We believe that there is no such thing as a “bad kid” or even “bad behavior.” Instead, we view all behaviors as attempts by the child to get their needs met. It’s from this perspective that we are able to creatively partner with children to shift their behaviors towards actions and expressions that are safe, effective and appropriate for a school setting.
We will not ever use corporal punishment, verbal assault, shaming, guilting, coercing, threatening, or isolation in attempt to change a child’s behavior. We don’t even see a need to use time out or bribes.
Instead, we make sure children develop a strong understanding regarding the ways to express needs and feelings, and help them learn to be aware of the needs of others. We discuss the natural consequences to their chosen actions and help them develop plans to avoid unwanted reactions while reaching their desired outcomes. There are discussions and reminders daily about what kinds of behaviors are expected and appropriate for our school setting.
If a child is really struggling, we may invite them to process their feelings in a safe space, away from other children or particular activities, or perhaps very close to a teacher. When the child is ready and able, we will debrief the occurrence and make a plan to avoid it in the future.
If there is a conflict between children, teachers will be in very close proximity but will only intervene if it begins to feel physically or emotionally unsafe. Our goal will always be to allow children to fully express their feelings and needs to one another, and to collaborate in reaching a solution that works for them. We will also advocate for restorative justice, which at this level often means refraining from requiring an “apology” an instead encouraging children to ask some basic questions of one another:
- Are you ok?
- What do you need to feel better?
- Did that fix it?
In the unlikely case that a child’s behavior is regularly unsafe and/or requires excessive amounts of teacher attention, the child’s behavior will be closely documented and their family will be asked to become involved in helping to resolve the situation.