Every once in awhile, families ask about our discipline policy at MCS, not only in the interest of understanding it, but also to perhaps consider using it at home so that our students experience the type of continuity that ensures assimilation of important thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. At MCS, we use an approach called Positive Discipline. Positive Discipline is a discipline model used by schools, and in parenting, that focuses on the positive points of behavior, based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviors. You can teach and reinforce the good behaviors while weaning the bad behaviors without hurting the child verbally or physically. People engaging in positive discipline are not ignoring problems. Rather, they are actively involved in helping their child learn how to handle situations more appropriately while remaining calm, friendly and respectful to the children themselves.
Positive discipline includes a number of different techniques that, used in combination, can lead to a more effective way for parents to manage their kid’s behavior, or for teachers to manage groups of students. Some of these are listed below.
Positive Reinforcement, such as complimenting a good effort
Extinction (planned ignoring)- such as ignoring requests made in a whining tone of voice
Punishment- such as requiring a child to clean up a mess s/he made
Negative Reinforcement- such as getting a child to conform under the threat of punishment.
All of these things are done in a kind, encouraging, and firm manner. The focus of positive discipline is to establish reasonable limits and guide children to take responsibility to stay within these limits, or learn how to remedy the situation when they don't.
Some techniques used by teachers that may be of use to parents/families include:
When/Then – Abuse it/Lose It Principle – “When you have finished your seatwork, you may take out a book and read.”
Incompatible Alternative Principle – Give the child something to do that he can’t do while misbehaving. “Let’s see which of our groups can work most quietly.”
Choice Principle – Give the child choices, which are positive and acceptable to you. “When we complete this unit of study, you may choose among the following forms of assessment: Multiple Choice Test, Oral Test, Classroom Presentation, or Creation of a Chart”
Make a Big Deal Principle– Make a big deal over responsible, considerate, appropriate behavior with attention, thanks, praise, thumbs-up, recognition, hugs and special privileges. “I love the way all the groups worked so quietly and cooperatively throughout the period”
Talk about Them Positively to Others – “I love my fourth grade class this year. They’re all so polite and eager to learn.” This said to a classroom visitor.
Modeling Principle – Model the behaviors you want. “I like the way Mary raises her hand to ask a question. I can always count on Carl, Jack, and Gloria to hand their work in on time.”
Take a Break Principle – Telling a child to “take a break” and think about what he could do differently that would work better or be more constructive. Tell him that he can come back as soon as he is ready to try again. Put the ball in his court – and make him responsible for changing his behavior.
Privacy Principle – Teachers avoid embarrassing a child in front of others. Teachers always move to a private place to talk when there is a problem.
Positive Closure Principle – At the end of the day, teachers try to meet with children, who may have had an issue during the day, to remind them that they are special and loved. They try to help them look for something good about the day and express confidence that tomorrow will be better.
Talk With Them, Not to Them Principle – Teachers focus on two-way communication rather than preaching to children. They listen as well as talk.
Pay Attention Principle – Teachers are alert to what is happening. They don’t wait until the child is out of control to step in. They remove the child from the situation if necessary. They remain calm and emotionally detached. They let the child know what their options are. They are firm but not mean.
Of course it must also be said that our families are critical to our successful discipline policy. MCS students, by in large, come to school ready, motivated and participate actively and positively in their individual programs as a result of the hard work of their families who recognize the importance of making sure their children are accountable. Being accountable and responsible is a key to a child’s success both in school and in the larger world when they grow up. When they learn to take responsibility for their actions and their commitments, they get things done and people know they can be counted on to meet obligations and promises. These children are seen as trustworthy and dependable, they don’t make excuses when they make mistakes but rather own up to them and make amends, they are willing to take on new responsibilities and they are often self-starters. Such behaviors are important ingredients to success in school and in life. That is the shared mission of our families and staff at MCS.