Rethinking discipline and classroom management

I don’t know about you but I was raised with the philosophy of spare the rod spoil the child. I’m pretty sure i’m not the only one. This philosophy shaped how I was raised, how I worked in my classroom and how I ultimately started parenting. But then came that proverbial moment when my 1st born was old enough to misbehave and everything I thought I knew had to be reevaluated.

Now please don’t get me wrong I am not saying how I grew up was wrong but since having children I have done a lot of rethinking about what discipline and management is.

I’ve talked about our struggles with my oldest before she is not the easiest child to work with but she has talk me so much in the process. So I thought i’d share some thoughts here:

1) learning about self reg.

Before learning about self reg I saw my childs tantrums just as that tantrums. I saw acting out as acting out. Even in the classroom I was why are they doing this don’t they know better. Now, it is easier to see those moments as a cry for help. Kids (K-12) act out for a reason. They are trying to communicate to the best of their ablities that they have been wronged or are stress. It isn’t on purpose, it isn’t to make your life miserable they just need help. Now is how they are doing it correct…not really but that is after discussion.

Self reg has also taught me that there really isn’t any reason to talk rationally to a child under stress until they are calm and centered. Their brain just cannot process the information. So step one is to identify they are stressed, step two calm, step 3 then talk. It is here in this talk you can discuss actions and discipline but not until they are back to rational thinking. Step 4 is figuring out stressors before they happen.

2. Punishment/discipline and anything else you want to lump in here

I was spanked as a kid. I was spanked often as a kid. I was spanked hard as a kid. I dont say this as a badge or a confirmation that it works but as a I know that it really doesnt work. Oh I did stop the behaviour but more out of I didn’t want to brake a spoon over my butt again. I’m sure that we all can relate to this story. But you see this is all I knew so what happens as a parent is this is what we revert too. It is in our tool box but it just doesn’t work to our desired outcomes. Personally, I have found that it continues the behaviour until a) you are so frustrated with the child you loose your marbles or b) the kid runs away and hates you forever. There is a c but that is a behaviour only stops because they dont want to be hit again. In all three cases the desire outcome of punishment isn’t really met.

We punish because we don’t want our children to repeat the behaviour, right? We want them to learn? But how is the above doing that?

Now please dont get me wrong there should be consequences for bad decisions.

What I have found is once a child is able to center and think again it is easier to talk and discuss the actions. My daughter has consequences. At first it felt like this wasn’t going to work but it has. Now she has less blow ups and actually understands why she is having them. She gets the reason why discipline needs to happen.

3) if a child doesn’t want to change nothing will change them

This has been the hardest part for me to learn. When I first started teaching I said I’m the boss and kids will lisyen to me. I was strict, I laid the law down amd guess what I still do but a lot different. My kids don’t follow the rules cause I said thou shalt they follow it because they have been involved and want to. Kids want to be in class because they feel a part of it. This has been the key to my management lately. My kids still know where the line is but they made it.

Now how does this come back to school. Today I saw next to a tardy list if a child gets 15 lates they are removed from all extra curriculars and teams. Now again I get discipline and why that statement is needed but then again i question this why is the child late? Does this take into consideration of home? Maybe they hate your class? Maybe they dont like you? These are all questions to think about before a punishment can be handed down. We also have to think about one other thing. Often our school clubs, teams, free choice periods are the only thing keeping our kids in school. They are one thing they look forward too, so in taking them away what are we doing to that child?

These are just some random thoughts but for me I understand that classroom management is needed…I know kids and adults need to understand right from wrong but we also need to consider the child and ultimately the reason for the negative behaviour. Lets focus less on the behaviour and more on the reasons and ultimately stopping it from happening.

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Author: MrSoClassroom

I am a grade school Teacher, promoting creativity and exploration in all of my students. My classroom is always in a state of Inquiry.

9 thoughts on “Rethinking discipline and classroom management”

  1. Jonathan, you’ve given me (as always) lots to think about here. I continue to go back and forth on the punishment/discipline thing. Is it always necessary? If a behaviour is a stress behaviour instead of a misbehaviour, why discipline? Can sometimes the whole process involved in learning be enough? Are we sometimes to blame, so are we the ones that sometimes need the consequences (not the kids)? I’m still not sure where I fall exactly on all of this, but something about punishment and discipline just doesn’t seem to sit as right with me as it used to. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m far from a “pushover,” and our kids know that we have expectations, and student safety trumps everything else. But in the past couple of years, I find myself less concerned about punishment/discipline than I’ve been in the past, despite still dealing with needs/problems in the classroom. Maybe this doesn’t always need to be a big focus. Curious to hear what others think. I know that I have far more questions than answers right now.
    Aviva

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    1. Aviva this is exactly where I sit too. Often the reason for the discipline is because i’ve pushed and didnt reconize the stress. However, sometimes they’ve done something and that may need to have a disciplinary action. I am thinking my daughter punching my son. Yes it was in a stress response but that is not the right action. However, this doesn’t mean take something away or hitting. Often it is a discussion with her on what she thinks or it is something we have already decided on. Does that make sense?

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      1. It does make sense, but then I might ask what my teaching partner, Paula, often asks with physical altercations: what was happening at the time of the punch? What’s a developmentally appropriate response? This second question is harder, as sometimes kids might be older in age, but behave developmentally younger. I look to the ELECT Document a lot for this. I’m not saying that children don’t need to realize the problems with these kinds of physical responses, I wonder if punishment does this. Would continuing to model and provide alternative solutions, eventually lead to the same result? And the more that a child can self-regulate, and identify when this is needed, the more often that these kinds of responses will probably stop happening. Right? I think there’s something about the word “punishment,” which continues to bother me. Is this that as educators, this has often been part of our management repetoire for so long, and now things are slowly starting to change?
        Aviva

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      2. Yes…izzy is 8 and has different responses then my others who are 3.5 and 1.5. But i ask that at school all the time. Izzy wont often hit without being provoked so what is the response to be. I think self reg helps see things in different light but we as adults have to be ready for it.

        As for the word i dont like it and yes i think it is changing.

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  2. I am taking a self-reg class right now, and am doing a TLLP project focused on this next year. There’s so much to think about, including how my stress contributes to the class stress (I used to only see it as a byproduct of the classroom atmosphere!) It definitely effects my parenting too. I am trying to teach my children to self-regulate, and it is interesting to see how this stresses other adults.

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  3. Yes, Jonathan, I think that this requires a really big shift in our thinking. Punishment and discipline, at least to some degree, were part of the classroom management course I took in university and saw through my placements. Are these courses and placements changing now? If Izzy is unlikely to lash out physically without being provoked, then does she deserve to be punished? What about the individual that provoked her? I see similar things at school all the time. It’s not always easy to know what to do.

    Aviva

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  4. For me punishment is usually more for the person giving it out than the person receiving it. Often adult imposed “consequences” are really punishments in disguise.

    My daughter always responded better to debriefing after there was time to calm down. She would apologize when she felt it and always did it herself. She is a wonderful teenager who understands limits and is very respectful of others.

    I liked the idea presented in Timothy Goes to School (an old show based on Rosemary Wells books) who said that if you make a mistake or do something wrong you need to:
    1. Feel sorry
    2. Say sorry
    3. Do something to make it better

    Also if we believe in a growth mindset then this is an opportunity to make a plan to grow. Punishment assumes that mindset is fixed in my opinion.

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    1. Diana, Thank you for the response. I think many teachers are starting to see what you just mentioned with your daughter. I know I have. What strategies do you use to calm her down? I could always use a couple. For me I try to tell her I am not mad, that I love her and that I understand why she is frustrated we just cannot talk until we are calm. What works for you?

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