Implementing discipline in a preschool classroom is extremely tricky. Children below the age of 5 are too young to process adult rules of social etiquette. Definitions of ‘misbehavior’ and their solutions that apply to an older classroom don’t apply here. Children in this age group have shorter attention spans, are easily distracted, don’t understand the importance of ‘learning’, don’t process written language and love making noise. All these factors work against traditional methods of group learning.
Yet, some amount of discipline is required. A child needs training so that he is able to discover the world around him, communicate ideas and develop social and personal skills. So how can discipline be achieved?
At Kanhas, I am planning a 5 step approach to discipline:
1. Positive engagement – Ensure that there are interesting activities happening all the time. If the child is not enjoying what is going on, he is not going to learn anything.
2. Setting behavior expectations while learning– I plan to divide learning time into meetings, workshops and explorations. Through the use of simple symbols I will explain what is expected during each activity. Meetings means discussing ideas but in turns. Sometimes I will talk, sometimes a child may talk. But the important thing is to listen and to talk only one at a time. Workshops are group activities. Everyone works together to achieve a common goal. Everyone can talk – in fact, communication is a must! – but in a goal oriented way. Explorations are free time – time for play, general chat or running around. I plan to set up different activities which they can work through.
3. Drama and role play – Children often listen when imaginary characters or toy friends say or want something. For eg ‘Serious Snake’ will ask for silence during meeting time. This also includes spiritual symbolism. ‘Gaur Nitai (our deities) wont like it if you shout too much’, ‘Only ‘Bakasur’ (a demon) would behave in this way’ etc.
4.Encouragement and appreciation – Including positive stickers, group ‘haribols’, sending stuff home to show parents etc.
5. Vaishnava conflict resolution – If there is a fight, please offer obeisances to each other, give each other vaishnava hugs and move on! Life is too short to hold a grudge and no one knows this better than children.
These should keep us going, I hope! My optimism remains boundless