Educators often become pre-occupied with discipline, authority, power, and order. They do this by separating the child from the requirements of the school, whether they are behavioral, academic, or social-emotional. The systems approach has taught us that the only effective way to deal with and constructively resolve any conflict is by examining the conflicting issue from a variety of perspectives. In other words, the people involved in a conflict resolution situation should take into consideration all that affects (directly or indirectly) the inception, sustenance, and possible termination of the conflicting matter.
For example, if a child skips school, before he is exposed to the rules and regulations of the school, and come under the scrutiny of academic committees, and therefore become subjected to the school policies that might eventually lead to some sort of punishment (you might call it positive reinforcement, positive punishment, etc., but the fact of the matter is, the child feels hurt at the end of the procedure), someone needs to ask the crucial question: “What are some of the factors leading toward this particular behavioral pattern in the child?” – What? Who? Why? How? When? – exhaust all possible answers for these questions… and during this process, one invariably realizes that the child has little to do with his behavioral pattern. There are bigger things, or issues that need to be addressed, and the child needs help not only to deal with the behavior of ‘missing school’… but perhaps with greater things like NOT having someone to take care of his emotional needs at home, NOT having a well-planned support system for learning in his classes, etc.
Our usual practice is to deal with behavioral problems – exclusive of the child’s emotional and social experiences! I am yet to see schools that use more preventive measures when it comes to behavioral issues. It makes sense and it is not difficult to employ preventive measures… unfortunately, most schools are still following the – “have rules – catch those who don’t abide by the rules (so much of energy, time, and resources are spent on ‘catching’ – merit systems, tracking slips, contracts, etc. – added to the already existing heavy paper work that everyone carries at school) – punish to correct the behavior” mentality.
Why can’t we have schools that will focus solely on harnessing, nurturing, and celebrating children’s emotional and social experiences – provide them with the environment to feel, think, and act positive and good, all the time. Impossible you say? Not really, check out a school in the province of Lopburi, Thailand called the Satya Sai School. You will be surprised how by taking care of and solely focusing on positive emotions – the school has moved away from the traditional – “rules – catch – punish – correct” mentality to behavior management.
Children are humans… when they feel that they are treated like one – they want to behave well! When we treat them like prisoners – and always stand on our guard to catch them doing bad things – of course they will help us by fulfilling our own expectations of their behavior! High time we changed!