Teaching self-control

Instead of letting violent students disrupt elementary classes, or calling in the cops, some schools are creating special classes that teach self-control before kids get big enough to get into serious trouble. The Boston Globe reports on a class in Lowell, Massachusetts for kindergarteners and first graders who’d attacked a teacher with scissors, threw a chair, kicked, cursed and punched.

In the Lowell program, three adults — a teacher, an aide, and a social worker — monitor the students. Each child’s desk is set more than a foot apart, and red tape on the floor marks the child’s personal space.

Like any first-graders, the students read stories, write paragraphs, and add and subtract. But they also learn how to act or speak when they are upset, instead of throwing tantrums. A weekly goal is taped to the top of each student’s desk.

When they improve, they earn points toward privileges, such as going to the gym or the art or music room, instead of having those lessons in class.

In the beginning, some students had to be restrained 16 to 17 times a day to avoid hurting themselves or others, school officials said. The adults, who are trained in nonviolent restraint tactics, subdue the children by standing behind them, folding their arms across their chests, and holding their forearms from behind, usually for a few minutes. After about 16 weeks teaching the students, the teachers rarely have to use the tactics, Dunning said.

. . . When their anger boils over, students are taken to an adjacent room, where they talk to an adult. If they do not wish to talk, they can crawl into a large box to be alone or scribble out their anger on the chalkboard. Or they go downstairs to a therapy room, where students play in the sandbox or use board games to make it easier for them to talk.

Some of the students now are able to visit regular classes; the goal is to return all to the mainstream when they’re ready.

Two-thirds of elementary schools are “starting behavior programs for elementary school pupils or looking for ways to address the problem,” June Million, spokeswoman for the National Association of Elementary School Principals, told the Globe.

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  1. Mike in Texas says:

    It sounds great; I know of several kids at my school who would benefit from such a program

  2. This is so common-sense-ical that I’m surprised no one proposed it before. (That said, why aren’t the PARENTS teaching these kids discipline and behavior? I remember my mom carrying my (screaming) brother out of the grocery – and telling him the consequence that there would be no applesauce with dinner (she had gone to buy apples) because he couldn’t show good public behavior. Only took a few times of that before he learned that you don’t pitch a fit if you want to get something).

  3. widebody says:

    Yet another example of the parents abdicating their responsibilities and expecting the government to do their jobs. These are “kindergarteners and first graders who’d attacked a teacher with scissors, threw a chair, kicked, cursed and punched,” and apparently the parents bare no responsibility. Next some smart lawyer will convince these alleged parents that there’s money to be made by suing the teachers for restraining their offspring?

  4. murphy300 says:

    The added benefit to the program is that the first graders who show up for school ready, willing and able to learn can do so in an environment that is conducive to learning.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Would that it were not necessary, but it seems a reasonable first step in attempting to keep kids in the main stream.
    Let teachers teach.
    Let students stude.

  6. Mike in Texas says:

    Walter wrote:

    Let students stude.


  7. Widebody and Ricki

    Not everyone is like your family. The students actually sound emotionally disturbed and need the help. Also, perhaps these are single parent homes where the situation is beyond the control of the mother.

  8. Elizabeth Ditz says:

    According to Lisa, these kids are not run-of-the-mill brats, but victims of abuse, neglect, or born-that-way mental illness. She should know, she’s been teaching in such classrooms for years.


  9. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    It takes good parents to raise a child, but because they are so many dysfunctional ‘parents’ who are really nothing more than egg and sperm-donors, the ‘village’ has to take over, by default. Schools become the parents. Sad, but true. Lack of individual personal responsibility has produced the monster of cradle-to-grave socialism. Hopefully, we can return from the dark ages of the 1960’s-1970’s “Me Decade”. Our civilization depends on it.

  10. Lowell has some 2100 students in K and 1st grade. These kids are a tiny group in comparison.

  11. There are simply some students who need self-control classes and programs. (Though I would prescribe starting school at a later age than five or six. Not everyone is ready when the State says so.) Maybe they are emotionally disturbed, abused, or pre-natally drugged. Maybe they need programs such as this, or even a special full-time boarding school that does the job of parenting as well as teaching.

    This particular program is a good one because:
    a) it is not punitive,
    b) it has a high degree of teacher interaction,
    c) it uses constructive segregation.

    Educrats have a dogmatic belief that any sort of segregation is bad, and that non-average students need to be mainstreamed as much as possible for their social needs. But what if they need to be segregated for their own protection, or the protection of others? It’s a very good thing that educrats are not in charge of adult society, else I would be legally obligated to share my workspace with convicted criminals!