I’m Sending You to Australia- and Other Ways to Discipline Children

As part of earning my teaching degree, I attended a seminar this morning on classroom management.  Listening to the speaker, I kept thinking “I could use this stuff at home!”  Who knew that a teaching seminar might prove to be my salvation in the disciplinary arena?

 I’m pretty bad at discipline.  If I was a superhero my name would be Hippie Mom.  I believe I have the power to fix all major problems with some sensory play.  I have the ability to completely disregard bad behavior so long as I’m not crushing a human spirit.  I always hear experts admonish “you need to be clear and consistent when it comes to discipline.”  They might as well say “fulcrum Roth IRA quack salver melliferous bivouac emolument” because I don’t know what those words mean either.

The speaker said that as a teacher, I have to KNOW what behavior I expect, and how to go about teaching that behavior.  She went on to define what she did in her classroom.  It seemed simple, and made so much sense, I wanted to smack my palm against my forehead and shout “duh!”

She advised to create a clear set of rules, but never more than 5 rules.  Her rules were:

1.  Respect yourself

2.  Respect others

3.  Respect property

4.  Do your best work

She talked with her students about these rules, and then did a series of role plays and quizzes with them.  For example, she would whisper an instruction to two students, like “pretend you are sharing a toy,” and then have them act out the scenario for the class.  The quiz consisted of questions like “is taking a toy from someone being respectful of others? Is cleaning up my mess respecting property?”

 I really liked the idea of modeling and quizzing.  At one point, she gave us some common classroom scenarios and asked us to work in teams to solve them.  One of the examples was “Two boys will not share a ball.”  The group assigned to the problem responded with “take the ball away.”  I laughed inwardly because the group happened to be three men, and this is the exact response my husband would have.

I shared that I have this issue at home with my two boys, and it’s not always cut and dry.  Sometimes one of my kids is perfectly willing to pass the ball, while the other grabs it and runs.  It’s not really fair to take the ball away from both boys, when one boy is having the issue.  The teacher said that at young ages, you can’t simply take the ball away but you also can’t just say “work it out.”  Kids do not necessarily know how to solve the situation- they need adults to model appropriate behavior to set the expectation.

The teacher went on to explain that even after the children learn the rules, they might need to be taught again from time to time.  I believe her example was if a child enters the classroom rowdy after recess, when everyone else is settled down.  She said she would say “I need you to be respectful of others who are in their seats waiting to learn.  Please go out the door and show me how you should enter the class.

 She phrased things in the positive not the negative.  Instead of saying “don’t take the toy” she would say “respect others, ask nicely.”  Of course, she also utilized redirection and distraction, but you get the gist.

There was discussion of rewards and consequences, with many strategies debated.  She tended toward positive and free rewards.  She handed out tickets for good behavior throughout the day, with the tickets eventually leading toward some bigger prize, like free time or an extra recess.  She utilized giving points for both teams and as individuals.

 When consequences were needed, behavior was reinforced with a consequence that related back to the rules.  “I need you to be respectful of property.  You threw a toy, so I am going to put the toy away for now.  You can play with it again tomorrow.” She stressed “ignoring is condoning” and my eyes shifted to the floor, as I am super guilty of that one.

She also utilized the idea of a safe spot, which I like.    Sometimes, I feel like there is a behavior that requires something, but not necessarily a time out.  The safe spot is a designated spot where a child can read a book, do a puzzle, etc and just regroup before joining an activity.  She said she explains to the students that they can go to the safe spot on their own when they feel they need it, or she might send them to the safe spot if she feels like they need a moment.  Her safe spot was named “Australia” as in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day- which I thought was super cute.  I loved the idea of saying “I think you should go visit Australia for a few minutes.


 I came home excited to give it a try with my own boys, and ran into a problem right out of the gate.  I talked with my husband and agreed on a set of rules.  We explained the rules, and then let the boys give us suggestions for possible rewards for good behavior.  I suggested we create a sign that stated the rules, so everyone knew what they were.  The boys began planning what supplies we would need- stickers, markers, maybe paint.

 I then thought to ask “do you know what the word respect means?”

Liam responds, “Uh, no.”  Kellen begins looking for a piece of chicken he dropped under the table.  So we may have a few modifications to make, but I think we are on the right track.

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