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Positive Discipline in the Classroom

by Karina Bustamante de Huerta, Clinical Psychologist and Elementary school counselor , and Jeremy Mathis 4th grade teacher from InterAmerican Academy – Guayaquil, Ecuador

Positive Discipline Classroom Educator

As a clinical psychologist working in the field for the last nine years I have been searching new theories to help children, not only to thrive towards their difficulties, but to prevent socio-emotional problems. In the Positive Discipline philosophy I found the complement I was looking for. This philosophy helps me to guide parents and teachers, to become better in their roles.

Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of the psychiatrists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs designed to teach young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. In the late 1980’s the family therapists Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott , created the Positive Discipline program for schools which intends that students not only learn valuable life skills, such as empathy, conflict resolution, self-control, and responsibility, among others but to encourage the students to be successful, contributing members of their community. According to Nelsen, “We need to advance towards a system that encourages the development of personal capabilities, to help young children feel that they deserve the respect and promote responsible decision making, and mutual aid.  Schools can empower youngsters by giving them courage, confidence and skills for life, instead of overwhelming them with feelings of fear and inadequacy”.


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The model that Positive Discipline offers is different to traditional models to which most educators are used to; you can say that it’s a model that, in order to be implemented requires a complete change of paradigm from the teacher. To change other people’s believes about education and discipline isn’t an easy task; however I am determined to share the Positive Discipline principles with parents, and teachers, especially at Interamerican Academy, where I am the Elementary school counselor.  The fruits of the seeds planted can be seen in the work of our fourth grade teacher, Mr. Jeremy Mathis, who decided to make this change and get his certification as a “Certified Positive Discipline Classroom Educator (PDCE)” at the end of September 2014. Currently Mr. Mathis implements the Positive Discipline program in his classroom.  Here is his story:

“Positive Discipline has caused a dramatic and positive change to my classroom environment.  I have always taken pride in my classroom management skills and my ability to create a positive classroom community.  My students in the past have experienced a climate in which we have addressed problems when they came up, handled them in a respectful and appropriate manner, and delivered consequences as needed.


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However, after the Positive Discipline workshop I came to the realization that we were not truly solving problems.  Of course we would address them, handle them (often times with a consequence), hope that the student learned his or her lesson, and move on.  We did not focus on the root of the problem and students did not have much participation in the process.  Now, in my classroom, all students know that in Mr. Mathis’s classroom we focus on solutions.


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Now, solutions almost solely come from the students.  They have become deeply invested in not only solving their own problems, but also helping others find respectful solutions to their problems.  Before becoming a Positive Discipline classroom educator, students would come straight to me with a problem in hopes that there would be some kind of a consequence as a remedy to the problem.  Now, students still come to me with problems.  However they may say, “Mr. Mathis I had a meeting with John about a problem we are having but we weren’t able to come up with a solution.  Can I add it to our next meeting’s agenda?”  It has completely eliminated the “tattle tale” mentality and changed the way that students think.


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During our classroom meetings (which occur three times a week), we first acknowledge each other with compliments and appreciations.  In this part of the meeting students feel important and recognized.  We then revisit previous solutions to problems to check in with students to determine if the solution worked.  If the first agreed upon solution did not work, students brainstorm more ideas.  After revisiting previous solutions, we focus on our agenda with any problems that need to be discussed while focusing on possible solutions.  The students involved in the problem identify one of the suggested solutions that they are willing to try.  We wrap up our meeting by discussing future plans.


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Positive Discipline has empowered my students, created a more positive and respectful environment, and helped to develop positive characteristics in students that serve them today to be successful academically and socially and will continue to serve them well in the distant future”.


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Positive Discipline is a program that will not only teach life skills, but that will encourage the students to improve their behavior as well. With Positive Discipline, teachers include their students allowing them to experience a sense of belonging and significance, the main ingredients to help them feel and act better. I strongly believe that the implementation of the Positive Discipline program in any educational institution is the best gift to prepare our children for the future.

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