As an educator, one of the discussions we would often have is consequences for actions. I had an administrator (let’s call him John) who didn’t believe in raising his voice or being harsh with kids. I remember seeing John talking to a kid who was in trouble. He was verbally coaxing this child (6 years old) from the lunchroom to the office which was about 70 feet apart and I am not even exaggerating when I say I went to the lounge to eat my lunch and when I came back to pick up my kids, he had calmly talked this child into moving only about 20 feet. 20 FEET in 20 MINUTES. I couldn’t believe it.
John thought that my discipline of my students was far too harsh. I went in to speak with him one day because when a sub had been in my room one child had grabbed another in a head lock, was stabbing him with a pencil, and whispering in his ear that he was going to murder him. No consequences were given to the boy.
I shouldn’t have gone in there when I found out, because I was REALLY heated. If I can’t promise my kids safety in school, well then I didn’t deserve to have a classroom (in my opinion). This is the least I would expect from Finn’s future teacher’s and if they can’t provide that peace of mind, he will not be in their class. I will never forget what he said to me that day. “If a child leaves with a limb dragging behind them, what do they learn?”
This was the direction we were moving toward as a school. I don’t believe that kids should be punished for punishing sake. However, I do believe that when certain actions result in the world coming down around that person, they will think twice before doing it again. I know that it has to be a consequence that teaches. The administration thought I went too far with consequences and I heard about it constantly.
I remember when a new student joined my class with only about 12 weeks left of school. He had a very hard home life, spent most of his time at home caring for himself. He was very physical with other kids, for no apparent reason. As soon as he did that I came down on him, and I came down hard. I always had a “conference” with the kid when something like this happened so I could talk to them about why I was very unhappy with their choices, discuss what other choices they could have made, that I don’t like their ACTIONS but I do like THEM, and if anyone were to do that to them, I would come down just as hard on the other kid. This little boy wasn’t new to getting in trouble, I’m sure he’d heard a million speeches that were nearly identical to mine and I could see the instant I lost him as his eyes wandered.
It was only a few days later that I caught another boy pushing him in the hallway. I was on that kid so fast, their head was spinning. I also saw the second the first boy understood that I was there to protect him too. After that moment I never had a problem with this child. He was attached to me like a second skin. He would walk down the hall holding my hand and give me bear hugs constantly though out the day.
He still had behavior issues in other classes and even with the administration. He kicked, punched, and slapped the principal. This boy was looking for was someone who he could trust and would continue to love him even after he made a bad choice. Even though he wasn’t in my class for very long, this particular boy will always be in my heart. I wish it was this “simple” to reach out to kids and I only had success when dealing with kids. That’s not life. I do believe that every kid just wants to know they are loved, no matter what they do and they are trying to figure out who they can trust.
So after much reflection in what I know to be true, what I believe in, and my intention in dealing with people, I think it’s appropriate to have very strict consequences for kids and that’s what we employ with Finn (and will continue to in the future).
For example, when Finn comes to the age where he will have time on the computer, we will closely monitor what he is doing, where he is spending his time, and who he talks to. If he abuses his privilege, then we will shut his world down. He will have everything taken away from him so he feels like he’s on lock down because the internet can be a very scary place and I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I allowed that to happen to my son when I could have prevented it. It also scares me because I think kids are too trusting and give out information, unknowingly that could put their well being into jeopardy. Predators on the internet are very smart and clever and can find victims from a scrap of information here paired with another, that no one else would thing to put together.
A study showed that there was a large town with huge crime problem and the police wouldn’t respond to calls in this particular neighborhood because it was so dangerous. There was a subway station and nearly everyone hopped the turn-styles since there were no consequences for their actions. There was graffiti all over the trains.
When they looked for a way to address this crime problem they decided to try something different than they had done in the past. They cracked down on these small crimes. Police were stationed to make sure everyone paid to ride the train and if there was graffiti, the train would get repainted before it went out in public again.
**Side note**I personally think ALL trains are more beautiful with graffiti on them. It is beautiful art, but that’s just me.
This sent a very clear message to the citizens. Even the smallest crime was going to be prosecuted. What they found was this dramatically decreased crime in all areas. The message was they were valuable enough to ride in trains cars that were without graffiti. And they also found that almost overnight, the only one’s that jumped the turn-styles were NOT law abiding citizens, so they were able to catch people that were involved with serious crimes from those that were perpetrating small, insignificant crimes.
If people are held responsible for small, “victimless” crimes, it not only stops the small crimes but often also the larger, violent crimes.
I had been hearing about some old news stories that made me really consider this further. There were 2 stories in particular (that had occurred a decade or more ago) where the victims gave interviews recently now that they were adults.
In the first one, there were twin girls who were being routinely raped by their two older brothers. When they told their father, instead of protecting them, he began to rape them as well. They lived in this hell for years. When they were finally rescued, their brothers served only 15 years and their father was already out, serving less than 10 years.
A second story I heard was about a family who took the abuse of their children to extremes. There were multiple kids in the family and all were abused, but their little girl got the majority of the attention. She lived in her personal hell for 7 years before she was rescued. Her parents had kept her in a dog kennel which looked smaller than the one we use for our lab. The kennel was kept in their unfinished basement, with no light (artificial or otherwise), they only provided the smallest amount of food for her to live on, she ate it from a dog bowl, and they wouldn’t let her out to use the bathroom. Which of course resulted in accidents and the parents would become so upset by this that they would spray her with ice cold water while she was in the cage.
She endured 7 years of this torture. SEVEN. YEARS. I can’t imagine living like that for one day much less 3,657 days. How much prison time did her parents get? One year. You didn’t read that wrong…ONE. YEAR. They didn’t even have to serve as long as she did (and prison with 3 meals a day and toilet would have seemed like heaven to her).
For me, there is not harsh enough punishment for these types of crimes and it really tests my belief in opposing capital punishment. In my classroom and for my son, they might not learn from losing a limb, but they will learn from the world crashing down around their head so they know they know their actions are unacceptable and I expect them to make better choices in the future. My hope in this is, if we sweat the small stuff today, there won’t be big stuff in the future.
I was watching the movie Freakonomics which had some very interesting points…some of which I agree with and some that I don’t. One that I found astonishing was about legalizing abortion was directly tied to a reduction in crime. Now I don’t think people should get pregnant if and until they’re ready. I do believe in birth control. I wish there was no necessity for abortions…but we’re not there yet and I don’t want anybody else to have jurisdiction over my uterus or anyone else’s.
Their study showed that women who had unplanned pregnancy and took advantage of abortion delayed childbearing which allowed them to get to a point in their life where they could provide a great life for their children. This ability to delay having children was directly linked to a reduction in crime. When we force women to carry and raise their children when they’re not ready, they will most likely NOT finish school, which greatly reduces getting a job where they get paid a living wage and can provide for their family, so they live in poverty needing to work multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their head and food on the table which creates a cycle where their children will most likely follow in their parents footsteps.
I would rather have a child be aborted than forcing babies to become parents who raise children that will often end up behind bars. I am NOT saying that pregnant women should be pressured or even nudged toward getting an abortion unless and until they have the ability to provide for their child. I AM saying that they should have the OPTION of delaying parenthood for themselves to create a better life for themselves and their family. When abortion is taken out of the picture, women are more likely to keep and raise their children verses giving them up for adoption. And even if they did put their child up for adoption, simply carrying a child often will create a situation where the mom falls behind in school, often to drop out.
I also AM NOT arguing that abortion should be used to control crime. I AM saying that sometimes positive outcomes from difficult situations. If I started training to run a marathon to get in shape, my intention might not be weight-loss, yet that would be an unintended consequence whether or not that was the intentional goal. If abortion is an option, lower crime rates could be an unintended consequence.
Where do you come down? Do you prefer a gentle use of consequence or do you drop the hammer? Do you believe stricter consequences, earlier, will result in better choices in the future? Good outcomes from horribly difficult situations.
**EDIT-as I just re-read this, I have another perspective, but it’s long already, so check back tomorrow.**