Is it discipline or punishment?

Distilled parenting wisdom has it that discipline helps kids and teenagers understand limits, have a sense that caring adults are watching out for them, and that the world has some order.  Punishment makes them feel bad about themselves and more out-of-control.  Tim Elmore makes the point again in Huffpost and has research findings from the University of Pittsburgh which he says back it up.  But discipline and punishment can look very similar.  Just calling something a consequence doesn't make it nurturing limit-setting.  When you are a parent or teacher, frustrated with a young person who has failed to follow the rules, it can be really hard to know if what you are doing is discipline or punishment (this assumes that the rules are reasonable). 

Elmore points out a really good way to distinguish between punishment and discipline if you aren't sure: future-oriented versus past-oriented.  If you want to discipline a kid, ask yourself,  "Is what I am thinking about doing (grounding, taking away a privilege, ignoring the behaviour, giving a warning) going to help this kid do better in the future?"  Punishment tends to be more backward-looking, while discipline is about doing it differently next time.  This takes some self-knowledge ("Am I acting out my anger or frustration or fear about what happened?") and some knowledge of the kid ("Is this consequence likely to help her -- in all her wonderful, infuriating uniqueness -- make a change?").  Sometimes just calling the question can help.  "I want to figure out what we need to do that is going to help you do it right the next time." 

One final note: as with all "parenting" expertise, if, after a fair try,  this tool leaves you feeling tied up in knots it should probably be jettisoned.  Being confident with your child or students is important and the parento-advice industrial complex can sometimes rob parents and educators of that.  Go forth and conquer, gently!

5 techniques to enhance listening in the classroom

Very no-nonsense, simple piece for enhancing students' classroom listening skills by Rebecca Alber.  This kind of teaching will benefit all students but in particular those with attentional difficulties. 

Ah, listening, the neglected literacy skill. I know when I was a high school English teacher this was not necessarily a primary focus; I was too busy honing the more measurable literacy skills — reading, writing, and speaking. But when we think about career and college readiness, listening skills are just as important. This is evidenced by the listening standards found in the Common Core and also the integral role listening plays in collaboration and communication, two of the four Cs of 21st century learning.

Emotional Intelligence

Great piece about the benefits and pitfalls of teaching emotional intelligence.  I kept asking myself, "what about the role of parents?"  Schools are asked to do an awful lot and parents modelling emotional intelligence for kids is extremely powerful and needs to be supported.  Nevertheless a great read by Jennifer Kahn in the NYTM.   

Depending on our personalities, and how we’re raised, the ability to reframe may or may not come easily. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, notes that while one child may stay rattled by an event for days or weeks, another child may rebound within hours. (Neurotic people tend to recover more slowly.) In theory, at least, social-emotional training can establish neurological pathways that make a child less vulnerable to anxiety and quicker to recover from unhappy experiences. One study found that preschoolers who had even a single year of a social-emotional learning program continued to perform better two years after they left the program; they weren’t as physically aggressive, and they internalized less anxiety and stress than children who hadn’t participated in the program.

It may also make children smarter. Davidson notes that because social-emotional training develops the prefrontal cortex, it can also enhance academically important skills like impulse control, abstract reasoning, long-term planning and working memory. Though it’s not clear how significant this effect is, a 2011 meta-analysis found that K-12 students who received social-emotional instruction scored an average of 11 percentile points higher on standardized achievement tests. A similar study found a nearly 20 percent decrease in violent or delinquent behavior.