Punishment or Discipline in Schools

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Question:

I am a parent who is struggling with a situation at my daughters elementary school. She is in the eighth grade at a parochial school. My very spirited daughter likes to enjoy life and people. She always manages to find a way to make most things fun.
For example: Making funny noises and turning the lights off during the lunch time...basically fooling around in the lunch room. The problem we have is how the staff in her school handles consequences for imperfect actions. Staff includes teachers, library help, reading volunteers, computer lab help, and even the cafeteria help.
Perfection of actions is expected at all times If a child is less then perfect, and break a rule, they get a discipline form. In other words if you get a "Discipline Form", you cannot participate in the class field trip, or go to the ice cream social, or a class lunch at a restaurant. (just a few examples) Their form of discipline is taking away the field trip (etc.), making the student stay at school with another teacher. The stay at school involves no classes, just basically being baby-sat by which ever teacher that has not gone on the field trip (etc.). I have always understood that field trips are educational, a time to learn. This is her last field trip at this school. So I am having a hard time understanding why an educational experience has to be deprived because of silly actions. My daughter is not malicious, or destructive. Her actions aren't always perfect, but I believe there has to be a better way to handle situations like this without Taking Away something good. Please help me on this. The teachers follow the RULES. But there really is no discipline.........just taking away a good opportunity to learn. I would appreciate any and all suggestions.
Thank you
EMG

Answer:

Hi EMG, I agree with you totally. I do not believe in punishment of any kind -- including punishment that is poorly disguised as logical consequences. Some people hear that as advocating permissiveness, but I don't believe in permissiveness either.
The Positive Discipline in the Classroom book explains a discipline program that meets all of the Three Criteria for Effective Discipline

1. Is it respectful? Kind and Firm at the same time.
2. Is it effective long term?
3. Does it help children develop valuable life skills for good character?

This is a very different way of looking at discipline. Most people think discipline and punishment are synonymous, but they are not. All of our books are filled with information and skills for effective discipline. Following is a thumbnail sketch of Six Skills for Effective Discipline

1. Involvement. Children are motivated to cooperate when they are respectfully involved.
2. Set limits and solve problems together.
3. Help children explore consequences of their choices through curiosity questions instead of imposing punishment.
4. Focus on solutions through class meetings or family meetings where children also learn many valuable life skills and attitudes for good character.
5. Take time for training
6. Special time to enjoy your children -- make sure the message of caring gets through so children feel a sense of belonging and significance (a lack of which is the motivation for most misbehavior).

Now we come to the real crux of your problem -- how to convince school personnel. I don't have a good answer for that one. You might share a copy of Positive Discipline in the Classroom with your teacher or principal and ask for his or her opinion of the contents of the book. You might let them know of our two day trainings for Positive Discipline in the Classroom (described on our website www.positivediscipline.com  under "workshops") and see if they would send two teachers to explore this effective method. People who believe it treating children respectfully and don't believe the long-range results of punishment are effective, love our methods. For others it requires a real paradigm shift.

I wish you the best.

Jane Nelsen