Positive Discipline at School and Home: ParenTalks
A full panel of St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) experts joined parents and guardians for the second ParenTalks live Zoom webcast of 2022-23.
The 60-minute session titled, ‘Supporting Your Son with Positive Discipline at Home and School: A Conversation’, featured regular ParenTalks contributor, Dr. Mark Broussenko ’07, Mr. Daniel Blaik, Vice Principal – Dean of Students, Ms. Liat Benzacar, Student Wellness Officer, along with host John Connelly, Director of Student Affairs.
The discussion began with an explanation of what is meant by ‘progressive discipline’ and ‘restorative practice’ as well as how SMCS approaches one of the facets of our school’s motto.
“The ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ philosophy, which no doubt many of us had experiences with growing up the notion of discipline being punitive is a product of that way of thinking as opposed to corrective,” says Blaik. “Along that continuum of consequences and positive interventions, I think we talk more about consequence and choice within a progressive disciplinary framework.”
He adds, “First and foremost, we’re a faith-based learning community and we learn and live in community at St. Mike’s, and I think key to the community is the relationship piece. So, if you look at literature around restorative practice and restorative initiatives, you’ll come across the five Rs which are pretty common in restorative framework.”
The five Rs include: relationship, respect, responsibility, repair, and reintegration. Blaik explains the SMCS approach has focused on this framework and as it evolves it sees students working with our student wellness officer, guidance counsellors, and healthcare professionals.
Panelists then delved into the causes and contributors to adverse behaviour.
“If your kid’s acting out, it might be because they’re a bad child that’s been poorly parented but more likely there’s something that’s causing that,” says Broussenko adding that it tends to have something to do with an experience of theirs that’s divergent from their peer group, and depending on the age of the child, certain things they do may not be within their control.
“I think it’s helpful, when you’re talking about discipline and punishment, to try and tease those things out in terms of how much of this was a result of other causes and how much is the result of the agency of that child and certainly at St. Mike’s, you have an age range from Grade 7 to 12. A Grade 7 kid is going to have a very different set of expectations than a Grade 12 child,” he says.
ParenTalks experts also addressed a common question frequently raised by many parents and guardians attending these sessions: how can parents help navigate their children’s screen time and use of mobile devices?
“Being clear and consistent over time and setting boundaries is really important,” says Benzacar. “Another thing is, and forgive me if this is not for all the parents who are listening today, but I would imagine that for most, the device actually belongs to you as the parent. You are the person who purchased it and likely the person who is paying for it to function, so that’s important to remember.”
Broussenko says, “I think telling your child, ‘You can’t have a cell phone until you’re done high school’ is frankly silly because the world runs on cell phones. Some of our most commercially successful companies, some of our most groundbreaking entertainers, some of our most useful things are now powered by technology. Telling your children that that is not the technology that they’re allowed to have access to just means that once they’re outside of your control, they’re going to use it poorly and irresponsibly and it significantly increases the chances that they do something stupid with it.”
Inappropriate use of technology was another topic discussed in-depth by ParenTalks panelists. An emphasis was placed on the education factor, helping the student understand the consequences of small transgressions so they won’t get to the point of making a catastrophic mistake further down the line.
“We know that teenagers at this point in their life are much more interested in their social life, so they’re testing their limits, they’re trying to connect with people, they’re trying to build friendships, they’re more concerned with how they look, they’re interested in romantic relationships,” says Benzacar. “These are all things that in this stage of development for them is actually appropriate and if we lead with shame — ‘Oh my gosh, we can’t believe you did that!’ — the chances are they’re not going to come back to us and talk to us about it.”
To learn more about this topic, watch our entire recording of this episode below:
Or listen to our podcast of the episode here: