Disciplining works if it is not over the top and children understand the point of it.
Highlights magazine’s annual State of Kids survey found that a majority of children appreciated being disciplined and believed that it helped them behave better.
What children disagreed with were the strategies that were used by their parents – the most common ones being time-outs and taking away electronics. The report suggests that disciplining strategies work better when they open up communication and strengthen relationships among friends or siblings or between kids and adults.
However, my own work as an education professor and researcher who works with schools and families shows that disciplining is becoming a major issue at schools too, taking up more and more of the school day. So, why are schools imposing severe disciplinary measures?
What’s going on in schools?
Let’s first look at what disciplining looks like in schools.
Many schools now have lines on the floor that students must walk on to get anywhere. Some schools even have tape on the ground to show where students should walk in the classroom. Hallways have stop signs at each corner and schools enforce zero noise zones.
Children are told to hold air in cheeks like a bubble when walking in the hallways or when they are supposed to be listening to instructions or storytime. They are told to walk straight, not touch anyone, keep their hands to themselves, sit on an X mark on the floor, raise a hand before speaking, keep eyes on the teacher, use only one piece of paper, follow directions and be quiet.
Over the past 10 years, strange discipline measures such as red, yellow and green lights, where green means well-done and red means bad behavior, have become commonplace. Children can get their recess taken away or be put into an isolation room. Or, increasingly, even the police can be called.
Discipline is not only constant but also public. Just last week, I was in a class where a child’s name was on the board. Children at my table pointed it out to me and explained that the kid gets in trouble a lot. They told me that the teacher writes his name on the board and then when he is good, he gets one letter erased. When they are all erased, he can have free time.