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Discipline is an important component of any education. It teaches children to respect themselves and others and provides the means to accomplish their objectives—it taps into their personal motivation. The word discipline, however, may be one of the most misunderstood terms in childcare.
What Is Discipline?
Discipline is not punishment. Punishment is the act of inflicting a penalty, causing pain, or taking vengeance. Just as we teach children that they do not have the right to hurt others, we also must teach them that no one has the right to hurt them. That includes the adults in their lives whom they trust to teach and love them.
What, then, is discipline? Discipline is teaching—giving instruction to correct, guide, and strengthen students’ confidence in the power of their own choices. It comes from a place of love and a desire to help students live in greater harmony with those around them. Proper, positive discipline empowers students to behave correctly. With loving guidance, they begin to be motivated to eliminate choices that stand in the way of the things they wish to accomplish and make purposeful decisions to reach their goals.
Assessing the Situation
Effective discipline also requires self-awareness from adults. When children act out, adults need to consider whether some adjustment on their part could help prevent future behavior problems. For example, a teacher may review her lesson preparation or question the speed at which she moved through the lesson to consider whether she may have contributed to student disengagement.
We know that by setting challenging but reachable expectations for the children in our care, we create a framework that allows them to select from appropriate options. This gives them practice in decision-making. At the same time, we help them understand that certain bad decisions are destructive and unacceptable. We do not lower expectations. To do so would only weaken students.
When a student needs additional guidance in making good choices, our teachers implement Thinking Time, which gives the student an opportunity to identify what has happened and decide what he or she wants to do about the situation.
Thinking Time involves taking individual students aside and guiding them to:
When students have completed these three steps, we praise their good decisions, invite them to participate with the rest of the class again, and hold them accountable in the future to their commitment to better choices.
Thinking Time is far more effective than a “time out.” We do not punitively say, “Since you did this, I will now punish you by making you sit here for a predetermined length of time.” Instead, we focus on helping students take responsibility for their behavior.
This entire process typically takes only a few minutes. When combined with a teacher’s love and consistency, students are able to move on productively from such incidents and learn from their mistakes.
Discipline: An Integral Part of Teaching and Learning
To effectively cultivate correct behavior, we guide students to acknowledge the facts of a problematic situation, take responsibility for their part in it, and fix the behaviors whenever they make bad choices.
At Challenger, we nurture the skills of students by recognizing their potential as individuals and encouraging them to do the same. By avoiding punishment, we help students learn to focus their minds on positive behavior and acknowledge the power they have over their own choices. Challenger’s understanding and use of discipline allow us to guide our students lovingly to prepare them for successful futures and happy lives.
Hugh Gourgeon, Challenger CEO
2021 National Blue Ribbon School