Wrapping up my series of posts on Grace-based discipline in a school setting. While most of my posts are wrapped in a lot of Bible language, I want to point out that everything I’m saying is fully applicable to any setting, public or private, religious or secular. Treating kids with respect and giving them a voice in the conversation is a matter of human respect, and that’s always applicable (regardless of one’s religious persuasion).
Returning to the case that kicked off this whole discussion, I wish the Vermont school administrators had dealt graciously with the troublesome kid who refused to stop asking questions about school rules.
I get it — I quickly tired of kids whining about the dress code. BUT we always should be willing to engage in discussion about WHY the rules are what they are, and schools need to be willing to change outmoded rules or ones that aren’t working. Some battles aren’t worth fighting. NCS slowly tweaked its dress code over about 5 years’ time, and I’ve heard fewer and fewer complaints.
I’d like to wrap up with a shotgun list of applications and one recommended reading:
What an incredible blog. I don’t know this guy but I think we’re cut from the same cloth. Read his post — it’s short. Good fodder for today’s discussion, and a great example from a public school classroom.
And my applications for school administrators, teachers, and even parents —
- Differentiate between disobedience and rebellion. They are not the same thing, and they should not be handled the same way when disciplining.
- Most disobedience is unintentional and needs to be corrected, not punished. Punishment is punitive; it’s damage in return for damage. Correction is helpful and empowers a student to make better choices next time.
- Rebellion is actually pretty rare in a functional community. It’s probably a red flag too — there’s more going on in that student than a sudden desire to impale the rulebook. Dig deeper and you’ll start finding upheaval, brokenness, abuse, fear, or anger which you must then handle or report.
- Don’t confuse human authority with God’s Law. Don’t punish infractions of human rules as if they were breaking God’s laws. That is a dangerous conflation and you will pay for it dearly as soon as a kid learns to think for herself.
- Natural consequencesof one’s actions will always teach more powerful lessons than anything we can construct as a “punishment.” Stop sheltering kids from the natural consequences of their actions. It’s God’s built-in correctional facility for this planet and it works pretty darn well when we let it. That doesn’t mean you throw a kid to the wolves or let him hurt himself, but it does mean that we all need to experience the reality that we create because of our choices. And that’s a far more powerful tool for sanctification than demerit slips, long lectures, or detention.
It’s a lot easier to slap rules and punishments on a situation, but Grace-based discipline (like I’ve been describing) actually pays off with far better relationships among teachers and students in the end.