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Soft Teaching Techniques by Robert Scorby

Win-Win / Oppositional

I try not to use negative reinforcement or positive rewards. These set up the idea that the disciplinarian can be manipulated, and it gives children who exhibit oppositional behaviors something to be oppositional about. It brings forth the idea that a child is "good" if he or she complies, or "bad" if he or she does not. Guilt grows in this fertile ground, something that is not healthy for anyone. I have found that it is possible to woo children into behaving better by giving them what they seem to want--which is not to do work--while letting them discover that that is not what they really want afterall.

An example: When a child does not want to do work in school, homework at home or household duties, I tell him or her that their assignment is to do nothing. I am not too keen on homework, anyway, especially for K-6th graders. Also, as often happens, the difficulty getting students to do work should not be thrusted upon the parents.

Doing nothing does not mean taking any fun activities away, such as recess, or sports. When I take recess away from a student, we both lose. I like to give students a chance to work off some of their defiant energy. Why heighten the stress? When it comes time to do work, I tell them that their only assignment is to sit quietly during the time other students are working or when they would otherwise have to work at home. I allow students to read during these times, if they wish.

Within a few days the child will probably get bored enough to want to do at least some of the work. "Let me get this right." I would ask, "you're telling me that you want to start working again?" He or she may tell me that they only want to do this one thing. I tell them that that is okay, but then we will go back to the "do nothing" assignment. My experience has taught me that most children/students will come around to choosing to do more of the work. Sometimes it has taken a few weeks, sometimes longer, but that is much better than fighting with children for many months to get them to engage.

If you are the teacher, be sure to write a letter to the guardians of the student explaining what and why you are doing this. I think that your school director should be told, as well. And, if you are a child's guardian, the same goes for you. Write a letter to the teacher explaining why your child is not turning in work. Tell them of the positive outcome you expect. I believe that you will get what you want, a more cooperative and engaging student.

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Robert Scorby Copyright January 9, 2007 (all rights reserved)