Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Children's behavior in school

How often have you wondered about how well your child is doing in school? Then, you receive the dreaded letter informing you that he or she had to be disciplined.
In Newhall, California, McGrath Elementary had experienced an excessive problem with bad behavior. As a part of the Santa Clarita Valley, many schools are accused of being too easy. Certainly not as difficult to teach as say, inner city Los Angeles or San Fernando Valley. This one year old school recorded 84 suspensions for 2003-2004. Though many were repeat offenders, it was of great concern to the faculty.
McGrath is not a rich Valencia school. Of it's 700 students, 80% qualified for free and reduced-priced lunches. The faculty decided to treat this as a serious issue. While they do still discipline those who show disrespect to teachers, they also developed an incentive program to encourage good behavior.
The result - school, which began in August, has issued only 3 suspensions and students sent to the office for violations was dropped from 6 per day to 2 per week. See http://Dailytimes. article by Eugene Tong "Behavior problems tackled".

I think this is fantastic. It goes to show something I have always believed to be true. Kids want and need attention. They will settle for negative attention (i.e. discipline) if they cannot receive positive attention (i.e. incentive rewards). For this reason, we has parents need to constantly seek honest ways to praise our children. If they think that all we want to do is punish them, they will seek that type of attention from us. But if they know we want to praise them, they will seek ways to receive praise. It must be honest praise, because artificial praise means nothing to us and nothing to them.
I heard an analogy once that I really liked. Think of building a child, or for that matter any person, as a check book. Each harsh or disciplinary word is like writing a check. In order, order to be able to write checks and have them work we must continually deposit money into the account. With children, the deposit is composed of encouragement words, praise words, or success celebrations. If we want our children to know that they are truly loved, we must deposit more encouragement than we take out. Our children are worth it. The result is a child with real self esteem not just an inflated ego.

--Paula Whidden


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