I’ve had a theory for a while now. Bear with me before passing judgment and believing that I’m crazy. Here it is…
Disciplining children is not so different from disciplining pets, specifically dogs.
What? Children and animals are nothing alike!
Aren’t they? Think about it.
1. Both have an underlying drive to please the parent/master/adult
2. Both have little to no self-control and must be trained/taught to learn expectations
3. Puppy dog eyes, they aren’t just for puppy dogs
Because of the various similarities, I believe that children have to be disciplined in a similar manner to dogs. That is, the discipline must be immediate, to the point, and then put behind us.
When Oakley (one of the three large dogs we own) was a puppy, he was very destructive. He ate everything: a razor, a full package of chicken that included the Saran Wrap and styrofoam, a couch, and so on. When we came home and found the destruction, usually Oakley was hiding under the bed. He already knew he’d done wrong and was caught. After providing an appropriate punishment that was immediate (not given 36 hours later) we had to move on. We couldn’t hold a grudge and still be angry three weeks later. We had to put the incident behind us and hope for better behavior.
Children need the same things. They need immediate consequences, not punishments handed out days later. Punishing after a day is utterly useless. The child has forgotten and has changed mindsets. It’s over in their minds. After providing an immediate consequence, they need to know that the teacher will not continue to hold a grudge or use the incident against them at a later date.
Finally, as a dog owner I have to realize that dogs are dogs. They are going to do dog things, like sniff butts, eat weird stuff, and bark incessantly. This is what dogs do! Children are the same way. Children are going to talk. They’re going to play too rough and be weird. It’s what they do! Providing an appropriate consequence (like telling your pet “NO!” sternly) or giving a time out is an appropriate punishment. You cannot overdo it and give your dog away simply because he jumped on your aunt at Thanksgiving. You cannot write off a child and give up simply because s/he talks in the hallway.
Obviously there are exceptions and nuances to this theory. But, at the end of the day, we all knew what we were getting into by “adopting” a pack of students. Now we all just need to start being more effective trainers.
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