Right out of college I was hired by a small private school as a first grade teacher. A requirement of the job was to work at the school’s after-care program twice a week. And that required ten hours of classroom instruction to get a certificate stating you were qualified to babysit for a large number of children. At first, I was a bit miffed. I’d been a babysitter all my life and I had just spent four years getting a degree in education. Why did I have to go to these extra classes? But as it turned out, the weekend long seminar was transformative.
The woman in charge of the seminar was impressive. She spoke with confidence and conviction. The session began with a lecture about discipline, “If you get angry with a child and your reaction is to scream or to hit that child, then you are in the wrong field. You are responsible for helping these kids become good citizens. You need to teach them problem solving and how to work with others. If your method is ‘I don’t like what you are doing, so I’m going to scream or hit you,’ what are you teaching? Screaming and hitting aren’t helpful to anyone. It’s just lazy, ineffective discipline. If a child does something to make you feel angry, calmly let the child know you’re mad. Ask the child to take a seat. Let them know you will talk to them in a few minutes. Use those minutes to take a few deep breaths. When you feel like you have regained composure, you can begin a dialog with the child. Your calm words will stay with them a lot longer than ranting or spanking ever will. And together, you can come up with a solution so the incident won’t be repeated. The time out will benefit you as much as the child. Taking a breath and thinking it through shows strength and character. Be a good role model.”
You are probably thinking, ‘Didn’t you learn about classroom discipline in college?’ Yes, in fact I took a class called, “Classroom Discipline.” In that class I learned that a section of the whiteboard can be used as a public wall of shame where the names of those who break the rules and check marks to indicate the number of infractions are written for all to see. There are rewards for those who follow the rules and consequences for those who don’t. And that works pretty well with first graders. But while I was listening to the lecture, I wasn’t really thinking about my role as a teacher. I was thinking about parenting, and I wasn’t even a parent, yet. As a child, I was spanked and yelled at often. It never stopped me from misbehaving. It just made me fear the consequences after the fact. Also, I have a bit of a temper. As a kid it was hard to contain the “Hulk” inside me. It made me wonder if time outs and meaningful discussions would have curbed that part of me.
When I finally became a parent, I often reflected back on that seminar. As a toddler my daughter, Alyssa, had a defiant curiosity. When I’d see her getting ready to do something she shouldn’t do, I would ask her not to do it. She’d stare right through me with her dark brown eyes, wait a few minutes, and do exactly what I just asked her not to do. “Please don’t dip your toothbrush in the toilet.” DIP! “Please don’t draw on our family photos.” SCRIBBLE! SCRIBBLE! “Please don’t use the drawers of that cabinet as stairs.” She not only climbed up, she danced when she got to the top. I really had to fight my inner Hulk with this kid. I chose a special place for Alyssa to sit while we both took a breather. Her “time out” chair was a child-size director’s chair. She’d sit in that chair while I waited for Bruce Banner to return. Then as my mild-mannered self, I’d ask, “Why was that a bad choice?” Then I’d lecture about the consequences of her actions. I’d end the discussion with, “What will you do differently next time?” She once glared at me with a rebellious expression and said, “The next time I have to sit here, I will cover my ears with my hands so your words can’t hurt them.”
Shortly before Alyssa’s fourth birthday, my husband and I were cleaning out the garage. We were planning to have a garage sale. Alyssa wanted to know why we were selling our garage. I explained, “We’re not selling the garage. We’re using it as a store to sell the things we don’t want anymore.” Alyssa said, “I’ve got something I don’t want.” A few minutes later she returned to the garage, dragging the director’s chair behind her.
MAKE A YELL-O-COPTER
Here’s a fun craftivity for a large or small group of kids. You only need one pattern per child and there are three on each page. So, it won’t require a lot of paper. Click to get the template and instructions for the “YELL-O-COPTER.” Hopefully, it will inspire 100% fun and 0% time out.