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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!


According  to  opinion  polls,  the  need  for  more  school

discipline  is  the public’s foremost educational  concern.  Most

people  equate  discipline with  punishment.   The  question  the

public  is really asking is how can we punish students when  they

do not follow the rules and misbehave.  The assumption is that if

a  strong deterrent to misbehavior can be  found,  all discipline

problems  will be solved.

The  Wall  Street Journal reported on a school  in  Missouri

which had assertive discipline.  This included rigid disciplinary

codes and stiff penalities for violating them.  The Journal cites

an example: In the school cafeteria, rules are enforced with the

aid  of  three lights resembling a  traffic  signal.   The  green

light,  demanding  total silence is lit when sudents line up  for

trays  and  for five minutes after they are  seated.  The  yellow

light  allows  them to whisper softly.  The red light means  that

five minutes remain in the 30-minute lunch period.   The  penalty

for talking at the wrong time, is that the student stands against

the  wall during the red light time.   The author of the  article

spoke  of  this  school  with glowing terms  as  the  “school  of

Rules  in  this unnecessarily rigid spirit  are  costly  and

self-defeating.   They  require  a great deal of policing on  the

part   of  the  administration  and  deprive  students   of   the

opportunity of becoming mature and independent.
Don  Dinkmeyer, in  his books  on  Effective  Parenting  and

Effective Teaching, describes a concept of discipline that is an

educational  process which teaches responsibility.  He feels that

the most effective discipline is preventive. Offering choices and

getting  students involved in their educations helps  reduce  the

occasions for misbehavior.
Rewards  invite dependence,  discouragement  and  rebellion,

because  they  are  based  on  power  and  control.    Punishment

increases  conflict,  removes responsibility  from students,  and

guarantees negative interaction between the school and  students.

Dr.  Dinkmeyer  says, “If punishment teaches the desirability  of

power,  rewards  teach the inevitablilty of extrinsic motivation,

the  ‘never give something for nothing’ philosophy.  And  rewards

teach that learning itself is only a means to an end without real

value.” Punishment is usually ineffective because it is often not

connected  to the misbehavior.
As  an alternative,  Dr.  Dinkmeyer advocates a  system  for

cooperative  discipline  using natural and  logical  consequences

developed by Dr.  Rudolf Dreikurs.  Natural consequences are those

which  permit  children  to learn from the natural order  of  the

physical  world–for  example,  that not eating  is  followed  by

hunger.   Logical consequences are those which permit children to

learn from the reality of the social order–for example, students

who  throw  food  clean the floor and may temporarily  lose  the

privilege of eating with others.
There is a lack of hostility in applying natural and logical

consequences.  Natural  consequences  require only that we  stand

aside and let events take their course.  Logical consequences, on

the  other  hand,  are  arranged.   Students  must  see  them  as

logically related to their misbehavior. The purpose of using this

approach  is to motivate students to make responsible  decisions,

not  to  force  their submission.  It allows them to  learn  from

Dreikurs  and Dinkmeyer give many examples in their work  of

the  difference between punishment and logical  consequences.   I

will  report just a few to illustrate the difference.   A  person

who  uses punishment would say:  “You will stay after school  and

write,  I  will not write on my desk,  one hundred  times”  Using

logical  consequences,  the  sentence  would  be:  “Since  you’ve

decided to write on your desk, when will you clean your desk?” Or

another  example Dinkmeyer  gives in his book is , the  punisher

would say:  “You took that book from the library without checking

it  out.  Don’t you know that’s stealing?   Logical  consequences

however,  would  not imply an element of moral  judgment:  “Since

you’re not ready to respect the rules for checking out books,  it

looks like you’re not ready to borrow library books.”
Dr.   Dinkmeyer   points  to  the  following  advantages  of

discipline using natural and logical consequences over discipline

using rewards and punishments: Natural and logical consequences-

. Hold students responsible for their own behavior

. Allow students  to  make  decisions  within  limits  and  to

experience the consequences of those decisions.

. Let students learn from experience.

I  encourage  you  to  try this  more  constructive  approach  to

discipline.   You must be patient, however, it will take time for

natural and logical consequences to be effective. It is time well


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