As part of our first two curriculum days for 2020, staff engaged in the relationships module of our school-wide Visible Wellbeing approach.
Specifically, we looked at teachable relationships skills that allow us to build the wellbeing both of the person using the skills, and the other member/s of those relationships. These relationships skills allow us to notice more of the cues from those around us and respond to them in a way that meets their needs and engages more fully with the emotional state of that person. As part of the training sessions, all teams across the school set relationships goals that they will focus on developing with each other and their students throughout 2020.
One of the key research findings we learned about through the training module was the importance of the 5:1 positive:negative ratio in relationships and teams –you might like to try keeping track at the dinner table and work towards keeping close to that ratio at home!
We also encourage all families to take a few moments to watch the following Ted Talk which focuses further on the importance of relationships.
In addition to the Visible Wellbeing Relationships module, all staff also participated in Restorative Practices training. In accordance with the school’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Policy, “the objective of restorative practice is to repair relationships that have been damaged by bringing about a sense of remorse and restorative action on the part of the person who has harmed (including bullying) someone and forgiveness by the person who has been harmed.” While there will be times when a restorative approach may not be taken, how we respond as adults to children’s poor behavioural choices and moments of conflict is extremely formative in terms of how we want them to respond and behave when things don’t go right; now and later as adults. At all times, we (teachers and parents) must model respect and restraint if that is the desired behaviour that we want to see from our young people. More often than not, a restorative approach is empowering for the person that may have been harmed. Rather than being cast as a victim, they are supported (in a safe environment and by a well-trained and trusted adult) through a process of relationship restoration.
But What About Punishments and Consequences?
As parents and teachers, deep down we know that punishing and yelling at our children rarely results in meaningful behaviour change. We might get behavioural compliance through methods of fear and intimidation (not what we should be modelling) but this compliance is usually short-lived and the undesired behaviours often reappear. On the other hand, if we’re willing to spend time with our children, talking respectfully to them about their choices and the impact it has on others, setting goals and recognising desired behaviours (when we see them), we also know that we’re likely to see improvements in the positive behaviours that we’re seeking. Of course, this process takes a lot longer than dishing out a list of punishments or having a good yell but if we truly want change (while modelling respect at all times), then we have to be prepared to put in the time with our children when they need us the most – when things don’t go right.
Are there still consequences? Of course there are consequences for behaviours that cause harm to other students. The positive consequences include learning from your mistakes and developing strategies to be a better friend. We believe that all students want to do the right thing but that sometimes (and for variety of reasons) they get it wrong and don’t always treat others with the respect and the care that is expected. As adults, “What is the hardest thing to do if you have treated either a colleague or loved one in a way that is disrespectful and harmful?” I’m sure that most people would agree that the hardest thing to do is to take responsibility for your actions, speak with and apologise to the person that we have harmed. How easy would it be if you were simply told to go outside and collect 100 pieces of rubbish by your partner after an argument? You wish and not likely! It is exactly the same for our children, the consequence of poor choices and anti-social behaviour is that they be guided (where appropriate) through a process of taking responsibility and to help repair the harm that they have caused.
As in the workplace, if individuals aren’t prepared to take responsibility and to repair the harm caused, there are further consequences. In the school context and in accordance with our Bullying Prevention and Intervention Policy, there may be additional consequences such as the loss of privileges and in very extreme cases (and as a last resort where all other strategies haven’t worked), we may use suspension and expulsion.
Whether you’re a parent, a classroom teacher or even a school principal, supporting children with difficult behaviour is extremely challenging. What is most important is that we model respect (and empathy) at all times while not losing sight of the fact that one of the greatest consequences for poor behaviour (whether you’re a child or an adult) is to take responsibility for what you have done, make better choices and to say that you’re sorry.