Knots In My Stomach
It was the 8th time I was going to talk to Mrs. Robinson (obviously not her real name) after school and I started to get a knot in my stomach. I knew that she worked such long hours, and the last things she wanted to do was talk about her son’s discipline problems. At the time, I was only a teacher’s aid. However, I was the only preschool teacher left that late in the afternoon. Her son wasn’t a bad kid. He just wanted attention and didn’t care how he got it. The headteacher and I tried everything: removing him from the other kids, time out, endless talks about his bad behavior, and even sticker charts. Yes, I’m guilty… I used to use sticker charts! When the year came to an end, Mrs. Robinson was tired, we were tired, and her son’s behavior was no better. I look back now and wish I would have known what to do.
Emotions Muddy the Waters
This took place before I had formal training in education, much less any real knowledge of the Montessori philosophy. There have probably been 2 or 3 really difficult kids in each class I worked with. A few have had genuine disabilities and needed special attention, but most of them were just active kids. Starting as a teacher, I found that I was allowing emotions to control how I dealt with behavior problems. I felt stressed, like the child was ‘winning’, and I was losing. I was afraid the child wouldn’t like me if I said something they didn’t like (or even worse–a parent).
Why YOU Need a Time Out!
‘Positive Discipline’ by Jane Nolan was required reading for my Montessori Training. Wow, what a wealth of information! First, let’s be clear: discipline problems can be hard and emotional. In the heat of the moment in can be especially difficult to look objectively. Jane Nolan recommends taking a ‘positive time out’, where you remove yourself or the child from the situation, breathe deeply, and wait until the emotions are under control before dealing with the issue. That’s right, there are times when YOU need to take a time out to deal with discipline problems.
I found this helpful for myself and the children I was working with. Often, by the time we came back to deal with the issue, (which may have only been a minute or two later) it didn’t seem to be as big of a deal to me or the child. That didn’t mean that I let the issue slide like nothing happened. However, the decrease of tension helped me make a more objective judgment and helped the child accept the correction.
Since reading ‘Positive Discipline’, I’ve really tried to implement the ideas with my students, and children I am in contact with. I know I have not done it perfectly, nor will I ever, but making mistakes is a natural part of learning. I know I have been a better teacher because of it.
– Teresa Hadsall