At the Center, we understand discipline to mean helping children to learn acceptable behavior. We believe that children begin to learn self-discipline, or how to guide their own behavior, when they are treated with respect. We do not use the same discipline technique in every situation, for we recognize that each child and each situation is unique. Still, all staff members at the Center recognize and follow certain general discipline techniques, as endorsed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. These discipline guidelines are to be followed by all staff and students. It is the responsibility of classroom staff to make sure that student classroom aides and Practicum students understand and follow the guidelines.
- Setting clear, consistent, and fair guidelines for classroom behavior, and reminding children of these guidelines when necessary.
- Listening carefully to what children have to say about their feelings.
- Regarding mistakes as opportunities for learning.
- Helping children to develop the skills to solve their own conflicts.
- Modeling appropriate and respectful treatment of people and materials.
- Redirecting the children to a more acceptable behavior or activity.
In the case of inappropriate behavior, a staff member would first try to determine what happened, and then use his/her professional judgment to decide how best to handle the situation. Children are encouraged to talk about what is bothering them, and staff members try to involve children in resolving conflicts. Staff members also try to encourage the children to see each other’s point of view, which is a first step in developing empathy, an important prosocial behavior.
The Center does not use a “time out” chair or area. On occasion, a child may be redirected away from a group or activity, but this is not used as a punishment. Instead, an attempt is made to change the situation that is leading to the inappropriate behavior.
Staff members are strongly encouraged to be “reflective practitioners”: that is, to think about what they do. This is especially important because we serve as models for the university students at the Center. In addition to dealing with discipline in terms of handling inappropriate behaviors of individual children, we need to consider our overall classroom management strategies. The way a program or activity is structured can have a major impact on how the children behave. In cases of inappropriate behavior, staff members need to evaluate whether their own teaching styles or techniques are a contributing factor and to consider whether the program or activity could be designed in a way that would encourage more prosocial behavior. Reflective teaching should be discussed with and modeled for student classroom aides and Practicum students.
Staff members are expected to be respectful in their dealings with each other, the university students, with families, and with the children.
The following actions will not be used at the Center under any circumstances: hitting, yelling, criticizing, threatening, or making hurtful or sarcastic comments. Hitting or threatening to hit a child is grounds for immediate dismissal. Withdrawing food from a child, refusing to give a child snack or lunch, or denying a child outdoor time are not acceptable forms of discipline.