As the saying goes, “The pendulum swings,” or more accurately in this case, the paddle. When it comes to classroom management, we are experiencing a full-circle evolution. Educators know why strategies like restorative justice, mindfulness, and social-emotional learning work; because they are respectful and leave students’ dignity intact. But, in Missouri, something different is happening.
Teachers in Missouri explained discipline was the number one issue raised by parents, which is why some of those parents rallied to allow children to be spanked with a paddle. This method of discipline flies in the face of what is best for children.
Most of us understand how we discipline or are disciplined, largely depends on the culture, the family, and the generation into which we are born. While discussing the return to paddling with teachers and families, one father described how a small shift in language from “spanking” to “hitting” changed his view about using corporal punishment. In another conversation, a teacher shared the story Never Violence by Astrid Lindgren and explained the powerful impact it made on her perspective. This podcast clip with guest Dr. Becky Kennedy explains one of the consequences of a fear-based adult-child relationship, and studies on parenting and discipline by Dr. Diana Baumrind defines 3 different styles:
As adults who work with children, understanding the positives and negatives of the different parenting styles is good information to know and to share. As my colleague says, “When we know better, we do better.” Sadly, for the students affected by the paddling legislation in Missouri, sometimes we don’t.
Legality of corporal punishment in public schools in the United States as of October 2018
Corporal punishment in public schools illegal
When talking about corporal punishment, discipline, and classroom management, there are as many perspectives as there are people. Alfie Kohn, an author who consistently pushes against the mainstream, provides his point of view in the article, “The Case Against Classroom Management a Quarter-Century Later” and raises thought-provoking points. Toward the end of his writing, Kohn promotes, “constructing caring classrooms (and school) communities, and giving students more say, individually and collectively, about what they are doing.”
Years of research on spanking explains why hitting children has negative outcomes. This study from Harvard University reiterates the “negative effects of spanking on children’s social-emotional development, self-regulation, and cognitive development,” and includes new research, that “shows that spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats.” (Anderson, 2021). Study after study concludes: hitting stops the immediate behavior, but has long-term detrimental effects.
Regardless of where you are on the discipline→classroom management→caring classrooms continuum, we’ve created 8 classroom management info pages. Each one provides an article, a video, and an infographic that can be printed and posted for easy reference throughout the school day.
To learn more about classroom management, consider checking out the following courses: