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|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
He Never Acts This way in School
Ron Huxley, LMFT
Have you ever heard a parent say this or perhaps
said it yourself? Why do some children misbehave at home and not other settings,
like school? While the opposite situation might be true, where the child
misbehaves at school and not home, let's look at this common parenting
Teaching is a good definition of balanced discipline. In fact, the word
discipline comes from the root word "disciplinary", which means to teach or
instruct. Most parents understand discipline as reducing inappropriate behaviors
(punishment) instead of helping children achieve competence, self-control,
self-direction, and social skills. Of course, all parents want this. But
reinforcing appropriate behaviors seems like a luxury or fantasy when parents
are having problems with their children. One reason for this may be the act of
juggling work and family that so many contemporary parents find themselves
performing. In this situation, only the most annoying or irritating behaviors
are sure to get a parents attention. Children quickly learn that good behavior
or even quiet, self-directed behavior rarely gets the attention of overloaded
parents. Good behavior's one less thing a parent has to deal with while bad
behavior guarantee parents attention. This is what educators and therapists call
"negative attention" - a powerful reinforcer of children's misbehavior.
So when parents say their child doesn't misbehave in school, perhaps we should
investigate the school/teaching model a little closer to see what frustrated
parents can use when disciplining their children. Of course, as any teacher will
admit, perfect behavior from children never occurs at school or anywhere else.
But, let's compare school behaviors to home discipline and ask a few questions.
Schools are learning environments. Discipline requires a learning environment
characterized by positive, nurturing parent-child relationships. Is your home a
learning environment or an entertainment center? Are their books, activities and
private spaces for children?
Teachers use a curriculum. Discipline occurs when a plan or structure is in
place for children. Do you know what you want to teach your children? What
values or ideas do you want your children to believe? Is there a set time or
routine for learning these things? Are you available to the child for help and
instruction? Do you have materials available to educate you about topics you
want to teach your children? Are there regular discussions about daily
responsibilities, spiritual ideas, personal dreams, and problem areas?
Grades are used to evaluate a child's progress in school. Discipline can be both
an instruction and a measurement of children's behavior. What grade would you
give your child in hygiene, social ability, responsibility, etc.? What rewards
(physical or verbal) are given for "A" grades? Are parent-child conferences held
to discuss strengths and weaknesses and make a plan for improvement? Do children
get regular feedback from parents on how they are doing at home?
Teachers are in charge of the classroom and model appropriate behavior.
Discipline is most effective when parents remember that they are the leaders of
the home and "practice what they preach." Are you firm and consistent in your
discipline with your children? Do you model appropriate behavior for your
children? Do you give the things, to your children, that you ask for, from your
children, such as respect? Do you say what you mean rather than threaten or
bribe children? Do you have a list of rules posted where children can see them?
Do you allow children to "raise their hands" and ask questions? Do you listen
attentively to those questions and give an appropriate answer?
Children, in schools, are given opportunities to explore and understand the
world and themselves. Discipline is about internal control and not just external
control. Do you give your child choices that require him or her to think about
consequence? Are children recognized for behaving in an appropriate manner? Are
there any "field trips" that children go on to inspire, instruct, or experience
appropriate behavior? Are children give opportunities to act in a responsible
and trustworthy manner? Are children encouraged to help their siblings and work
as teams? Are there any parties for celebrating hard work?
Classrooms have rules that children must follow. Are their assigned seats at the
dinner table or car? Are there any rules about waiting, talking, and seeking
help? Do children get to "line up first" or "pass out the snacks" for exemplary
behaviors? Are consequences given for inappropriate behaviors? Do children get
warnings about misbehavior? Do children get to go to recess when they misbehave?
Are the rules discussed with the children, posted where everyone can see them,
and frequently reviewed?
Schools have recesses, school holidays, and summer breaks. Discipline is about
doing nothing as much as it is about doing something. Do you allow your child to
make mistakes and decide difficult (but not dangerous) situations on their own?
Are there healthy balances between fun and chores, rest and responsibilities,
work-time and playtime? Do you allow your child to simply be a child? Are
developmental expectations appropriate to the age and abilities of your child?
Do you allow yourself to be off-duty by having other adults to watch over your
children? Are plans made, in family meetings, for fun as a family? Is quality
time a regular part of your time with your children?
While this may not cover all aspects of school routines or discipline practices,
it does ask some very reflective questions. It is possible we missed the most
basic reason for children's different behaviors, namely, novel situations and
conditional love. Novel situations refer to a phenomenon that affects a child's
behavior, for good, when in a new environment. A new environment is
unpredictable and may require a child to be on his or her best behavior until
the child learns what the rules and consequences are or what they can get away
with. Home is often predictable. The child already knows what they can or cannot
get away with.
Conditional love refers to the communication of worth a child will get from
another individual based on their behavior. A teacher may only consider certain
behaviors to be worthy of his or her love and care. At the root, this is a good
strategy. It advocates reinforcing only positive behaviors and ignoring negative
behavior. But the fruit of it can have devastating consequences for children's
self esteem. A child's sense of self should never be based on conditions. A
child is worthy of love, dignity, and worth regardless of what they do.
Reinforcement and even approval can be placed on a child's behavior to
communicate what is appropriate or inappropriate. A child may not feel this
conditional love at home, knowing that mom will always love him or her and so
manipulate this to their advantage.
Take a few moments to review these questions. If you are one of those parents
who have said, "My child never behaves this way at school?" maybe now, you can
finally find out why, and be able to say your child behaves appropriately at
home as well as school.
posted on kidsgrowth.com 08-19=2006
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
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