We can probably think of a hundred discipline mistakes.
But that is for another post.
Remember our little story from 11 Discipline Mistakes?
1) Wrong or conflicting goals
The school administrator made the common mistake of confusing discipline with punishment. The goal of discipline is to instruct or teach… period! The goal of punishment is often to try and teach a lesson by forcing them to experience emotional or physical pain. But there is an error in this kind of thinking.Think of the last time someone made you feel pain.The first thing you thought was, “OK let me think deeply about what I can learn from this”. Right?Yeah, Riiiiiight!Learning something lasting and valuable is the last thing anyone–including children–feel inclined to do as a result of experiencing pain.
Human beings have a knee-jerk reaction to a threat of pain. Either we fight to stop it, or run, lie, hide or use some other evasive tactic to avoid it.
Too often those tactics are hidden, and the lesson learned is negative. Most of the time, the only lesson learned is how NOT to get caught next time. Other times, children and teens learn that they have to get better at how to lie their way out of a problem. They don’t learn the intended lesson–at least not from the punishment experience.
Punishment is useless as a teaching tool. Throw it away! I don’t think I can come any straighter.
2) Missed opportunity
It’s no news that positive reinforcement is one of the most effective teaching methods. But do you know what the hardest part of applying it is?It’s very natural for us to “catch” people doing something wrong, but to apply positive reinforcement, you have to catch them doing something right… even if its only the slightest thing. If you reinforce even the slightest positive step with a reward or compliment, chances are good that the child will take the next step and build on that behavior.In our story, the children showed up for the wrong reasons, but they DID show up. If the administrator was looking for something good to “catch” the best thing she could ever have found was for the kids to actually come to school.. for whatever reason. That was the perfect thing to reinforce! Instead of being turned back at the gate, they should have been given a compliment for showing up……and welcomed with open arms and a smile. They should have been allowed to be with their classmates.The administrator lost a golden opportunity to teach a lasting lesson because she was actually seeking revenge. Her goal was to make the children feel unwelcome. She succeeded big time. This is actually a very effective way to encourage them to CONTINUE with the misbehavior, or to even take it up another level with even worse behavior. As you know from the comment discussion, that is exactly what happened.
3) No love
Those teenagers had behavior problems. Quite a few of them came from dysfunctional homes. Can you guess how to be a huge influence in such a child’s life? No-brainier, right? Be the most caring, nurturing person they know and you’ll have a friend for life who WILL try to do as you say. By dishing out a harsh punishment, the administrator was only giving them more of what they’ve already been getting at home for years.No love. That’s what created the misbehavior in the first place. Besides a whole lot of other things, those kids really needed to be welcomed with joy and open arms like the prodigal son.Of course, you can’t let severe misbehavior continue without a consequence. Read on.
4) Illogical Consequence
Of course, what also should have been discussed with the students was a logical consequence for skipping school. The previous post dealt with logical consequences. In our story, the teenagers should not have been allowed to get off scot-free. Serious misbehavior should be met with a suitable response. But you’re not going to teach a child to come to school by keeping them out when they do show up. This was not a logical consequence. It didn’t make sense as a suitable consequence for teaching something. It’s only purpose was to inflict pain. So what would have been a logical consequence?How about making up for the lost classes by putting in the hours after school next trimester? How about cutting their vacation short and have them coming in a few days early to catch up on lessons? Thinking up logical consequences is a challenge, but anything along those lines makes sense.
5) No involvement
In fact, the teens should have been given the task coming up with suitable logical consequences before going ahead to join their classmates. The administrator didn’t have to do the work herself.People in general will get more out of an experience that they helped create. Children are no exceptions. The chances of them accepting consequences they helped create themselves, is always a better one.
6) No choice in the matter
Know what else would have increased the chances of the teens accepting the consequences? This one is a neat little trick. It works most of the time.Give them two or more choices and give them the freedom to actually choose one.
7) Irresponsible or undesirable consequence
Actually, the school Admin was taking a serious chance that day. These were kids who were known for chronic misbehavior. During school hours, they were actually put to roam the streets unchaperoned. The school could have been in serious trouble if someone hadn’t found a way to keep them on the school-grounds. This was an irresponsible consequence.Sometimes the consequence is also just undesirable for the parent. For example, if the kids had chosen to stay back after school the same day, someone would have had to stay with them. That’s not something the administrator or any other teacher would have been willing to do on that particular day.
8) No Follow-through
It probably didn’t fit with her goals.
But the school admin did not try to follow-up after the consequence to see if the lesson was learned. The following school term should have picked up where that party left off. Fun holidays now over, one goal should have been to look for ways to build on the school attendance on the day of the party.Another goal should have been to apply the agreed-upon consequence.Consequence choices should be given, then applied decisively and checked for success. Good teaching methods follow that pattern.
9) Thinking it will work smoothly
An extra tip is never to expect that a logical consequence will be a piece of cake. Its just not realistic. Children and teenagers will test their limits and your resolve. Be prepared to stand firm and still stay calm.
10) No Practice
Another extra tip is to remember even after the consequence is applied, that learning experiences should be practiced.Our story doesn’t lend itself perfectly to this tip. Still, its not a stretch to see that getting up early and making it to school on time is a skill. All skills get better with practice, and so opportunities should be put in place for youths to practice. This could have taken the form of a challenge on a weekend, with a small reward for success.Sometimes the help of a professional or other caregiver may be necessary to help the learning process along.But it all takes patience. Everything having to do with kids takes love… and patience.So go look for something good to “catch” your teen or child doing. It’s often the start to big, positive changes in their lives, and also in the relationship. Its really cool when you’re actually enjoying those little people God has put in our care.