You might wonder about the number one question that parents ask Kindergarten teachers at the start of the school year. It is not about Academics, Assessments, Daily Schedules, Curriculum, Seating Arrangements, etc. Oh,no. The number one question is about discipline. How do we handle children when they misbehave in our classroom? This leads me to believe that most parents know that their children misbehave, and believe me some misbehave more than others. Parents just want to be sure that they are OK with how we handle their rule breaking 5 year olds. I have a time out table in my room (located about 4 feet from all of the action) and I explain to parents at Back to School night that it gets heavy use during the month of September as we lay down the class rules and expect the children to follow them. By October, it is hardly used at all, as children settle into the routine and have learned to follow the rules and regulations of our classroom. But, it still sits there waiting, just in case it is needed. This is the way it is used in my classroom and you could use a table, chair or quiet spot at home to achieve the same goal. When a child misbehaves, in this example talks to a friend during story time, this is what happens:
- I tell the child he/she is interrupting my story by talking to his/her friend. I say that they can either listen to the story quietly, or talk, but if they choose to talk, they have to go to the time out table.
- Always, the child will say “I will listen to the story quietly” and the within moments, ‘chooses’ to talk again. At this point I will say, ‘you have chosen to talk and we said that if you talk again you would have to go to the time out table so you need to go to the time out table now’
- This interchange is not always met with favorable results and I will then say, you can walk to the time out table or you can choose to have me hold your hand and walk you there.
- Most children then decide walking the 4 feet to the time out table is the better choice rather than being led by the teacher.
- I will continue to read the story and when done I will go and talk to the child at the time out table.
- I will ask, “What were you doing that go you sent to the time out table?” Ultimately I am looking for the response that begins with the words “I WAS……” In this case “I was talking during the story”
- Notice I did not start my question with the word “why”. The word why is very open ended and does not always need a factual answer and 5 year olds know that. Be sure and start your question with What…you will get a more factual answer.
- I will now say, yes you were talking during the story but the next time you will listen quietly to our story and then that is the end of our talk
- When a child is able to accept responsibility for what he/she has done wrong, he/she is well on the road to improving that behavior
- When a child says that the reason he/she is at the time out table is because I put them there, we have to review again what took place prior to being removed from the class group and I will remind the child that he/she had a choice to go or not go to the time out table and they chose ‘to go.’ This child needs a few more minutes to think and then I will repeat the question, “why are you at the time out table/?” and hopefully the answer will begin with “I was”
Most children only need one or two visits to the time out table to know I mean what I say, but there is usually a few that will test awhile longer. Please parents, under no circumstance should you use the “I will give you to the count of three to …….(fill in the blank here with what you want your child to do) You have only taught them that you don’t really mean it on the first try and that they have some more time for stalling. If you use, 1,2,3, please stop now.