It always amazes me that someone has to spend thousands of dollars to prove what most parents know!

 
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#4 of 11 Old 04-22-2003, 06:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Those ideas give me much to think about. This school year got off to a bad start with the teacher having to leave with personal problems and many, many substitutes before the teacher returned. I have noticed that the teachers take pains to establish a good relationship with the kids who are easy, but the kids who are testier don't get the same kindly treatment.
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#5 of 11 Old 04-22-2003, 11:46 PM
 
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Just had to say that one of the reasons teachers don't tend to develop a relationship with the "testier" kids is because they want to keep up their image that they are tough enough for these kids. If you appear soft to a tough kid, you risk (or, at least, feel like you risk) them running all over you. Of course, what these kids really need is a firm but loving teacher who will take the time needed for them to succeed.

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#6 of 11 Old 04-23-2003, 01:36 AM
 
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As a 2nd grade teacher, I know that I do use what probably appears to be "punitive discipline" in my classroom, but I do feel justified in doing it. An example of this: My students submit to me a completed homework packet each Friday morning. They have all week to get it finished, and I take the packets home to correct over the weekend. Thus, I need each child's work before the end of Friday afternoon. If an individual has not completed it by the morning, he or she must find a way to get it finished by the end of the day- and that usually means spending recesses in the library or office until the work is finished. While this seems like a punishment to many observers, especialy because the result is in fact the loss of a recess privilege, it is really a consequence that requires the child to meet a responsibility.
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#7 of 11 Old 04-23-2003, 08:44 AM
 
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teachma, I think what you are describing is a natural consequence, not a punishment. Children do need to know (IMO) that there are consequences to their actions or choices. There is punishment, which is sort of arbitrary and not really connected to the bad choice. Then there are natural consequences which show a child an outcome, positive or negative. For example a child who throws his Legos at his sister-- a punishment would be "go to time out or your room, or you've lost TV for the day"; a natural consequence would be "pick up all those Legos and do something nice for your sister", because that is how we really want things to work out in the real world.

You are saying the assignment needs to be done by Friday. If the child comes to school without it being done, a natural consequence is that they give up free time to complete it. Their future boss would expect no less. I think it is possible to deliver natural consequences to children still with a firm and loving voice, showing your concern for their well being and their bad choice. What I think many teachers do is remove a privelege arbitrarily.

 
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#8 of 11 Old 04-23-2003, 12:30 PM
 
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Thanks, Lauren, that makes me feel better about what I do. I guess I'm curious to know what specific kinds of arbitrary punishment you moms are seeing at your schools.
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#9 of 11 Old 04-23-2003, 03:09 PM
 
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teachma: I don't know if this kind of thing happens now, but I was thinking about this very subject, and my childhood experiences as I got on-line today. DD and I were reading one of those Junie B books (which I hate, BTW), and the child acts up and is sent to the office. I asked DD if anyone was ever sent to the office in her kindergarten class, and she said only 1 boy, who was actually sent there so he could go home...he had undiagnosed autism that made that classroom hell on earth for him...
anyway, that got me thinking. I remember getting late to school in 1st or 2nd grade. We lived in the city and I had to walk about 1/2 mile to school. One day, I was about 1/3 of the way there with my best friend when she remembered she had left her homework on the counter. She ran home to get it and I waited for her. That resulted in me being subjected to a 5-minute screaming lecture from the principal, (who actually stood in the doorway to "snare" latecomers) andthen being told I had to write 100 times, "I will not be late for school."
This was useless and punitive...I made no habit of being late for school, and the punishment in my case would not prevent me from doing the very same thing again if a friend needed me (even in the early 60s, it wasn't a good idea for a 6-yr-old to walk to school alone). And if the punishment did do so, wouldn't it actually be contributing to making me a worse person?

teachma, I like your plan. Teaches them that THEY are responsible for their work, and for managing their time...
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#10 of 11 Old 04-24-2003, 07:16 PM
 
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I'm a teacher, too, though currently on leave, and I always found that punishment in classrooms never works anyway - the kids who get punished continue to get punished, and they just accept it after a while. Plus it just sets up a negative relationship with the teacher and school in general.

Positive reinforcement goes a lonnnggg way! Sticker charts, verbal praise, and so on - those things were always useful to me. One idea I got from a colleague was called "magic moments" and it worked like this: When the teacher "caught" a child doing something good, she would hand him a post-it note, upon which he would quickly write what he was doing that helped him earn it. At the end of the day, the children who had received them came up to the front of the class and told the class how they earned it, and got to put a sticker on a chart. There was some sort of reward for earning a certain number of stickers - I used to let kids pick a free book from the monthly book club order as a prize. I used this with second and third graders quite successfully.

With older kids (I also taught sixth grade), a really powerful thing to do is to make a point in the first few weeks of school to call the parents of kids who behave really well and let them know how nicely their child is adapting to their new class. It's especially powerful to call at dinner time - the kids are there, and the parents don't mind the interruption! Believe me, the morning after the first time a teacher does this, all the kids are talking about it, and they all want to be the next one to get a phone call.

I guess this stuff would be helpful to you if you were a teacher looking for ideas, but you're not. Unfortunately, a lot of schools use punishment. I would suggest getting other parents on your side if you want to approach the principal with some new ideas. A teacher who has always used punishment is unlikely to change, though, so you can either think of it as a learning experience for your child and bear with it for the reaminder of the school year, or try to change her class - or at least learn a little about the teachers for the upcoming year and try to request one whose style is more in line with what you would like.

Good luck...
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#11 of 11 Old 05-08-2003, 12:43 AM
 
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Deleted for babble content.
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