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Guidance vs discipline

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

‘Discipline for bad behaviour’ is a fairly common topic of discussion between parents and educators in early childhood settings.

It is also an area that is very misunderstood. In this bulletin we touch on the difference between a guidance approach and old-fashioned discipline, with the aim for parents and community partners to understand the theories behind why we do what we do.

Strong and trusting relationships are key to guiding children's behaviour

First lets look at the difference between discipline and guidance approaches. This snippet taken from Louise Porter’s website behaviour guidance seminar notes).

As per the legislation, a guidance approach takes into account the fact that all families and children are different, come to us with different values and learn in different ways with differing abilities.

Most notably, a guidance approach builds long lasting trusting relationships so children feel safe, secure and supported.

"Warm, supportive and trusting adults can help young children to work through their feelings and deal with situations in more positive ways. However, some children find this more difficult than others and this may affect their ability to learn new things and to interact with others. These kids can need some extra support from caring adults and may even benefit from professional support". (Beyond Blue)

The low down on legislation

Early Childhood Centres across Australia are required to operate under extensive amounts of legislation including the National Quality Framework.

In regards to behaviour, regulation 155 states that we must “take reasonable steps to ensure that education and care is provided to children in a way that gives each child positive guidance and encouragement towards acceptable behaviour”.

Under Quality Area 5, (relationships with children) the dignity and rights of the child must be maintained at all times.

According to legislation (and our philosophy), the following are examples of unacceptable responses for challenging behaviour:

  • Demanding why a child has acted in a certain way

  • Negative labeling

  • Criticizing

  • Blaming or shaming

  • Insisting that children apologise for their behaviour

  • Hitting, yelling, isolating children (as punishment)

Everything has intention - and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes

Fact: 13% of Australian children aged 4-11 have a diagnosed mental disorder. (Young Minds Mater Australia)

This includes anxiety disorders, which are on the rise even in children as young as 3 and 4 years old. More distressing, 1 in 10 adolescents (11-17) have contemplated suicide (Mental Health Survey, Young Minds Matter Australia 2014-15).

The growing evidence points to childhood as a place where these disorders begin.

Sounds crazy! To a level it is – why in 2017 are so many young people affected by mental illness? As we learn more about brain development through technologies like MRI, we learn more about the power to positively influence children in early childhood and how this helps to build more resilient adults with better life outcomes.

We also know that stressed children operate in ‘fight-or-flight mode’. When this happens, their body is flooded with cortisol. Adrenaline is high. Survival takes over. Learning stops.

Google Dan Siegel’s ‘the scientific explanation of flipping your lid’ for a great explanation of this.

These statistics and scientific research feed into our practices at KRCC every day. Building happy, healthy, resilient adults starts here – in what we do, how we speak with children, and the choices we guide them to make.

OK – that’s the science, so what does this look like?

When a child exhibits challenging behaviour you might see us:

  • Cuddle that child (not necessarily the one that is hurt or affected)

  • Calm the child down – using sensory techniques or helping the child find a quiet space.

  • Not insistthe child apologizes for their actions

  • Move other children away (not move the child)

We also take notes and developmental observations for children, which are additional to the learning stories shown on Storypark. We use these to work with the child’s family and other professionals such as psychologists and maternal health teams.

What about the other children?

It can be distressing to learn your child may have seen or even been hurt by another child’s actions. We work with all children to give them strategies for handling such situations – a toolbox of self-help skills. Understanding diversity, building resilience, keeping safe, reading social situations and peer negotiation are all part of the learning, which creates well-rounded, resilient and emotionally literate adults.

You can rest assured we do work very closely with all families across our centre for a range of different reasons. Keep in mind; you will only be aware of the work we do in relation to your child.

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