Discipline Question

I’m curious.  Time for a scenario question with your answers.

Let’s say you have a little girl (let’s call her Julia) who is a typical 4 year old.  She has, on occasion, a bit of a defiant side, but who doesn’t, right?

Let’s say one morning you walk out the classroom to go to the playground and Julia, who is having a pretty mildly defiant day.  Meaning, she is being somewhat defiant about some rules but nothing really outrageous…until the trip to the playground (which you have to travel to by way of an empty parking lot-no cars ever, but large empty open space).  Once the classroom door opens and all the children begin walking the path to the playground, Julia decides that she is going to go away from the group.

When the teacher goes to get her, she runs and laughs turning it into a game for her (not for the teacher).  One of the adult helpers (who is very experience with preschool classrooms and positive approaches to discipline-discipline as teachable moments) takes over with Julia.

The adult takes Julia’s hand and tells her that she is now going to have to hold her hand out to the yard because she can’t be trusted to walk by herself.

Julia breaks down and, the adult gets down on eye level and explains that she is going to hold her hand because she chose not to listen to the rules.  Is she ready to go?

Julia says yes, but attempts to remove her hand from the adult’s hand.  She is reminded that she will have to hold her hand until she gets to the yard.

Julia has a meltdown.  She jumps up and down, cries loudly, and puts on the entire drama show with her head thrown back and everything.

The adult calmy crouches down again and reminds her that she will have to hold hands until they make it to the yard.

The process continues for half the walk to the yard, taking about 15 minutes.  Halfway over Julia asks, “Do I have to hold your hand when we get there?”

The adult explains, “No, when we get there you can go play; but when you aren’t listening and are being unsafe in the parking lot you have to hold a hand.”

They then walk the remainder of the way with tears slowing down.  The adult takes Julia into the bathroom to clean her face before going out to the yard.  Julia is much calmer and is able to join the group with no problem.

Now, this situation was handled beautifully.  No one lost patience with Julia, she was taught the rules consistently and compassionatly.  Every step was explained to the child.

Let’s change the scenario up a bit.  Let’s say in the first scenario (as you read above) the adult has no clue about Julia’s background.  She has no idea if there are life situations that Julia is facing that she might by struggling with.

Now let’s say in scenario two the adult now knows that Julia is going through a very rough time at home.  Let’s say that Julia’s parents are recently going through a separation and they are arguing a lot in front of her.  In the past week, Julia has several meltdowns and her defiant behavior has reached a peak.

The question I have for you is this:  knowing the background, do you change how you handle that situation?


Barbra Stephens said...

Children act out for many reasons, some we will never understand and some we look do them no favors by giving them favor for it.
As teachers we have to address unacceptable behavior that is displayed in front of other children. What type of message would it send if it was she was excused because she is of a broken home? And knowing how 'smart' young children think:
*Is she special?
*Is she different?
*What is a divorce/broken home, anyway?
*Why does she have all the fun? I want a divorce, too.

You see where this is going, Jenni. You're right. The other teacher did handle it beautifully. It is good to know a child's background, but it is my feeling that a professional balances that discipline with wisdom and love....not just for a teachable momement for this girl, but for all the children as well.

Jenni said...

You're right there with me. Discipline doesn't change just because you understand the background behind it. There are teachable moments and consequences (good and bad) for our actions and those need to be consistent.

I think knowing the background helps a teacher maintain his/her patience a bit but it should not change how they react in a situation. Certain behaviors are unacceptable whether or not your home life sucks those behaviors are STILL unacceptable and we must be consistent with them.