This is a big topic. Much bigger than can be covered in a blog post. It is definitely a book topic. But I am going to take a stab at it anyway because we've been going around to visit kindergartens for Coco for next fall, and something keeps coming up...
Have you heard of them? They're a discipline management tool that involves clipping (with an actual clothespin with the child's name written on it) up and down a series of cards in different colors. Everyone starts the day on the green card, which typically says something like, "Ready to learn" and throughout the day, based on behavior and choices, students will be instructed to 'clip up' or 'clip down.' When I'm subbing, I have gotten used to a child telling me after lunch that their teacher normally has them clip up and clip down. "And if kids are extra good and do something nice, you can give us P.A.W.S" they'll tell me, which are school currency they can use to buy candy from the office once they've saved up enough. Good grief.
On a clip chart, up from green is a pink "Great job!" and up from that is a purple "Outstanding!" On the other hand, down from green is a yellow "Slow down..." and from there an orange, "Think about it" and finally a red "Parent contact." Whichever color the child is on at the end of the day goes home to mom and dad.
I cannot stand these clip charts, or the school currency-for-candy reward system.
Things like clip charts don't help children learn to self-regulate at all. Instead, they help them to fixate on rankings and labels, while engraining in their heads that we're only kind or helpful for personal gain rather than the desire to actually help others or be kind. I feel 100% confident that that is not the aim of any school when it comes to discipline. But there it is.
Many parents and teachers love clip charts, but when children remind me of their clip chart system when I'm subbing, I simply tell them I don't do that. Rather than clipping up and down and rewarding behavior with school currency, I'm a big fan of natural and logical consequences. For example, last week I subbed in a fourth grade class and two children had forgotten their recorders for music class and asked to call home. I asked if their teacher normally lets them call home and they said yes. I told them if it were my class, I would not let them call home. In that case, the natural consequence would follow - having forgotten their recorder, they'd have to go to music class without it and they probably would be more careful to remember it the next time. With a natural consequence in place, there would be no need to ask them to clip down either.
But as a sub, it wasn't my place, so I let them call home. And I suppose as a sub, I should really do the clipping as it's not my place to do away with that system while I'm there. To be perfectly honest, I don't even remember it's a thing until a child has reminded me, and then I'm not sure what constitutes a clip in either direction anyway. How wonderful a deed or terrible an offense warrants a clip? The fact is, responding genuinely case-by-case and discussing what's happened with lots of eye contact seems to work just fine.
A logical consequence is a consequence that is devised in the absence of a natural one. For example, say a child calls another child a name. Nothing happens naturally that will make an impression on the perpetrator. So, in that case, the name-caller might have to lose the first ten minutes of recess or write a letter to the teacher explaining why they made the choice to call someone else a name. I don't believe in forced apologies any more than clip charts, but giving a child some time and space to reflect can be productive. If a child just clips down for name-calling, they can earn it back later by doing something nice and take absolutely nothing formative away from the experience.
Perhaps even more than clipping down, clipping up really bugs me. When I drive the speed limit and use my blinker, the police don't stop me and tell me "Great job!" or "Outstanding!" I follow the rules because when we all follow the rules, we can all live more relaxed happy lives. That's participating in society and practicing social responsibility. It's focusing on the greater good and collective spirit. But children on clip charts seem determined to clip up for the sake of clipping up. It's not enough to stay at green for the day, and so they'll help another child tie their shoes, or pick some scraps of paper up off the floor - and then ask to clip up for being a helper. As far as I can tell, clip charts make children more self-centered and competitive than they do conscientious and empathic and I really don't like the idea of Coco using one every day.
How do you handle discipline - do you dangle carrots or impose time-outs? If you're looking for books on rewards and punishments and discipline, I can highly recommend "Children: The Challenge" by Rudolf Dreikurs, and today I'm heading to the library to pick up the seminal classic "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Cohn. Another reliable standby is "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
How do you feel about clip charts? Does your child use one? What's the effect over time?
(Photo via Café Psychologique)