The all-boys secondary school I attended as a pupil/learner was called internally "The school for the son's of gentlemen". Beatings with the cane ruled. Teachers used it. The headmaster used it. Even the prefects were authorised to use it. A punishment book record of any caning was kept.
On qualifying I taught at that very same school. Eleven years of association with "the school for the sons of gentlemen. "The use of the cane was a little more regulated over time, but ot much changed. Prefects no longer were allowed to cane the boys. Teachers were not supposed to use it. Most did. . Some became skilled at using 'bacon slices" with a ruler...neatly and painfully skinning the edge of the buttocks. with no punishment book record.
I cant say that I, in the traditional sense, am a gentleman as a result of all that
I remember the headmaster saying "If I look into my punishment book, it's always the same boys sent to me for the cane.
My thought and that of some of the other educators "If it doesn't work - why use it?"
The Facebook question was "Does time-out work?" It was accompanied by a pic of a beautifully, colourfully painted chair. Across the back-rest was painted "time-out chair". Along the sides of the the seat "kids need our love most when they least deserve it". ...A full and obvious paradox. How do these two ideas live together at one time?
Question then, " What punishments work."
Good question I thought. It raised much wider and deeper Child and Youth Care issues.
Most of the literature I have encountered points to the need and experiences of acceptance as central to the developing child's wholeness. That was also my child and youth care work experience. Relationship is everything even though the young people in our programmes often expressed and acted it out in styles not useful to them, distorted and even sometimes destructive to self, family neighbourhood, community and the world.
Many of the, so called, punishment practices used by child and youth care workers very simply, mirrored the disadvantaging, disconnecting, loss of acceptance relationship world of the very young people and children who needed to experience something more positive
I would put time-out and the naughty corner among these.
The question, I think needs to be rephrased. "What do children and young people learn about adults ( adulthood) and the world by imposing time-out.
More generally, what message about adults and the world do children and young people get (learn) from any of the measures we use in child and youth care practice, especially in managing behaviour.
What works? I'm not talking about short-term behaviour stoppers. What works for internalisation and life-span self-regulation?
The cane did not. I still can't believe that the message to young people was permitted and practiced as "Might is right!", "Hurt to others and control brings about societal good", "power prevails".
This sounds like the birth of gender based violence and physical child abuse in adulthood to me.
So, What works? Firstly, in South Africa there are some legal "No...no", "punishments". There are many others: Group punishment for individual behaviour, threats or removal from the programme, humiliation or ridicule, physical punishment, deprivation of rights and needs, deprivation of access to parents and family, denial (outside of the IDP) of visits, telephone call or correspondence with family and or significant others, isolation from service providers or peers (other than for immediate safety), the use of restraint (other than for the immediate safety of the young person/young people) ... and used only as an extreme measure. assignment of inappropriate or excessive exercise or work, undue influence regarding religious or personal beliefs ( includes sexual orientation), discriminatory measures, verbal, emotional or physical harm, punishment by another child, Behaviour modification (such as punishment and reward systems outside of the IDP as agreed by the multi-disciplinary team)
Shortened from, 1998 Minimum Standards South African Child and Youth Care System, Interministerial Committee Young People at Risk.
The key concepts of the developmental approach are a useful guide and measure for what has been found to work. It's tempting to list these but there are some concepts that are worth exploring briefly when we talk about developmentally helping children and young people to move fro being regulated to co-regulated and then to self-regulated. This is what we aim to do in professional child and youth care work. I cannot stress relationship enough. I like the qualities of the therapeutic person as a key to our professional relationships. Empathetic, genuine, unconditionally accepting and self aware. Each of these helps us not to react personally but to respond to behaviour in a way the is developmental and supports the young person or the child to be more coping, more appropriate and less self defeating. It has to do with meaning making and then responding in the here and now in such a way as to provide the young person with opportunities to learn. Educateurship life learning in a safe space.
Now for something of that list .In South Africa we all know it; strength based, building competency, trial and error learning, individualisation, developmentally appropriate, Then come my capitalised key devlopmental practise essentials...BEING PRESENT, CONSCIOUSNESS, AWARENESS OF CONTEXT, CONTEXT CONTEXT.....and back to my chorus;
What is the child learning from our responses to his/her behaviour? What's the message about adults, adulthood and the world from their experience of our response