Saturday, June 20, 2009

Describe Your Philosophy Concerning Discipline in Relation to Children’s Behavior

I am spending my summer in Delton, Michigan, serving as a camp counselor for 13-16 year olds at Circle Pines Center Summer Camps. I will return to the Chicago area and return to blogging in Early August. I often call it a 'hippie camp' because of it's emphasis on teaching environmental concern and nonviolence. In my application I was asked to "Describe my Philosophy concerning discipline in relation to children's behavior.' This was my response.


Education and discipline evolves out of what you want society to be, and how you believe is the best way to create the society you believe in. Essentially discipline is a way to educate people into behaving a certain way. A positive disciplining would be one which encourages people, through positive reinforcement, to cooperate. A negative discipline is one which values the punishment more than the rehabilitation.

Fundamentally, there are two ways of raising children. There is the example set in Rousseau's Emile, which encourages children to be unrestrained and develop into social creatures without any societal restraints placed on them. On the other hand is John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, where he describes his childhood, being closely conditioned by his father, reading classic literature, mastering languages and developing according to the path western civilization set out.

I am philosophically more attuned with Rousseau, but we don't live in the wild freedom that would allow us to let children be and develop on their own. Without social or parental guidance, children, would fall under bad influences that would condition and promote the most competitive and destructive qualities into them. It's been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but in a society where there is little community, there is not much of a village to raise a child. Hence why I think it's important for us to cultivate positive cooperative traits in children at the same time we build community and fight for social justice.

Circle pines center is great because offers a combination of Rousseau and Mill's philosophies towards education. It is a place where children can have a safe environment to grow and learn how to help each other instead of tear each other down. However, even in that environment, there can be children who have carried competitive or destructive behavior from the outside world into circle pines. I feel that it is important to confront that behavior, without belittling or dehumanizing the person committing it. I have always felt that rehabilitation is better than punishment. Justice is better than revenge.

In the case of a child acting out in problematic or destructive ways, such as teasing, I would initially attempt to facilitate a way for them to work out any issues they have with others. I would encourage them to put themselves in others shoes and attempt to make them empathetic to the feelings of others. If they continue to act out, I would have them take a time-out to think about what they did and how they can learn from their mistakes. In extreme circumstances, when they are acting in violent ways, I would bring in the appropriate authorities to handle the situation, camp director, parents, etc. In no way should a child be physically hit by a figure of authority. Such violence only reinforces a negative worldview and legitimizes destructive behavior.

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