Last year, during the reading of Dr. Ross Greene’s book “Lost at School” (another must read for any parent or educator), the following question helped me to further drive my views on student discipline:

Why is it that when a student that struggles with reading or math… we support… yet when a student struggles with behaviour… we punish?

As some of you are probably aware I try to avoid using punishment and rewards to try to get students to behave in a certain way.  When we change our mindset from a role of someone who gives out punishment to someone who teaches and supports, students end up learning the skills needed to be successful in a social setting.  As Greene states, when we change our lens from “kids do well if they want to… to kids do well if they can“, we see much greater growth in our children.

If a child acts out in class or on the playground, the principal can punish by taking things away from the child, reward by offering bribes/prizes/privileges for changed behaviour OR he/she can sit with the child and try to determine the reasons for the acting out.  Once the student and the adult have come up with reasons together, then can then work together to come up with strategies to teach lagging skills.  Punishment and rewards might work for that moment but the use of them fails to teach the child the appropriate skills needed to learn, change, and grow for the long term. Punishment and rewards will not teach a child to do something they simply cannot yet do.

I am privileged to have a staff who sees those students who struggle with behaviours not as bad kids but as students who are lagging in skills needed to do well.  As a school, our strategies focus on working to develop these skills so that not only these students can become more successful but also those around them.

I highly recommend Dr. Ross Greene’s method of Collaborative Problem Solving and Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems.

Also, please take a moment to watch this short video:

Thank you to Joe Bower and Kellie Marquet for the reminder to discuss this topic.