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A Question Of ‘Acceptable Behaviour’

When I was 6 I was put on ‘orange’ at school. Two girls spoke to me in assembly. I was telling them to stop because, at school, I was very obedient & reserved child. But because I, too, had spoken, we were all put ‘on orange’. Nobody asked for my side of the story. I remember the feeling of embarrassment and most of all, the injustice.

Yet this is still how many schools-and homes-still ‘manage’ behaviour. I appreciate the need to keep control, and this is not on attack on that. And I’m fully aware that most schools (and parents) probably have a different perspective to mine that isn’t intended to cause emotional harm to their kids.

But as a parent of my own 6 year old, I can’t not ask myself whether a young child year old having a 10 second verbal exchange with another justifies being ‘publicly’ displayed as ‘naughty’. Does it warrant having your playtime banned?
I got over it of course. And it wasn’t a common feature of my schooling, because I did actually know how to behave appropriately.

In September 2020 though; while so many children are bound to wrestle with change, uncertainly & anxiety; I also have to question what these methods really achieve in the long run, especially for the many children who genuinely struggle to manage, whose ‘challenging behaviour’ already comes from a deeply insecure place.

For these kids, behaviour ‘management’ systems, IMO, can harm far more than they help. WHY?
Do they make children comply? Sometimes. Do they support the perception of school as a place they want to spend their days? Probably not. Do they make children feel good about themselves? No.
Most of all they work on the premise that ‘bad’ behaviour is chosen or intentional. Most ‘bad’ behaviour is not. ‘Bad’ behaviour is largely the work of an aroused fight/flight/freeze’ response. This is the work of our primitive ‘survival’ brain, which is not within a child’s conscious control.

Unfortunately the ‘FFF’ response doesn’t work on accuracy; Accuracy requires analytical thinking which is processed by a different part of the brain entirely.
Learning to regulate their behaviour and make appropriate decisions requires a child to access their ‘upstairs’ brain, which they can’t do when the survival brain is in charge. It would be like expecting a zebra being chased by a lion to stop for a moment while it thinks of alternative way to respond, other than running away.

Whether it’s our intention or not, behaviour management systems are shaming.
Punishing children for responding in ways they have no control over only reinforces a sense of powerlessness & damages self-esteem, terribly.
Being humiliated-which, let’s face is the intention behind displaying behaviour charts on classroom walls- will reinforce a child’s negative opinion of themselves. Yes, it might achieve compliance, but at what cost? The adults’ lives might be easier but it will certainly never result in happier children or healthier learners.

Instead of using draconian methods to ‘control’ children, what say we actively teach them strategies for self-control? Because wonderful things happen when we put our energies into teaching children what their strengths are and strengthening those, rather focusing on their shortcomings. You tend to get more of whatever you put your energies into.

The ‘inner panic alarm’ switches off. When a child feels accepted, valued & safe, that’s when they can risk learning.
This is why, IMO, we all have to question our own behaviours as adults, and why we find it acceptable to treat children in ways we would never accept ourselves. (Disciplinaries displayed on the bulletin board, anyone?)

Emotional wellbeing has to come first, whether it’s in the learning or home environment. It’s not ‘soft’, it’s not a reward, it’s not ‘golden time’. It’s the fastest way to learning readiness.
And it’s a human right.

PS) Use the button on the right to get my FREE pdf ‘5 Daily Ways For Emotionally Healthy Brains’!


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