- The real intention of early childhood discipline is to inculcate appropriate behaviour.
- Respect, Consistency and Fairness are the underlining principles that help to guide caregivers or facilitator in giving discipline.
- The ‘cold room’ referred to in this article is a place where the child is totally isolated and kept from class activities for misbehaving.
I definitely had plans for this week’s article, all set and done but something I witnessed earlier last week changed my plans. At the first instance, I decided to simply ignore it, but it kept coming back at me so I decided to write on it so we can all learn and take a cue from it.
On one of my errands, I visited one of the early childhood centres in a part of Accra, and I was privileged to observe their circle time and assembly; and the pre-schoolers, I must say, put on an impressive show and soon it was time to prep for class.
Now here is what caught my attention and got me thinking: as the children were moving from the circle time area to the assembly ground, one child – a boy, if I should mention – jumped over a chair (one of those pre-school plastic chairs) to get to the grounds.
Before he could get closer to his friends, one of the facilitators grabbed him by the shoulder and said in a stern voice, “You! You have to stop this your thing, I am taking you to the ‘cold room’”. She then took the boy to the door of the classroom and said again, “Go to class and sleep”. As the boy turned to go with his sad face and teary eyes, I shuddered and thought to myself, “Is that the best way?” Before my thoughts could end, I heard the poor boy crying.
Could the facilitator’s action be an attack on the little boy’s character? Could the approach deter the other children from repeating such act? Or could the facilitator be matching up her anger or frustrations to that of the innocent pre-schooler?
Well, however your reply to these questions, there need to be some education and awareness on discipline at the pre-school level.
The real intention of early childhood discipline is to inculcate into the child what behaviours are appropriate, and not about forcing the child to obey. According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, Respect, Consistency and Fairness are the underlining principles that help to guide caregivers or facilitator in giving discipline.
Unlike toddlers, Pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners are able to accept reality and limitations. That does not mean they are great at following rules. Pre-schoolers can be gullible, and their judgement is not always accurate, but they tend to respond positively to approval and praise. Therefore, it will be encouraging to see caregivers and pre-school facilitators build on these tools while setting themselves as good role models for these young ones.
A child that falls within the pre-school and kindergarten age bracket needs tonnes of supervision when following instructions or directions, even though they are able to rely on verbal rules.
When a pre-schooler misbehaves and needs discipline, you can adopt the STOP, LOOK and LISTEN strategy.
I acknowledge that most of the time it is not easy to stop, but when you train yourself to STOP and ask, “What is happening and why is it happening?” It puts you in a firmer position to dish out age-appropriate discipline. Then you can LOOK at “what can I do about the situation”. To prevent the situation from happening again, you need to ask yourself, “how can I avoid this from happening again?”, and that involves LISTENing.
One can also take a deeper dive into pre-school discipline by considering the following methods and using it where appropriate.
Explaining to a child what consequences will result from their actions will do a lot of good. By painting a picture in the child’s mind what will happen when they try to, for instance, jump over a chair, will gradually restrain them from doing so. Be mindful that consequences must be realistic, consistent and related to the misbehaviour.
Offer a choice
“You can either do some jumping when its time to play hopscotch or you can stay in class when it is time for outdoor play”. This is an example of offering a choice, and it works well with children who are learning to be independent. This method will yield much results when you can still offer a choice when there is not much to offer. Caregivers and facilitators need to be creative about offering choices.
This is not an emotional blackmail option, but letting your little ones know how you feel about their misbehaviour can yield positive results. While doing this make sure to address their feelings too. Then together find a solution; remember to be patient and respect their opinions.
With all these options available, sending an innocent pre-schooler to the ‘cold room’ might not be the best choice. However, teaching these ones by repetition will result in shaping them to behave appropriately. So, if you do not see the results immediately, do not give up the good work, keep training and disciplining with lots of patience and respect.
Do you remember?
- By painting a picture in the child’s mind what will happen when they try to, for instance, jump over a chair will gradually restrain them from doing so.
- Offering a choice when a child misbehaves is part of the process of discipline.