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3 Great Alternatives to Punishment

3 Great Alternatives to Punishment | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Isn't this a great question? No matter who you are or what your background is, everyone who reads this question automatically has an opinion on it or might have answered it in their head before they’ve even truly thought about it. The psychology and intricacy behind this question are what drew me to it, so here is what I have found…

I have been a teacher for many years, in many different capacities and have had to try and come up with various alternatives to ‘punishing’ misbehaving and uncooperative students. What I’ve found is that the approaches can generally be categorized according to age. Also, that punishment comes in many forms and does not always have to have a negative connotation to it.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Kari K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

1. Working With Young Children

Young children often respond to negotiations and rewards for ‘playing nice’. Understanding the child's personality will help a great deal in determining what the most effective method would be for punishment. Putting them in time-out might work for a child that is very social, whereas some children respond better to stern behavior, being dominated by hierarchy. I have had two such examples in my day-care class. One child likes to be in the spotlight and is very social. When you remove him from an environment where he feels most alive (and have him close enough to see the rest of the program continue without him) it really makes him feel uncomfortable with that punishment. The second child is one who likes to push buttons (figuratively). He comes from a household where parenting is not a top priority so he runs his own show at 5 years old. Hence, when he acts out in class and the rules are then laid out for him sternly, he responds to the structure as if this was all he was seeking in the first place. This kind of child likes to know that you are in charge, and they also like structure and routine. Children, in general, do well with verbal encouragement and praise, so I use this wherever possible.

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2. Working With Teenagers

When it comes to adolescents, the person enforcing the punishment has to be aware of what is most effective for this age group. They rely a lot on public opinion and ‘popularity’ so when you take them on in front of a group of their peers they often feel humiliated. If this is done with a calm demeanor without showing too much attention to their behavior it removes some of their confidence as they did not get the reaction they desired. Part of the punishment might be to show them an influx of love and care because it is embarrassing to appear soft and emotional in front of people they are trying to impress. Majority of the time this is the kind of attention they seek, even if they do so subconsciously. This I have experienced with my youth class ranging between 11 and 18. The battle with them are often more verbal than physical, so I treat it as a game and try to have fun with them while being respectful. Never underestimate the power of words!

3. Working With Adults

Adults are emotionally a lot more complex than children. It is, therefore, harder to know how to treat them effectively. More often than not, a one-on-one conversation with this group offers a lot of insight and can help both the individual and teacher gain ground on what they feel. For the most part, if the unruly behavior is not affecting the class too much, then it should not be singled out until after the class in a private conversation. We have a lot going on in our adult lives that add pressure and insecurity to our behavior.

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From my experience there is never only one way of addressing or administering punishment, rather it is more a matter of discovering the individual and teaching them to respect others. This responsibility sometimes falls on the shoulders of friends, teachers, extended family, or siblings instead, as not all households have a traditional structure or dynamics to address this.

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So you see, if we want a positive outcome or result from punishment, we have to consider what kind of energy is exuded and whether it comes from a place of love or not. In conclusion, no matter what age, people can sense intention behind the punishment, so always think twice before letting emotions get the better of you. Communication is always necessary for a strong foundation.

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