Teachers Disciplining Children in School – Is Their Reaction Positive Or Negative?

Teachers often say that they worry that discipline will result in children disliking them and being frightened of them. In fact the opposite is true — children don’t react negatively to being disciplined. How come? A recent example demonstrates the fact admirably…

In town I encountered a group of young children. If you were less charitable you may have described them as a gang, but they weren’t threatening or intimidating so ‘group’ is a suitable description. The sun was bright so they were hard to identify.

As they came closer, one of them let out a cry and ran towards me… Trouble in store? No, not at all! It was a delighted 11 year old boy throwing his arms around an adult he recognised and liked a lot. ‘Mrs Marsden, I haven’t seen you for ages’… It was Jack, an ex pupil…

He proudly said he’s doing brilliantly at school and how he’s looking forward to transferring to senior school later this year. Well, apart from having to wear a jumper and a tie! Jack explained how many friends he’s got – another thing that gives him great pleasure. The group he was with were obviously happy in his company.

How do I know Jack?

Jack was a disaster a few years ago and he’d been kicked out of Infant School because of his violence, confrontation and disruption. Teachers couldn’t do a thing with him. He was only 6 years old and a virtual write off in school. The teachers were in despair — whatever they did had no impact on his appalling behaviour.

In came the ‘Uncle Tom Cobley and all’ brigade and after they’d finished their numerous meetings and their behaviour management advice had failed, Jack was pointed in a different direction… A behaviour unit…

Jack’s first day was a problem for him… Asked where his reading book was, his reply would have been anatomically impossible! The reaction to his answer told him, very clearly, that such language would not be allowed and if he wanted to get on well then he’d better modify his language and behaviour pretty quickly! It was pretty obvious that nobody had ever confronted his behaviour before. He received a very clear message that he had better improve his attitude.

But, once a problem had been dealt with Jack soon learned that it was done with. All the time he was doing the right thing he’d receive loads of encouragement and reassurance. Follow the very simple rules and life would be good.

Jack couldn’t read very well at all and when you gave him any maths work he would literally shake with fear — I’ve never seen a child react so negatively. He had deep seated fears that had to be recognised and dealt with. Adults should have limitless understanding when any child has educational difficulties but there should be no tolerance of bad behaviour. Adults should refuse to make excuses for bad behaviour and stop it in its tracks before it has chance to take a hold in school – or anywhere else for that matter!

There’s no magic to managing children’s behaviour. It’s a matter of following the right behaviour management strategies, at the right time and in the right way. So, is Jack an unintelligent child? Absolutely not — but he was severely under educated and so typical of so many children demonstrating severe behaviour problems. He couldn’t do the basic tasks, was frustrated and falling behind with his learning every day he was in school.

Jack now found himself in classes where there was no tolerance of any appalling behaviour — a euphemism for being strict? But, he also realised that adults were willing to work with him to alleviate his many fears about learning. He was expected to work hard and independently but he soon began to see good results.

What was Jack’s response to this new experience? He blossomed and began to enjoy learning. This wasn’t transferred to his mainstream school at first as that could only happen when adults in mainstream learned how to manage behaviour effectively. The adults there had to learn how to control and manage his behaviour – something they’d failed to do before.

So, Jack’s welcome for ‘a strict teacher’ at today’s encounter was a perfect example of a child’s long term reaction to having boundaries and limits put on their behaviour. A totally positive reaction and a child who greets you with open arms — and in front of his friends! What a potential risk to his group standing with his friends!

Children desperately need to have limits and boundaries put on their behaviour. Teachers could have prevented so much of Jack’s misery by dealing with him properly long before his behaviour spiralled totally out of control. In fact they should have taken action as soon as he started to behave badly.

Any teacher can learn to deal with the Jacks of this world — or better still prevent them from becoming like Jack was in infant school. It’s what being an adult is about. It’s an adult responsibility to protect children from growing up without the essential discipline that enables them to mature with confidence and the right level of self assurance. All adults should be able to manage children’s behaviour confidently and effectively – it’s really not difficult.