Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finding a New Rhythm

So, since my frustrated post last week, I have been thinking over what I need to do to get us back on track. One thing we have been missing in our home these days is a Rhythm or Routine.

Before I was a teacher or a parent, I used to roll my eyes when the word routine was mentioned. Seriously, did people really need routines do be able to get things done? Couldn't they just do it when it needed to be done? Couldn't a group of children just hand out papers, without me having to find a system for them to hand them out? Couldn't thirteen year olds just "get into groups of 4" without my help? The answer, my friends, was no. Not unless I wanted a ruckus. In my early days of teaching, I discovered that the reason school classrooms have routines is because students behave better and feel more comfortable when they know what is coming next. Less time can be spent by teacher and student getting through basic, daily tasks, and more time can be spent learning. I discovered that when I established regular routines and transitions in my classroom, and explained and practiced these processes with my students, over half of my discipline problems disappeared. I learned that the word for this is "Proactive Discipline".

"Proactive Discipline" is one side of the getting kids to behave coin. It is the part where you set things up so that it is easy for them to follow the rules and routines because they are clearly laid out. When kids know what to expect, they are less anxious. If they know they will get to have a video at 4pm, for instance, you don't have to fight with them about wether you will or won't watch a video at any given moment of the day. Instead you can simply say, "We will watch our video after our rest time, like we do every day" or, with an older child, "We will watch our video at the same time we always do, at four o-clock".

The other side of discipline, of course, is "Reactive Discipline". This is the side of the coin where you react to your child's behavior. When children refuse to follow established routines and rules, then you are into reactive discipline. But if there are no rules and routines in place, then you must react to every situation seperately and each one can become a power struggle.

What we have been lacking since we moved is an established, daily routine. This is partially because our days do not yet have the order that comes from things like steady work and one regular caregiver. But we can try to keep some things the same, like a daily outing to the park, a daily time for breakfast and lunch, and a snack after school to keep everyone's blood sugar level even until supper is ready. These little details just help keep everyone feeling physically well and make it easier for us all to be calm.

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