Discipline and Consequences

What is the “bottom line” if,  after discussions with a student to help him understand the consequences of his choices, he still chooses not to comply?

Who is choosing the consequences—the student or the adult?
The answer to this question is critical. If the consequence is IMPOSED, the youngster has no ownership of it, and ownership is a critical component for behavior change.

What about the case of “no homework” and the student’s  admission that he “just doesn’t care and doesn’t WANT to work”?

As Madeline Hunter often stated, “You cannot force learning.” There are thousands of capable, mature, responsible adults who rarely did their homework in school.

I do not use the term, “homework.” I differentiate between work and effort. I use the term, “home assignment.” Your question basically is, “How can I get the student to put forward the effort to do what the teacher assigns the student to do?”

The answer starts with the teacher. What has the teacher done to arouse interest, curiosity, or the necessity of the home assignment to reinforce and/or reflect upon the learning?

If the teacher is not successful in influencing the student to put forward the effort to learn, how can punishing the student be justified? Is causing harm or intentionally “hurting” a youngster in his or the teacher’s best interests? And most importantly, will the motivation be to avoid punishment or to learn—and if it is the former, how long will the learning last?

The success rate would increase if the teacher were to collaborate and work WITH the student by convincing him that completing home assignments would be in the student’s own best interests. The teacher can suggest what the possible consequences of his effort—or lack of it—would bring. If the student chooses not to put forward the effort for something that is in his own best interest, then that is the student’s choice. The resulting consequences (lack of increased skill and/or knowledge and resulting lack of feelings of satisfaction) are negated by the student. Skills, knowledge, and feelings cannot be IMPOSED by the teacher—but they can certainly be encouraged.

Inevitably, doesn’t he experience a punishment?

The student experiences punishment if it is imposed. Punishment infers that the punisher does something TO the punished.

NOTE: I strongly favor homework above primary grades. However, helping students develop procedures that bring structure to their home assignments is far mare effective than punishment. Think of it this way: What would be best for the student and most likely motivate the student to do  home assignments—your imposing punishment or your continual encouragement, empowerment, and commenting on your faith in the student’s ability?

In the case of “no rewards”…public recognition for good behavior or attitudes IS a good practice… right?

Not in my opinion! I expect good behavior, and I don’t know how to assess one’s attitude aside from one’s behavior. As I have stated earlier, “The reward-giver will never know in the future whether the person will be acting on Level D as it is the right thing to do OR to get the reward.” REWARDING young people for EXPECTED STANDARDS OF APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR takes young people on a treacherous path—even though thousands of teachers and parents do it. This practice is highly counterproductive to their ultimate goals and is contributing to raising a generation of young people whose focus is on receiving, rather than on the effort and satisfaction that come from contributing and acting responsibly.

You can read more about the pitfalls of external approaches of punishing YOUNG people, rewarding them, and telling them what to do at AboutDiscipline.com.

Is there an appropriate time to use a “perk” as a motivator?

Certainly! But realize that the underlying drive is often not the perk but the competition. Just look at the recent Olympic Games in Athens. Competition and recognition are basic to humankind. The perquisite at the games were medals. Napoleon Bonaparte and the former Soviet Union used ribbons.

In my own case, I play the classic music of the Great Highland Bagpipe called piobaireachd (pronounced pibroch). Approximately eight percent of pipers play this type of music, and this traditional music never would have been passed on to today without competitions. The token ribbons I won were nice, but it was the competitive spirit that had me devote hundreds of hours to practicing.

The mistake erupts when, by implication, we use rewards to promote learning. If a youngster is never in the winner’s circle, will that young person be prompted to continue “losing” or give up by “dropping out”?

Low self-perception, prompted by comparison of oneself with others, starts when socialization starts and is exacerbated when students start competing against each other.

Many teachers will not admit to themselves that these kinds of rewards foster competition between students. Competitive students thrive on who gets the most number of stickers, gold stars, etc.

What about the student who believes he should also get a reward but doesn’t? Alfie Kohn answered this dilemma in his tome, “PUNISHED by REWARDS: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes.”

Although COMPETITION promotes PERFORMANCE, COLLABORATION is far more effectve for promoting LEARNING. More on this subject is in Chapter 4, “Promoting Learning,” and the Epilogue in the book at DisciplineWithoutStress.com.