A teacher new to the Discipline Without Stress methodology asked me a clarification question about explaining Level C behavior to children. As she said, “I have a hard time trying to explain to kids that this level is acceptable … BUT WATCH OUT … it might not be! This is what I’m not sure how to handle. I know it’s best if the hierarchy is simple and easy to understand because then using it is straight forward, but since Level C has a potential negative aspect as well as the positive one it seems important to help kids understand.”
I responded by using the analogy of a traffic signal.
Red = NO (Don’t go.) (Levels A and B)
Yellow = Proceed BUT WITH CAUTION (Level C)
Green = GO (Level D)
Another important point is to consider who is directing the traffic (giving directions), e.g., a teacher or a parent or someone of the same age (peer).
If a teacher asks a child to do something and the child complies, that’s level C and is both fine and expected in a classroom. This would be the same as when a parent asks at home. But when a fellow student or pal asks the child to do something in school or in the neighborhood, the child needs to reflect and ask, “Is this the right or appropriate thing to do?”
Teach the words “appropriate” and “inappropriate” or “not appropriate.” Even four-year-olds can pronounce these words and understand what they mean. Set up situations for both concepts—positive and negative.
Examples prompting appropriate behavior (GO on the yellow signal) could include:
- Why say “Hi” when you see someone you know?
- Why smile back when someone smiles at you?
- Why cooperate when someone needing help asks you to assist?
Examples prompting inappropriate behavior (NO on the yellow signal) could include:
- Let’s make fun of Billy. He won’t mind. (Common male bullying.)
- Let’s ignore Sue. I saw her talking to Jill, who we don’t like. (Common female bullying.)
- Let’s eat the cereal with a knife. (Have fun by coming up with some outlandish examples.)
When children are acting on Level C behavior at the prompting of an adult, you’ll have fewer discipline issues and less stress.