February 1, 2016
Online Journal - Taking Drama Out of Discipline
Kevin Cameron, Former teacher from Crawford Adventist Academy in Toronto, Ontario.

Kevin Cameron is a former teacher from Crawford Adventist Academy in Toronto, Ontario. He is currently the principal of Ramah Junior Academy in Cleveland, Ohio.
 
This article was published in the 2015 September/October issue of the Message Magazine and is being posted on CAT~net with permission.
 
My wife Simone and I have two daughters who are night and day in terms of personality and public interactions. Our youngest daughter retaliated after her classmate purposefully harmed her, and when my wife and I asked her what happened, she lied and said that she did not hit back. We responded swiftly and seriously with a ban from school recess, and a three-day room grounding where she had to reflect on lying by writing 100 lines per day on the subject.

After the first day, I felt badly. The punishment did not fit the crime. We wanted her to express herself freely instead of using fear-based punishment to get her compliance in the future. Having a daughter we can trust is most valuable, we explained to her that day. And while she may have thought that lying was the best option, she did not have to. And, we admitted, we overreacted with the punishment. We prayed, and exchanged many hugs and kisses.

According to psychologytoday.com, “the physical and psychological changes that occur in adolescence can start during the preteen years (ages 9-12). Adolescence can be a time of both disorientation and discovery, and can challenge independence and self-identity. Interesting enough, parents with adolescents seem to encounter some of the same symptoms as their children: disorientation (not knowing who you are as a parent), and discovery (becoming aware that your child isn’t who you thought they were). These are all normal feelings for the child and parent alike. Learning how to live and thrive with one another is the key.”

Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist who runs the Making Caring Common project, aims to help parents teach their children how to be kind. In a Washingtonpost.com article, Amy Joyce reports Weissbourd’s five strategies to raise moral, and caring children. As an educator and father, I have found these strategies relate directly to responsive and responsible discipline because they train us to be more selfless, respectful of others, and mindful of their needs and concerns. That, in turn, creates a platform for healthy discipline – mindfulness of the world and relationships around us.
 
  1. “Make caring for others a priority.” When children begin the process of understanding that the world does not revolve around them, the door has been opened to reasoning and critical thinking. A child that is exposed to helping others, especially by their parents, may be more likely to have more tolerance for others and their feelings.
     
  2. “Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude.” The story is told of a church deacon who always brought goodies for the children. One mother asked her child where she was running off to so quickly after church, and she responded, “to go get my treat.” Seizing the opportunity, mother said: “instead of taking from the deacon every week, why don’t you write a poem of thanks just to show him how much you appreciate the treats? Instead of taking, you become the giver, and giving can be so much better than receiving.” A child may not completely understand the joy in being a giver, but giving children the opportunity to practice caring and showing gratitude is the goal.
     
  3. “Expand your child’s circle of concern.” It is paramount for a child to be concerned about people other than their nuclear and extended families. Children need to be taught and exposed to philanthropy because it is not innate. When children see that their parents and family members take pride in volunteerism and helping the less fortunate consistently, it almost becomes family tradition to be helpful and think of others.
     
  4. “Be a strong, moral role model and mentor.” Setting a consistent example for children is important because they are extremely observant and aware when parents are imposters. Children what to know that they can trust their parents. Being a role model, and a mentor does not denote perfection, but it prescribes authenticity and ownership. When parents do not handle themselves appropriately, it is extremely important for that parent to apologize and repair any collateral damage that may have taken place due to their actions. This humble spirit teaches children that people make mistakes, and it is important to make amends when someone has been wronged.
     
  5. “Guide children in managing destructive feelings.” In a school setting, destructive feelings are prevalent. A teacher has to mitigate those feelings with strategies that help a child navigate harmful feelings into constructive communication. A teacher might have the student write in a journal in a quiet setting while instrumental music is playing. Recording their feelings to a phone and playing it back with discussion on how to handle those feelings is an excellent technique. These strategies allow children time to synthesize their thoughts, and it teaches them to react positively when those feelings arise.
Raising children without the drama of yelling, screaming, and violent behavior takes discipline, patience, and much prayer. Do not give up on your journey. You will make some mistakes, but humbly apologize, and with authenticity take ownership that you are not perfect but can grow with God as our mentor.
 
Resources:

Joyce, Amy. "Are You Raising Nice Kids? A Harvard Psychologist Gives 5 Ways to Raise Them to Be Kind." Https://www.washingtonpost.com. N.p., 14 July 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/07/18/are-you-raising-nice-kids-a-harvard-psychologist-gives-5-ways-to-raise-them-to-be-kind/>.