Just as Children are Learning to Read and Write, they are Learning Socially-Acceptable Behaviours

Principals Pen Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. Aristotle

Parents have their preferred method for nurturing good behaviour in the family home, and most parents would have an opinion on the way schools should respond to poor student behaviour. Parents’ opinions will often depend on whether their child is the wrongdoer or on the receiving end of the wrongdoer. Cue Aesop: The injuries we do and those we suffer are seldom weighed in the same scales.

A proactive approach to fostering healthy and mature social skills is adopted by most schools. The programs of choice for Living Faith are The Zones of Regulation and Play is the WayThe Zones of Regulation is a systematic, cognitive-behavioural approach used to teach children how to regulate their feelings, energy and sensory needs in order to meet the demands of a situation and to be successful socially. Play is the Way is designed not only to promote resilience, but to grow in students an appreciation that they will advance further through effective communication and cooperation with others.

Of course, no matter how good a school’s chosen approach is, there will always be occasions when students make poor choices resulting in the need for teachers or leadership staff to intervene and respond. At Living Faith, the philosophy behind our response to inappropriate behaviour is a desire to see improvement.

And so, when a child behaves inappropriately, an age-appropriate and often case-specific consequence is issued. After all, it’s essential that children understand that for every action there is a reaction. Cue Mark Twain: If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way.

But a consequence alone is not enough. The consequence must be coupled with a period of guided dialogue to understand the motivation behind the child’s behaviour – anger? impulsivity? retribution? avoidance? thoughtlessness? ignorance? fear? an unmet need? The next steps are to help the child identify the reason the behaviour is unacceptable, to acknowledge those who have been hurt, to consider ways to restore broken relationships and to put in place strategies to prevent the behaviour from occurring again. At Living Faith, this dialogue takes place in our Reflect, Repair, Care Room with the support and guidance of leadership staff. Where major or persistent incidents take place, parents are informed and asked to follow-up with appropriate consequences and conversations at home. We are grateful for the way parents partner with us in this process.

Much has been written about instilling in children a desire to improve their behaviour. Some short quotes are provided below.

  • Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear. Albert Camus
  • You can’t teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better they behave better. Pam Leo
  • If someone can’t read, we teach. If someone can’t add, we teach. If someone doesn’t behave, we need to teach … not just punish. Justin Tarte
  • Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions, not retribution. L R Knost
  • Underneath the behaviour, the resistance, the pulling and pushing away and the heated words, every child and every adult is asking, ‘Are you there for me?’ Rachel Samson

Developing socially-acceptable behaviours appears straightforward and seemingly natural for some children, while others find this to be exceedingly challenging. Our staff are committed to supporting all students to reach their full potential academically, as well as socially and behaviourally.

- Jane Mueller, Principal