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                   Discipline With Dignity

     

DISCIPLINE WITH DIGNITY

Discipline with dignity approach was developed by Richard Curwin and Allen Mendler. Dignity refers to respect for life and for oneself and it has been at the center of Curwin and Mendler’s approach to discipline. Curwin and Mendler point out that students with chronic behavior problems see themselves as losers and have stopped trying to gain acceptance in normal ways. In order to maintain a sense of dignity, those students tell themselves it is better to stop trying than to continue failing, and that it is better to be recognized as a troublemaker then be seen as stupid.Discipline with dignity equips teachers and administrators with classroom skills and techniques that enable them to spend less time dealing with behavioral problems and more time on positive interactions with students and on instruction. This model is a responsibility and empowerment-based versus obedience-based discipline model, which creates an atmosphere of democracy, encouragement, hope and warmth where clearly defined limits (with student input) and skills in resolving conflicts are taught and applied.

Basic Principles

Specifically, the model contains three hierarchical dimensions (3-D Discipline) including, Prevention, Action, and Resolution. Prevention describes what teachers can do to prevent discipline problems from happening in the first place. This dimension has seven stages

(1) increasing teacher self-awareness,

(2) increasing student awareness,

(3) expressing true feelings,

(4) discovering and recognizing alternatives or other models of discipline,

(5) motivating students to learn,

(6) establishing social contracts with the class, and

(7) implementing social contracts.

The class meeting to establish a social contract is basic to the prevention dimension.
A social contract is a mutually developed set of specific and clear rules and consequences that define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in the classroom. During the class meeting,consequences are also established for both the teacher and the students if they break rules.Once the social contract has been created, the teacher will be tested on the rules with 100 percent correct answers required. If the students fail, the teacher will reteach the rules to the students. Then the test is taken over and over until passed. The social contract is shared with the principal, parents and other teachers. If the rules and consequences are not working, the teacher will have another meeting to change them.Curwin and Mendler’s view of consequences is similar to those defined in Dreikurs’s punishment vs. logical consequences. They believe that punishment destroys the student’s dignity. For them, consequences must be clear and specific, must have a range of alternatives, must not be punishment, and must be related to the rule.An important contribution by Curwin and Mendler is the concept of “fair and not equal“. There is a range of consequences and this model permits the teacher flexibility to teach. Therefore, the teacher may select one consequence when a student breaks a rule and may select another consequence when another student breaks the same rule.Curwin and Mendler criticizes using praise as an adult-imposed value judgment. Instead they suggest using I-statements which is different from I-message as a form of praise. The I-statement has 3 components: the behavior (what the student did), the feeling (how the teacher felt about the behavior) and the reason (why you felt this way).
 

Ex: Mehmet when you completed your classwork, I was very pleased because now I see that you understood the lesson.

The action dimension provides teachers with the knowledge and skills to stop misbehavior when it occurs. The model establishes 9 principles of consequence implementation:
• Be consistent by always implementing a consequence.
• When the rule is broken, simply state the rule and consequence.
• Use the power of proximity by being close to the student when implementing a consequence.
• Make direct eye contact when delivering a consequence.
•Use a soft voice.
• Don’t embarrass the student in front of his/her peers.
• Be firm and anger free while delivering the consequence.
• Do not accept excuses, bargaining, or whining.

If a student refuses the accept the consequence, some strategies are suggested such as, doing active listening, ignoring attempt by student to fight, speaking with the student later and giving student time out.The teacher gives the student time to think about whether or not to accept the consequence and if the student fails to comply the administration intervenes with the insubordination rule. The insubordination rule is the principal manner of supporting the teacher with a defiant student. The student may not return to class until he or she is willing to accept the consequence.The resolution dimension is used to reach outof- control students. These students who cannot comply with the social contract, require individual contracts. Individual contracts are needed when students do not accept the consequences established in the social contract; chronically violate rules and disrupt the class and repeatedly refuse to follow specific rules of the rules of the social contract. In these situations teachers should discuss preventive procedures with the student, develop a mutually agreeable plan, monitor the plan and revise it if necessary, and use creative approaches.Curwin and Mendler’s model is structured, yet flexible, and it takes into account the feelings and ideas of both teachers and students. This model provides strategies and techniques from many different discipline models, such as active listening from T.E.T., logical consequences from Dreikurs, proximity from Jones, behavior analysis techniques and others.

The consistent application of discipline with dignity can and does lead to increased mutual respect between student and teachers where power struggles can become a thing of the past. However it is not clear in the model that how effective this approach may be with the more severely oppositional and defiant students who may refuse both social and individual contracts.