Rules and consequences

Let’s talk about rules and consequences. 

As a teacher, I got to experiment with rules and consequences on other people’s children before I became a mom. My first year teaching, the students and I came up with a list of classroom rules together. It was one of those perfect in theory ideas, but not so perfect in practice. We ended up with a huge list of rules that I proudly posted in my classroom. When a student broke a rule, he/she was to move a clip on a colored chart from ‘green’ (Good Day) to yellow (warning), to red (I need to stop and think about my behavior), to blue (I need to call home), to brown (visit the principal’s office).

The problem with this method is I think it gave the kids anxiety. The kids that typically made good choices would freak out if they went from green to yellow. The few kids that went to brown, well, their day just went to poop and stayed there. They had to look at their name in the brown section and their behavior didn’t improve to move it back up. So, I went searching.

My principal at the time introduced me to 1-2-3 Magic. It seemed to work well, until I was on a field trip at a park. One of my students was standing on a broken bench pretending to surf. From across the park I could see the rusty nails on the board lift as he did this.

“Tommy, get down!” I yelled as I started walking toward him.

He looked at me, smiled, and kept teetering on the bench, laughing.

“Tommy! Get down now!” I yelled as I ran toward him, hoping to catch him if he fell.

Tommy continued to ignore me. All I could see was this bench flipping on him and one of those rusty nails going into his eye or something.

So I did a teacher no-no. As soon as I got to him, grabbed him by the waist and took him off the bench before he got really hurt.

I put him on the ground and scolded him. “You need to listen the first time. Look at those nails! You could’ve been really hurt!”

Then I took a deep breath and held his hand. “You’re stuck with me now.”

Tommy was dumbfounded.  “But, you can’t do that! I didn’t even get a one, yet!”

 That was the end of 1-2-3 Magic for me. 

I was introduced to Love and Logic in college and even attended a conference with Jim Fay. Later, my principal introduced me to The Responsible Thinking Process.  Well, I combined those two methods and found something that really worked for me in the classroom and now I use it at home with my own four kiddos.

It starts off with having specific rules.

We have our four rules framed on our wall in our house…

  • Be Kind
  • Be Responsible
  • Be Respectful
  • Be Safe

If a child brakes a rule, I say “Uh-oh.” (My kids know when my husband or I say “uh-oh” someone is in trouble)

Then I ask the child who did something wrong a series of questions in a calm, matter-of-fact tone. You cannot ask these questions sharply.

1. What did you do?  Child: Says what he/she did wrong. (If they don’t answer, I’d answer it for them: example: “You called your sister a butthead.

2. “This is so sad.” Or “What a bummer.”

3. What are the rules? Child says the rules or reads them if they forget.

4. What rule did you break? Child answers

5. What happens when you break the rules? Here’s where the child needs to know the consequence and that consequence needs to be consistent. Child’s response: “I need to take some recovery time.” (This is a time-out in a specific spot away from the other kids. My recovery spot is on the stairs in our house. Their bedroom has too many distractions.) If we are in public, I will tell the child the consequence for his/her actions. I might say something like, “Your stuck by me for a while.”

6. You can come back when you’re sweet. (If they come back too quickly, I’ll give him/her a number to count to.

7. When they come back from recovery time, I always give them a hug and say, I’m glad to have you back. What do you need to do now?

8. This is when they apologize. A full apology sounds like: “I’m sorry for ___________. Next time, I will ____________. Can you forgive me? (Example: I’m sorry for calling you a butthead. Next time, I will let you know why I’m mad instead of calling you names. Can you forgive me?

 I wish I could say, I’m always good at using this method because it does work so well, but when it comes to my own kids, sometimes I forget. Sometimes, I completely lose my shit and then it’s ME that needs recovery time and to apologize. 😬

I wrote this post to remind me…




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