There are a lot of opinions, studies and thoughts on how to best discipline children. Teaching children goes beyond cognitive assessments but includes social-emotional health. When setting rules I try to keep in mind that children are trying to understand themselves and their place in the world. My role is to help navigate this connection, me telling a kid what they did wrong does not teach anything but allowing them to think on their decisions does. Here are some strategies I have introduced in classrooms.
- Being consistent is key, children need consistency in all things and discipline is major in establishing boundaries. A theme I have introduced in my classrooms is 'good choice, sad choice' strategy. When they bite, hit etc. I say, "Oh that wasn't a good choice, we do not bite our friends". As they get use to hearing these type of phrases I begin to ask them, "Was that a good or sad choice?" I guide them towards an answer by referencing the situation, "My friend is sad because you hit her with a toy, making friends cry is not a good choice". As they age I continue this dialogue but with more questions that requires self reflection.
- This is something I use in every classroom I have worked in. It creates classroom responsibility, community and open dialogue. I have four sections: Good choices, It was a good day, Think about it, and sad choices. I decide each year what each section means (class dynamics vary) and every hour or so I reference the chart. I ask the kids to decide where my clip should move, kids are extremely honest so don't worry if you think they will always say good choices. If they have at least three clips on the good choices tab I allow 5 minutes of outside time or a sticker.
- At least once a week, preferably Wednesday, I have a town hall meeting where we gather in a circle and discuss class dynamics. I have the choices chart with me and have the children lead the discussion on thoughts, feelings and opinions on how they have been behaving so far. The meeting begins with compliments and acknowledgements; an opportunity for the children to give positive statements to their peers. We then move to requests, I usually begin with a request, "I have a request, I have noticed when I call to line up for recess some of my friends do not push in their chairs, can we please try to be mindful and push in our chairs?" Then I turn over the requests to the children. This meeting is never more than five minutes and I thank everyone for the great discussion which indicates the meeting is over.
Calm Down Space:
- Kids are not miniature adults, their emotions can be too hard to self manage and regulate. Instead of sending them to the main office or give a punishment I allow for them to go to the calm down space. This quiet area is regulated for one student at a time who needs a break. It consists of a comfy pillow, cushion, books, and a quiet activity. In the beginning I send kids to this area, "I think you need to go the calm down space, come join us when you are ready." Once students understand that this is a safe space for them to regain their emotions they begin to self regulate. "Ms. S I need to go to the safe space", I never deny a child the opportunity to go and I have established that this isn't a place for play. I try and place it in a corner away from the loudest activities, usually by the classroom library.
- Below are photos of the calm down space for older kids, I definitely would not leave scissors out for kids under 10!