Discipline:Let’s make it part of school curricula | Sunday Observer

Discipline:Let’s make it part of school curricula

Discipline is a vital deterrent to stop children being naughty, people from missing work, and people from commiting crimes. If parents did not discipline their children when naughty, the children would not grow up knowing right from wrong, or become productive members of society who contribute to the system.

Similarly, school teachers need to punish children who do not behave properly. Without discipline in the classroom, there would be a great deal of disruption and nobody would ever learn anything. Teachers who struggle to command the respect of students and who fail to use discipline effectively, would often have trouble making themselves heard in a classroom. Nowadays, we hear many problems among schoolchildren, such as, fighting and even stabbing each other in classrooms, in school hostels and outside school. There has been many debates over the use of corporal punishment for children in general, and increased attention paid on the concept of ‘positive parenting’ where good behaviour is encouraged and rewarded.

A student of Dharmaraja College, Kandy, was assaulted opposite the school recently, by a certain group. Police made four arrests in this connection. The victim of the assault, a Grade 13 student says, he was told by a Grade 12 prefect to trim his hair, using foul language, which provoked him to slap him. The matter had been resolved at the Principal’s office, but later, when the school closed, an unidentified group had attacked him. The Principal of the College had then warned the students involved and it was resolved. This instance can be seen as a major form of disobedience taking place in schools.

Corporal punishments

Chairperson, National Child Protection Authority, Natasha Balendra said, “We are doing a research at present, on children’s discipline in schools and are trying to monitor what the teachers expect from different types of discipline and the students’ reactions. Based on this, next year we hope to do programs in collaboration with the Education Ministry, thus creating more awareness and knowledge among principals and teachers about methods of positive discipline.”

Balendra said, at present, they do not categorize school disciplinary issues, but are working on a computerized data base for the complaints they receive. “By next year we will be able to maintain a data and statistics on school nondisciplinary issues reported, and segregate the types of incidents. We are trying to cultivate an environment which accepts that each child is different. Through awareness, knowledge and skills building among Principals and teachers they would gain skills and knowledge to respond to different bahaviours of children in a non-violent way,” she said.

An educationist, Jesima Ismail said, “Discipline has to be asserted among schoolchildren, but not corporal punishments. There should be rules and regulations which must be followed. Children mixing with parents, sitting down for at least one meal a day, meeting after school, communication between parents and children, and between parents and parents about problems in school, is a must. Communication is the strongest force among human beings.”

“We cannot always compare the olden days and the present because a huge change has taken place. Principals and teachers in schools should have a training in counselling. The atmosphere and the environment created in schools makes the children disciplined,” she said.

Madara de Silva, a parent, said, “The social and psychological behaviour of a child depends basically on the parents. It has been scientifically proven that the lifestyle and emotions of a mother has a big impact on the child to be born. In other words prenatal parenting affects the child in many ways. One is the nutritional value and the other, the behavioural pattern of the mother. Thus, parents are advised to have peace and a happy mind during pregnancy. After the baby is born, it should be brought up in a friendly environment, far from violence. Next, the school has a great responsibility in moulding a child’s discipline.”

Heshan Perera, a government school teacher in Colombo, said, “The teachers and the school management should be careful in handling children’s behaviour. There are instances where children have been misled due to the manner of handling them. In one instance e.g. a student attacked a Principal for a comment about his hair cut. So, teachers and principals should be given a proper guidance on how to guide a child.”

“However, it is our responsibility to guide the children in a way they would recognize right from wrong. Religious values too play a big role in showing the children the right path. If they are guided correctly we would be able to build up a nation with less criminals and more citizens with humanity,” Perera said.

Unruly behaviour

A parent in Kandy, Natalie Silva said, “High levels of violence in cartoons such as Scooby-Doo and Pokemon can make children more aggressive. Animated shows aimed at youngsters often have more brutality than programs broadcast for general audience. Television is everywhere these days, not just in our living room, but in kitchens, doctor’s offices, grocery stores, airplanes, classrooms, etc. Adults are not the only ones watching TV, children today are watching more TV than ever before.”

“TV has even become known as a ‘baby-sitter.’ Parents now use the television to entertain children while they accomplish tasks, such as, cooking and cleaning. It is common to see children sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning with their Coco Pebbles, watching their favourite superhero. Cartoons have become too violent, which can be a reason for the increase in unruly behaviour in children. It is common to see young boys pretending to shoot one another, while jumping on the couch and hiding in closets as a sort of a make-believe fort,” Natalie said.

Clinical Psychiatrist of the Government Base Hospital, Kiribathgoda, Dr. N. Kumaranayake said:

“There are discipline teachers and counsellors in schools, now. Discipline teachers are usually tough, and the Principal thinks they can control children. Children become disobedient because of psychological problems and lack of love and attention. A school discipline teacher identifies the mistake of a child and gives punishment. School counsellors are different, they try to find the destruction and the cause for it. They have knowledge and know what to do. The government should appoint counsellors to discipline children, rather than discipline teachers.”

Trained counsellors

“In Sri Lanka there is 65 percent domestic violence, and more than 30 percent of the parents are alcoholics. So, children live in violent and aggressive environments, and face psychological problems. According to a research by UNICEF and Family Health Bureau, the major psychological problem in adolescents between 13 and 18 years, is, they suffer from exam anxiety. Another study by the Ratnapura Provincial Health Department found that 36 percent of children suffer from depression and 20 percent from severe anxiety. This reflects the status of the classroom background in Sri Lanka. Discipline teachers giving punishment for these students is a failure,” Dr. Kumaranayake said.

Explaining the symptoms of an unruly child, Dr. Kumaranayake said, an unruly child raises his legs even when seated, destroys toys and things around, pelts stones at passers by, disturbs other children at play, cannot stay in a place for more than five minutes, asks the same question over and over again, forgets things very soon, and has no fear of danger. “Proper trained counsellors are needed for these children, in schools. WHO says, one in five children suffer from depression. I have met many counsellors who have been trained by the Education Ministry, but they lack knowledge about clinical matters. They cannot identify exactly what the disobedient child is undergoing, as they have been trained by non-clinical people,” he said. 

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