Behaviour guidance. Positive discipline. Redirection. Classroom management. Discipline.
The articulation of how we as educators and parents address perceived misbehaviour has progressed through the years. We know that words carry meaning, and because of that, I am going to use the term positive discipline in the following manner, using Dr. Jane Nelson’s definition:
Positive discipline is a way of teaching and guiding children by letting them know what behavior is acceptable in a way that is firm, yet kind. – positivediscipline.com
When children experience conflict, one of the most beneficial things to do is to wait until all parties involved are calm before you talk about it. It is wise for the adult who is responsible at the time to resist the temptation to take on the role of “judge” and solve the problem for the child, even though it may be evident who is responsible.
The goal is for children to be able to talk out solving their problems, as this supports higher-order thinking skills.
Younger children may not be able to articulate how they are feeling or problem solve using words. In these scenarios, it is important to help them through the process. It is best for adults to avoid any judgements unless they are an eyewitness to the behaviour that is just not acceptable. If you must correct a child, the way to model respect is to make the correction without an audience. Give the child the appropriate words to use in order to help build vocabulary and self-confidence.
Children may need help identifying their feelings. They need to know that whatever they are feeling is okay. It is their feeling, however, what is important is how they decide to handle the feeling.
Many disagreements can be solved by letting the other person know how you feel and what you want them to do:
I feel … (state the feeling)
when you … (describe the action)
because I … (say why)
Optional last sentence:
Next time, I want/need/would like you to…
It is normal that the other child may or may not be able to respect the wishes of the person making the “I feel” statement. It is possible that the child may need help finding another solution or may have misinterpreted the actions of the instigator.
Sometimes, a problem calls for a more deliberate process. The steps below have worked well for a group of two or more and even world mediators! The following questions must be adjusted to suit the developmental stages of the children involved.
Ask the following questions. You may want to write some of the answers down for reference:
- What is the problem as each person involved sees it? You may want to “step into the other person’s shoes” by repeating what you heard them say. You may encourage children to do this as well. Be sure to allow each child time to speak without interruption. For younger children, it may be helpful to have an object to hold (a flower can be a beautiful object to use); no one except the person holding the object is allowed to speak. When one child is through speaking, the object is passed to the other child.
- Why is it a problem? What are the effects of this problem?
- Whose problem is it? How does each person involved feel about it?
- What ideas do we have for fixing this problem? Consider all possibilities; no idea should be criticized or laughed at.
- Which idea seems like it will be the most helpful? Sometimes children will choose to solve a problem in a way that you as the adult know will not work. It is a good idea to allow the children to experience their own solution and come to that conclusion themselves. This is part of the learning value of problem-solving processes.
- How will we know if this solution is working? Choose a time that seems appropriate to revisit the problem and its solution. Give enough time to test the solution. If the solution was not helpful, you can go back to the brainstorming list and choose another solution to try.
I look forward to hearing about your own success in utilizing some of the strategies above to solve problems.