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Setting Rules and Consequences

Seven years I adopted a white German Shepherd mix from the Kalamazoo Animal Rescue. When we drove over to meet him he was an angel. I played with him, walked him and decided quickly without consulting my wife and kids to adopt the dog.

Needless to say when he came into our home he turned from this calm laid back dog into a monster. It got to the point where my wife said, “It’s either me or that crazy dog!”

I called some friends who knew a dog trainer and when I told him my wife gave me the ultimatum he said, “Do you like your wife?” Then he asked me a bunch of questions and said, “The problem is you have no rules and consequences. You need to figure out your rules, what this dog can or cannot do and enforce them. The dog needs to understand the consequences so he can begin to learn what is right and what is wrong. Most importantly you need to be specific and stick to it!” We did what he said and implemented positive training and overtime he has become great loving family friend.

Let’s be clear our children are not dogs, but there needs to be rules at school and at home that children/students can understand and know what will happen if they break those rules.
For example many children are involved in a sport. From day one they are taught what to do and what not to do. They’re given a set of rules or boundaries and if a player breaks a rule or steps out of the boundaries there are consequences. When my daughter plays softball if she gets three strikes she’s out.

At home and at school we need to discuss the rules and the consequences with our children and students. They need to know without a doubt that if you break a rule they will disciplined accordingly. There can be no second chance, or allowing even one child to slack off. If this is done even once, they will take advantage of you or the situation.

I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago and I overheard a mother saying to her child, “If you do that one more time we are going home!” After eight more times the child was still aggressive and unruly and she was still threatening to take him home.

Like New Year’s resolutions if you don’t actually implement them then why even write them out or bother saying you are going to do something if you’re not going to follow through.

Now you may be thinking that I am talking about ZERO TOLERANCE, severe and punitive consequences and or punishment. Now I totally agree that a child needs to be suspended or removed from a school if they have brought a weapon to school or physically hurt or attempted to hurt students or teachers.
But there also needs to be a set of rules for things outside of this kind of behavior. To suspend a child for tripping, shoving or calling another child a name may be a little over the top.

Michigan Public Policy Initiative in 2003 reported, “It is estimated that more than 3600 students were expelled from Michigan schools during academic year 1999-2000. Many of these students were expelled for behaviors that once would have been considered nothing more that adolescent antics or poor judgment.”

Yes we need to have severe consequences for the student who is clearly out to attack or physically hurt another child, but there also needs to be a different set of rules and consequences for other aggressive and disrespectful behavior.

The Michigan Strategic Alternative in Prevention Education has put together a program entitled, “Bully Free Schools.” As part of this program they discuss how administrators and staff can create a “discipline rubric” that has three levels of behavior; low level aggression, moderate level aggression, severe level aggression. They also explain how to put together first time, second time and third time consequences.
What I love the most about creating this rubric is that you as a school or family can create this to fit your goals and objectives. You can also have the child who has broken the rule look at it and figure out his or her own consequences.

Almost every school that I have presented my bully prevention programs to has in place some kind of positive behavior support system. However the teachers and the student often don’t seem to have a clear understanding of the rules and the consequences.

Constantly reinforce positive behavior support. Explain the rule and consequences more than once so students will come to understand that misbehaving, hurting or bullying another will require authorities to discipline them for their actions.

Copyright Richard Paul 2013

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