Disclaimer: Names of people, whether children or adults, have been changed to respect their privacy.
I’ve recently come across a number of adults in positions of authority who seem to use certain questionable methods to assert that authority. One that is sadly common as a “disciplinary hack” that has come to my attention in multiple scenarios is “I’ll tell your parents”. Here are a couple of examples of scenarios – the usage and their effect.
1. 7 year old Leena was running around when she was supposed to be standing still. One of her teachers saw her and said “Leena, if you misbehave, I will complain to your father!” Leena spent the next one hour sobbing, and consequently missing a fun activity in one of her favourite classes.
2. 8 year old Rohan was eating his lunch slowly, and missed 5 minutes of his first class. The teacher monitoring scolded him, saying “I will tell your mother!” Rohan came home and told his mother himself, but also told her that he was scared to tell her because the teacher scolded him and said she’d tell his mother in the same vein. Rohan usually readily tells his mother about his day, both the good and challenging.
3. The 2nd grade class had a fun activity in one of their classes, and it was a noisy one! There are many methods to calm down. The method chosen by the teacher was “If you make noise, I will call Divya ma’am!” (Divya ma’am being their vice principal).
I’ll leave you all with a moment to think about these 3 distinct incidents, their effects, and how they could have been handled differently.
Some effects of the incidents:
- The person to whom the complaint was being made (mother, father, vice principal) was indirectly being vilified. With this, a false sense of fear is created around this person.
- Understanding the true consequences of their actions are lost -be it the child missing out on a class due to running around or going hungry from lunch due to not eating.
- Without understanding the consequences, the same actions get repeated.
What could have been changed about each of these situations?
- For starters, the buck of discussing consequences shouldn’t be passed to parents and others!
- Consequences should be discussed on the spot (not postponed), in a matter-of-fact, non-confrontational manner.
- Use do’s instead of don’t’s. (Example: “Let’s sit and do this together” vs “Don’t run around”)
What else do you think we could do in the above situations to replace vilifying and fear with constructive criticism and positive reinforcement?