Aiming for Discipline Instead of Punishment
When it comes to discipline in our classrooms and schools, there are a variety of viewpoints, and I’d like to look into the possibility of adopting brain-aligned discipline with students who have suffered from terrible childhood experiences (ACEs).
Instead of reducing power struggles and conflict cycles, traditional punishment with these pupils actually increases them, leading to a heightened stress response in both the brain and the body. Punishment is used to try to coerce someone into complying. The vast majority of school discipline processes are kinds of punishment that are most effective when applied to pupils who are in most need of them.
When it comes to our most challenging pupils, the existing method of disciplining them does not work, and in many cases, it makes the situation worse by aggravating the situation.
Discipline, as opposed to punishment, is proactive in nature and begins before problems arise. It entails viewing disagreement as a chance to find solutions to problems. Discipline offers direction, focuses on prevention, improves communication, demonstrates respect, and accepts natural consequences, among other things. It instils values such as justice, responsibility, life skills, and problem-solving abilities.
If a kid is removed from the classroom or school because of violent or volatile behaviour, we should develop a plan of action that begins to address these behaviours in these brain-aligned methods as soon as the student returns.
The neurobiological changes generated by prolonged bad experiences and a history of adversity might drive the brain to respond with a fear response. In the words of Pam Leo, “A hurting child is a hurt-filled child.” Attempting to change her behaviour through punishment is analogous to pulling only the top portion of a weed. If we don’t get to the base of the problem, the harmful conduct will manifest itself elsewhere.” Fear response in children is frequently characterised by aggressive, rebellious, and oppositional behaviour.
Young people who have experienced ACEs have brains that are constantly on high alert. Consequences are not appropriately registered when the alert is in this position. Only when both the educator and the student are calm and self-regulated can discipline be effectively implemented. If they aren’t, behavioural troubles will become even more severe.
The brain-aligned model of discipline teaches us to teach the behaviours we want to see, establishing the framework for prevention systems and methods to be used later.
PREVENTIVE BRAIN-ALIGNED STRATEGIES
Preventive systems are taught to students in the form of processes and routines. They are collaborative, and they provide a lot of options. Their goal is to effect long-term behavioural change rather than simply obtaining compliance or obedience for a limited period of time.
I teach students about their neuroanatomy so that they may better comprehend what happens in their brains when they are stressed, furious, or anxious, among other emotions. The moment we grasp this concept, we feel relieved and empowered.
The prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and neuroplasticity are topics that I discuss with students in morning meetings or during whole-class time. Our emotional triggers and coping strategies are discussed in detail, and I teach students how to use their breathing and movement to calm their stress response systems.
There is an adult at the school who has a connection with this student and who has a location where the student can go if they need to regroup and quiet their stress response systems. Are you preparing your students for the day when they will need to regulate away from the classroom by teaching them these methods in advance?
Would it be possible for your school to develop a space where both teachers and kids could go when they needed to reset their emotional state? It is possible to supply this room with supplies such as paper, markers, crayons, water, quiet music and lighting, a jump rope, a stationary bike, lavender-scented cotton balls, jars for affirmations or fears, or a rocking chair to relax in. Students will need to be taught how to utilise this area ahead of time, and they should only need to use it for two to five minutes in order to feel refocused and ready to return to class after using the area.
EXAMPLES OF NATURAL, NON-PUNITIVE CONSEQUENCES
Name-calling: Use this opportunity to have the student develop an anthology of positive affirmations for the class, or ask them to construct a list of “kind words” and teach them to a younger class.
Students who engage in low-level physical aggression (pushing, kicking, and hitting) may face a variety of consequences, including being assigned to a new learning space in the room or a new position in line, or they may be assigned to perform an act of kindness or service for the person who was injured.
It is possible that the student will be assigned to assist a recess-duty teacher in monitoring the playground and noting everything that is going well. Although they are able to roam around the playground and get the exercise they require Alternatively, they could conduct an act of kindness for the student who they have hit with their car.
The use of inappropriate language necessitates a conversation when both the student and the teacher have achieved mental equilibrium. When terms that are improper at school are used at home, it is important to grasp the cultural context and have a talk with the student about the situation.
An older student may conduct research on the words they used and report back to you on why they were inappropriate for school; younger children could try to write out what they were trying to say using school-friendly language or drawings; and everyone can participate.
Incomplete assignments: Have a one-on-one chat with the student to convey what they are communicating to you through their actions. Inquire as to whether anything has changed at home or at school, or whether the pupil does not comprehend what is expected of him or her. Work out a plan with the student (and, if necessary, with the parent) for completing the work that has been missed. Additionally, assigning a student mentor to assist the student is an option.
The findings of the study are unambiguous. Our brains learn best in a state of relaxed alertness. Our discipline systems must begin to shift toward creating this state in all the members of our school community.