Try mentioning either “discipline” or “punishment” among a group of parents or educators and observe the reactions you get. Some will be good, some will be bad, and some will be ugly.
Why are there so many differing opinions on how to discipline children? Perhaps because we all grew up with unique experiences, or because we’re constantly discovering new facts about how children learn. Or perhaps because what we thought we knew to be true about discipline is actually false.
That’s what Katherine Reynolds Lewis puts forth in an article from Mother Jones, “What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?”
Lewis takes a deep dive into the disciplinary practices common in most schools in America. “Teachers and administrators still rely overwhelmingly on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions.” (You might remember our thoughts on sticker charts.)
While these practices return short-term results – the class settles down, the child does what the adult wants – educators and parents are finding out that these systems don’t get to the root of the behavior that they are trying to discourage. The discipline is a band-aid, but doesn’t help the child learn to self-regulate, which would be the best long-term solution.
Of course there are classrooms and families that support the child on their path to self-control and emotional well-being, Montessori among them. And now, with the help of psychologist Ross Greene, a wider swath of caregivers are adopting an attitude of listening and helping a child who is trying to handle their emotions, rather than coercing or disciplining. Here’s Lewis:
“Under Greene’s philosophy, you’d no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You’d talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way.”
By following the child and helping them understand what they are feeling, educators are better equipping a child to handle emotions as teenagers and adults.
These techniques are being used for school-aged children, but imagine the benefits of helping children as young as 18 months learn to communicate their feelings!
In Part 2, Montessori educators June George and Ms. Wood will provide some practical tips to help your child understand their emotions. Use them to improve the emotional health of your entire family!
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