Discipline and classroom management

I have a five year old son attending kindergarten. As a disciplinary means the children "pull penguins" when they misbehave. After pulling the fifth penguin the child is sent to the principal's office. Various punishments are used up until then such as missing time from recess, etc. Lately my son has been pulling a lot of penguins for talking in class during story time or playing and talking when he should be napping. With the latest note sent home the teacher stated, " I can not keep stopping everything to continually speak to "David" about something we just discussed. "David" has the habit of not following directions the first time asked. This is crucial and is the 1st rule in our class." Does that sound right to you?

"David" does well academically, knows the material, likes to go to school but is a "behavior problem". What can I do to help him? I've already asked that he switch teachers. This is the second one and it appears that he has already been labeled.


Dear Brenda,

Thank you for your letter.

One of the biggest challenges that teachers face is classroom management. Without it, teaching is nearly impossible, making learning difficult and creating an unpleasant environment for all. Students in a classroom must recognize and follow the rules or accept the consequences of their actions. As teachers, we treat the classroom as a microcosm of society as a whole. We show children their boundaries, as well as our expectations for them. We teach them to be contributing society members within the classroom and to work with others to achieve common and individual goals. Going to school involves much more than the ABC's and 123's. In order to get to those important learning experiences, the children need to learn and practice acceptable behavior.

Your son's teacher has developed and put into use a systematic behavior management system. She needs all of the children and parents to understand and buy into this system in order for it to be effective. From the tone of your letter, it sounds as if you have some concerns about the system because your son has been so active within it. In other words, the teacher has had to use it frequently with him because of his behavior. I am sure that you are frustrated and feel the need to protect your son, but remember that the teacher is also frustrated and is looking for your support in guiding your child toward more acceptable and appropriate behavior. The teacher is responsible for facilitating learning for the entire class, so her perception of the situation is more global. She needs to work to maintain a classroom environment that is conducive to learning for all of the students. If your son's behavior is keeping her from achieving that, the two of you need to work together to remedy the situation.

I recommend that you and the teacher work together to develop an incentive plan for your son. One example could be to set a behavior goal for your child each week. Let's say that his goal is to repeat the directions back to the teacher for each task set forth. She gives the directions to the class and then he raises his hand and repeats what he is supposed to do. This will help reinforce with him what is expected and gives the teacher the opportunity to repeat any directions that he didn't hear the first time. If he is able to demonstrate the skill of following directions without disrupting the class for a week, he can earn a trip to the ice cream shop or a book from the bookstore. Make the goal simple and the incentive attractive.

In your letter, you mentioned that your son has already changed classrooms once this year. Is this because he was having trouble with his behavior in that classroom, as well? I do not think that changing classes again will help resolve this situation. If he has difficulty with his behavior, changing classrooms will not necessarily help him learn to follow the rules. Children need to learn how to take responsibility for their actions. If you move him to another classroom, the problem that he is having won't go away.

My other concern is your child's ability to follow directions. Is it possible that he has trouble following directions because it's too much for him to process? If this is the case, behavior modifications aren't going to resolve the behavior completely. Discuss this possibility with your son's teacher, weighing his ability to comprehend directions versus his desire to comply. Be open-minded and pro-active in your quest to help your son. Try not to be offended. Remember that the teacher's goal is to help guide your child toward more acceptable behavior. Teachers do not send notes home to parents regarding specific behavior concerns because a child has been "labeled" by another teacher. Clearly the teacher would like to see some positive changes in your son's behavior. My advice to you is to do whatever you can to assist her in achieving this goal.

Please write again to update me on this situation. I wish you the best of luck in resolving this situation.


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