Effective Behaviour Management
Schools have always had an obligation and a need to provide efficient behaviour management programs. I’m old enough to have experienced the range of techniques that have been tried to get kids to behave. In the mid 1900’s I had first ‘hand’ experience of corporal punishment. The boys were caned on a regular basis if they did not conform to the rules of the school. In my early teaching days the cane still was the weapon of choice for some male teachers but this barbaric approach was on the way out and eventually banned.
This didn’t solve the problem of misbehaviour and so we saw the development of a range of ad hoc programs introduced, all promising a solution. These included, ‘Assertive Discipline’, ‘Reality/Choice Theory’, ‘Restoration’ and the current liberator ‘School Wide Positive Behaviour System’ (SWPBS) which is in reality a corporate introduction of the ‘Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports’ (PBIS) that is based on positive psychology.
Each of the system has flaws and the predictable ‘failure’ of all these programs is that they:
- Fail to deal with the severe end of behaviour issues schools face
- Impose a system that struggles to adapt to the various contexts that are a function of schools
- Are generally reflective of a middle class population
I have sat in on senior executive training where the popular comment ‘unless the solution is simple it is incorrect’ was bandied about as if saying so makes it so. This maybe fine when you are dealing with the world of physics where observations of phenomena are consistent, always the same. That is every time we drop a ball in the classroom it falls at an exact speed. This consistency has allowed the reductionist approach to problem solving to drive the scientific revolution of the last century.
The failure of this reductionist approach to dealing with the biological world, the world of behaviour where even if you can reduce the causes of behaviour down to fundamental features they will never be put together to rebuild that same person. The environment influences the growth of any biological system including behaviour.
So to produce an effective behaviour management program at the school level it is necessary to accommodate the ‘top-down’ requirements of the Department with the ‘bottom-up’ needs of the school community, their unique environments each of which requires different responses for the social context.
The top-down issues are related to the formal requirements imposed on the school. These are articulated in the new departmental documents that deal with behaviour. They will include the obligation to provide a safe working environment and to provide support for students with disabilities. These are not negotiable.
But it is the bottom-up influences, the unique features of the school that is the ingredient that will determine the success or failure of any behaviour management program. This is where the teachers and the students have a real investment in the practice.
There are a few things that are essential and these are:
Children have to be taught limits – it is naïve to believe kids are born as little angels. Apart from my grand children they can be naughty and perhaps they should be so. They are looking for boundaries and it is strong boundaries that make a good behaviour plan. Kids know what to expect when they behave in a certain way.
Children need to be able to predict – our ability to ‘guess’ what will happen if we choose to act in a certain manner gives them a sense of power; they develop a sense of ownership over their lives.
Children need a strong parent figure – students soon understand and appreciate a teacher who will set strong boundaries and impose them while respecting that child’s intrinsic worth. Too often young teachers try to be popular and fail to discipline the kids. These teachers soon lose the respect of their class.
I believe when it comes to dealing with discipline there is an unsaid ‘self’ always preceding that word. We should focus on teaching self-discipline to our kids and that requires a great deal of self-discipline by the teachers and the school. Its not easy but teaching self-discipline to a child is probably the most valuable lesson they will get at school.