Six-year-olds who have trouble behaving in the classroom are essentially being shown the door at a Brooklyn charter school, according to a disturbing article in the New York Times. The story underscores how important it is to get help—not just punishment—for kids with behavioral issues.
When schools resort to suspending kindergartners—often repeatedly!—it certainly speaks to how frustrated they must be. Who could possibly think suspending a 5-year-old is an effective way to teach him to control outbursts?
Neither is a call to 911, which the article says was another threatened consequence for a young girl who had been “pushing or kicking, moving chairs or tables, or refusing to go to another classroom.”
Fortunately a lot of schools, including many charter schools, are beginning to focus on really understanding and getting help for kids who are disruptive, instead of just punishing them. And many are helping teachers acquire more effective skills for managing kids who disrupt their classrooms and undermine learning for everyone.
The good news is that young kids who have problems with disruptive or defiant behavior can very often learn to manage their feelings with the right guidance from teachers, and support from other mental health professionals—especially when it happens in the environment where the problem behavior happens.
At the Child Mind Institute, we know it can work because we’re doing it, working with teachers right in the classroom, and we’re seeing the results. So are the teachers. As one told me last spring, “You’re less stressed, because you’re wasting less time getting the kids to follow directions. There’s a little more joy to the lessons. And you can actually get through a lesson and maybe do something fun.”
And, I’d add, the kids who had been disrupting the class are learning, not being sent home.