A changing approach to discipline

We all appreciate that students learn best in engaging environments that are also orderly. However, all children are different and they respond to discipline and these environments in different ways. Most of the disruptive behaviour at our school is of a very low level, and for some time we have relied on strategies that deter students from making poor choices – along with educating and reinforcing what is appropriate ways to act, behave and think.

That is quite often the way parents parent!  We can all use threats and actions – and these punitive approaches can actually be counterproductive. Even a reward system has its downfalls. Buckets of research and some well-grounded experience show that such approaches ignore quite often the root of the problem behind the behaviour and create a tension between student and teacher which is not helpful in moving forward.

Over the last five years we have changed our policy and practice at the school. We now focus more on prevention. This means we help students re-engage with their work, use sensible conflict resolution skills and social and emotional learning is core to our programs.

We view ‘discipline’ as a set of actions that help children manage themselves, their feelings, their behaviours and their impulses. We have veered away from that idea that our kids behave in a way that’s desirable just because they might get something or get into trouble if caught. We want our children to do the right thing because they know it’s right and because they want to do what’s right!

With this approach we give children reign and extra responsibility, and I can envisage parents reading and thinking that we are almost asking for trouble. However, we are very much about setting limits, constant correction and encouragement, loads of discussion about behaviour and how to improve, a ton of conversations about empathy and understanding and when discipline is needed its firm, fair and consistent.

This approach does not reap instant results. Young people continue to test the rules, boundaries and play on inconsistencies with management. Behaviour is an ongoing, daily challenge.

One thing is very clear to us. Wherever we go we are constantly told how wonderfully well behaved and courteous our students are. I reckon that’s a reflection of how our School and home works in unison and we should be very confident that what’s in place, really helps our kids shine!

Richard Anderson

Head of Senior School and Deputy Principal