One size (style) does not fit all. Effective teachers try to understand how individual children take in and process information. They realize that not all children learn the same way. Learning styles describe the ways in which individual children acquire information, evaluate it, and then examine their findings. Learning styles in general are applicable to all content areas and settings. Effective teachers try to present materials in ways that will interest children and help them to absorb the information. Understanding a child’s learning style helps accomplish this.
Most theories of learning styles, beginning with the theory of Carl Jung in 1927, focus on the personality and motivation of the individual. Most learning style theories place individuals into four groups of learners, with approximate percentages for each group. The following model by Silver, Strong, and Perini (1997) is a good example.
- Mastery Style Learners: Absorb information concretely step by step. They value practicality and clarity (35 percent).
- Understanding Learners: Work with ideas and abstractions using methods of questioning and reasoning. They value logic and evidence (35 percent).
- Self-Expressive Learners: Learn through feelings and seeing images in materials. They value originality (12 percent).
- Interpersonal Learners: Work with others using concrete ideas. Results should be of social value. They are the future humanitarians or volunteers (18 percent).
Currently, most learning style theorists believe that individuals become more flexible in the ways they approach learning as they gain knowledge and experience. Eventually most individuals will have a favored learning style but will use other learning styles when necessary. Teachers can help children develop a profile of their preferred learning style but should also encourage them to utilize other ways to process information. This will give them more options in the future.
Multiple Intelligence Theory
Understanding what is meant by intelligence or trying to separate intelligent from unintelligent behavior is difficult. There are many different theories. According to Wechsler (1975), intelligence is the capacity to understand the world, think rationally, and use resources effectively when faced with challenges. Gardner (1993), a Harvard theorist, defines intelligence as “the ability to solve problems, or to fashion products that are of consequence in a particular setting or community.” Gardner (1983) does not define intelligence as a single broad-based domain, but describes nine distinct intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal. naturalist, and existential. The first seven are described and integrated with learning styles in the next section. Each of these intelligences is relatively independent, but can combine with any other intelligence depending on the activity (Gardner and Hatch, 1989). This theory is based on research in physiology, anthropology, and personal and cultural history (Silver, et al., 1997). Individuals show different aptitudes in each of these content areas but no one is highly gifted in all areas. It is often easy to identify someone who is gifted in one area such as music, sports, or writing, but many times it is not so obvious. Consulting with parents helps teachers find children’s strengths.
Integrating learning Styles with Multiple Intelligences
Each of these theories presents us with different information about children’s learning. Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory provides cognitive information about the various content areas and the products of learning. Learning styles look at how individuals may differ in the ways in which they process information. By combining both learning styles and multiple intelligences theories, one can understand the different ways in which individuals process information as well as look at how this occurs in the different content areas and contexts (settings).
The following chart shows seven of Gardner’s multiple intelligences and how each of the four learning styles operates within a particular intelligence. It includes possible vocations people might choose. Individuals utilize their particular talents differently based on their learning style preference. For example, a journalist, lawyer, playwright, and salesperson all use their linguistic skills differently because of their different learning styles. Learning Styles are Mastery, Understanding, Self-Expressive, and Intrapersonal.
# Linguistic Intelligence: the ability to produce and use language
Mastery: Uses language to describe events. Jobs: journalist, technical writer, administrator
Understanding: Uses logical arguments and rhetoric. Jobs: lawyer, professor, philosopher
Self-Expressive: Uses metaphoric and expressive language. Jobs: playwright, poet, ad writer, novelist
Interpersonal: Uses language to build trust and rapport. Jobs: salesperson, counselor, member of the clergy
# Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: Ability to solve problems and think scientifically
Mastery: Uses numbers to compute and document. Jobs: accountant, bookkeeper, statistician
Understanding: Uses mathematical concepts for conjectures, proofs, and other applications. Jobs: computer programmer, scientist, logician
Self-Expressive: Sensitive to the patterns, symmetry, logic, and aesthetics of mathematics. Solves problems in design and modeling. Jobs: composer, engineer, inventor, designer
Interpersonal: Uses mathematics in everyday life. Jobs: tradesperson, homemaker
# Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: Ability to use parts or the whole body to solve problems, to construct products or displays
Mastery: Uses the body and tools to act, construct or repair effectively. Jobs: mechanic, trainer, craftsperson
Understanding: Develops strategic plans and critiques the actions of the body. Jobs: physical educator, sports analyst, professional athlete, theater or dance critic
Self-Expressive: Appreciates and uses the aesthetics of the body to create new forms of expression. Jobs: sculptor, choreographer, actor, dancer, puppeteer
Interpersonal: Uses the body to build rapport, console, persuade and suppport others. Jobs: coach, counselor, salesperson, trainer
# Spacial Intelligence: Uses visual and spatial configurations
Mastery: Views the visual-spacial world accurately. Jobs: artist, guide, photographer
Understanding: Interprets and graphically represents visual or spacial ideas. Jobs: architect, icongrapher, computer graphics designer, art critic
Self-Expressive: Uses visual and spacial ideas creatively. Jobs: artist, inventor, model builder, cinematographer
Interpersonal: Uses color, space, line, form and space to meet the needs of others. Jobs: illustrator, artist, guide, photographer
# Musical Intelligence: Uses skills involving music
Mastery: Understands and develops musical technique. Jobs: technician, music teacher, instrument maker
Understanding: Interprets musical forms and ideas. Jobs: music critic, aficionado, music collector
Self-Expressive: Creates expressive and imaginative performances and compositions. Jobs: composer, conductor, individual/small group performer
Interpersonal: Works with others and uses music to serve others. Jobs: choral, band, and orchestral performer or conductor
# Interpersonal Intelligence: Interacts with others, sensitive to their moods, temperament, motivations, and intentions
Mastery: Effective communicator and organizer of people. Jobs: consultant, politician, evangelist
Understanding: Interprets differences in interpersonal clues. Jobs: sociologist, psychologist, psychotherapist
Self-expressive: Creates imaginative and expressive performances and compositions. Jobs: composer, individual or small-group performer
Interpersonal: Works with others to use music to meet the needs of others. Jobs: coach, counselor, salesperson, or trainer
# Intrapersonal Intelligence: Understands one’s own feelings and emotions
Mastery: Accesses and uses one’s own weaknesses, strengths, talents, and interests to set goals. Jobs: planner, small business owner
Understanding: Develops concepts and theories based on self-examination. Jobs: psychologist
Self-expressive: Creates and expresses a personal vision based on inner moods, intuitions, and temperament. Jobs: artist, religious leader, writer
Interpersonal: Uses understanding of self to serve others. Jobs: counselor, social worker
This integrated plan for understanding the acquisition and use of knowledge can help:
- Teachers individualize learning in a manageable way.
- Children acquire the specific skills that society requires.
- Children acquire information and an appreciation of each intelligence by exploring it through their personal learning style.
- Children identify and develop their special talent or talents (Silver, et al., 1997).
As a teacher, you will use many informal strategies to nurture friendships among students. For a few students, you may collaborate with a special educator or counselor in using a formal instructional package that builds student social skills. However, a third option also exists. Particularly with elementary students, you may decide to teach friendship skills directly using these steps :
# Identify someone to whom you can introduce yourself . Students should examine their surroundings and find someone with whom they would like to play or talk. Students should be given examples of how people look when they want to play or talk. To illustrate, the teacher can use pictures of students engaging in a variety of activities—for example, a student finishing a homework assignment, a student coloring alone, a student with a sad face, and a student with a happy face.
# Smile and approach the person. The teacher should model walking up to someone with a smile on her face. Students should practice this while approaching a peer.
# Introduce yourself. Students should say their names, ask the other person his name, and look at the person and smile. The teacher should continue modeling.
# Ask open-ended questions to get and give information. Students can ask the other student what he is playing with, what’s happening, and so forth. Students need to know that open-ended questions have answers of more than two or three words. Students should remember to look at the person and smile. The teacher now can ask two students to model for the class, or the teacher can continue modeling. A list of questions can be provided for the students if they are able to read, or the teacher can provide questioning prompts. This step will depend on the level of the students.
# Suggest something to play or do together. Students should find some activity or game to play on the playground, during free time, or during passing period. The teacher can prompt pairs to engage in an activity and provide ideas for students so their interaction will continue.
Once students have learned these skills, you can provide them with simple reminder cards with words and/or pictures so they can practice on their own. Teaching these steps will be even more effective if you use children’s literature to illustrate how friends are made.
High levels of confidence have been linked to better academic performance and social skills. But just telling your child “Good job!” or “You’re a star!” doesn’t build self-confidence. “Think of the ‘self’ in self-confidence,” says psychologist Dr. Erica Ross. “It’s the child’s own viewpoint that matters.” As a parent, what can you do to support your kid’s inner cheerleader?
# Focus on Strengths
Help your child realize what’s special about her. For example, she might like to play basketball, draw, take care of her baby brother, or care for animals. These strengths don’t need to be things that she’s “the best” at, or even things she’s succeeded in—they’re just her unique interests that make her who she is. Appreciating these attributes can give her a boost when she encounters difficulties.
# Practice Confident Body Language
# Encourage Self-Evaluation
# Make Goals
Missing social skills is the single most common cause of discipline problems. Children’s squabbles over materials and their unskilled efforts to make friends cause frequent disruptions to both preschool and primary classrooms. Social skills are discussed last because we see them as an outgrowth of the previously discussed aspects of development. Physical abilities, emotional development, and levels of intellectual understanding all combine to determine current levels of social skill and understanding.
Teachers of young children have a big responsibility because the early years are crucial for social development. Youngsters who do not develop social competence in the early childhood years typically continue to experience difficulty with peer acceptance throughout the school years (Howes & Ritchie, 2002; Johnson, Ironsmith, Snow, & Poteat, 2000). Not surprisingly, these children are at risk as adults for social and emotional problems (Denham et al., 2001; Yanghee, 2003). Helping youngsters learn how to make a friend and be a friend is crucial to their life-long happiness. It’s also a big help to teacher happiness when children learn how to get along.
Constructing Knowledge for Social Skills
Children construct knowledge as a result of reflecting on their experiences. As they experiment with blocks, for instance, they observe the results of trying to stack, balance, and bridge structures. Thinking about the results helps children revise erroneous ideas. This process helps them construct understanding about such concepts as gravity, balance, and measurement. Children construct their theories of how the social world works in the same sort of trial-and-error situations.
As youngsters experiment with different ways of interacting with others, they observe the results of various approaches. Reflecting on the results of their social overtures can help children figure out how to play with others successfully and how to make friends. We have remarked previously on the value of peer conflicts as teaching situations. You may be surprised to hear that children’s fights are useful teaching tools. Conflicts tend to challenge children’s assumptions and encourage an exchange of viewpoints. They help youngsters realize that not everyone sees things their way. Thus, conflicts provide the necessary experience for learning and they provide the teachable moments. Helping children deal with their disputes gives the teacher an opportunity to guide children’s thinking about the experience. The adult role varies, depending on the child’s individual levels of emotional, intellectual, and social development.
Teaching children to think critically about their behavior and to use reasoning abilities to learn to solve interpersonal problems is consistent with current recommended approaches to teaching other subjects. National guidelines in every area of the curriculum urge teaching for critical thinking and problem solving instead of old approaches of memorized learning. Some adults think it is enough to simply tell children how they are expected to behave and then punish them if they do not. That approach would be the same as a teacher merely demanding mastery of mathematics without instruction, assessment, and reteaching (Butchart & McEwan, 1998).
Adults who are focused only on immediate outcomes will use punishment to get desired behaviors, believing that the teaching approach is too slow. Keeping long-term goals in mind is especially important and difficult when dealing with behaviors linked to maturation. True, you won’t get 4-year-olds (or even 5-year-olds) to truly understand the feelings of the child they just hit; but that doesn’t mean you stop working toward your goals. If you resort to coercive tactics, you will make it more difficult for the child to eventually become considerate of others.
Have you noticed that we are not talking about social skills as learning to say please, thank you, and I’m sorry? These are polite ways of speaking, but they are only superficial behaviors and do not necessarily reflect true feelings (Flicker & Hoffman, 2002). Some adults and children confuse these memorized phrases with the understanding needed for true social competence. You have certainly seen children who are caught doing something wrong and who automatically say, “I’m sorry,” yet show no signs of remorse. These children have merely learned the magic words for getting out of punishment. Too many adults focus on teaching socially acceptable words instead of helping children understand others and develop caring feelings.
- Mrs. Jensen realized the uselessness of teaching words instead of understanding several years ago when she rescued Isabel from Jason’s physical aggression. Jason was angry with Isabel and was gripping her wrists very hard, hurting her. After Mrs. Jensen pried his hands off Isabel and helped Isabel to tell Jason how she felt, she asked Jason what he could do to make Isabel feel better.
- Jason said “Thank you,” and Mrs. Jensen asked Isabel if that made her feel better. Isabel replied in a disdainful voice, “No. Jason, you have to say ‘sorry.’” So Jason said, “Sorry.” However, Mrs. Jensen could tell that one platitude was as meaningless as the next.
Once children experience the joy of friendships, they are motivated to work at keeping them. As stated previously, this gives a reason for trying to understand another child’s viewpoint in a conflict.
The ability to see things from another’s viewpoint, perspective-taking, is essential to social competence. Without this ability, youngsters remain self-centered and unable to relate to the interests, needs, and rights of others. Until children can take into consideration the viewpoint of another person, they cannot make progress in reasoning about fairness. When they can only see their own views, their idea of justice consists of that which they desire for themselves. Obviously, this perception will not endear them to playmates.
There is considerable difference of opinion about how early children are able to understand another person’s thoughts and feelings. Examples of empathy from toddlers are often used to dispute Piaget’s research findings that perspective taking does not emerge until around age 6 (e.g., Lillard & Curenton, 1999). Although frequently discussed together, empathy is not the same thing as perspective taking. We agree that certain forms of empathy appear early, such as sympathizing with another child who is sad. However, true perspective taking, the ability to take another person’s view into consideration even when it conflicts with your own, is another matter. A 3-year-old who gives a cookie to a hungry child when there are plenty of cookies is not likely to do so when there is only one cookie, especially if that 3-year-old wants the cookie for himself or herself. Though very young children have been observed sharing and helping others (Eisenberg, 1992), it is not clear that these are demonstrations of true perspective-taking. Positive social behaviors may be motivated from other sources.
Despite differences in the research literature, there is agreement that awareness develops gradually from an egocentric perspective to the ability to respond to and even predict how others will feel (Hyson, 2004). Anyone working with young children is aware of their egocentricity (Flicker & Hoffman, 2002). According to Selman (DeVries, Hildebrandt, & Zan, 2000; Selman, 1980), with experience and guidance, people move through five levels of perspective taking as follows: Level 0, not recognizing that others have feelings or ideas different from your own, is common during preschool. During the primary grades, most children operate at level 1. At this point, young children realize that others have their own feelings, but can’t consider someone else’s feelings while thinking about their own. Our observation shows that this is particularly true when their own feelings are in opposition to the other person’s. As they move into upper elementary school, level 2 thinking is more common. This brings the ability to consider another person’s views as well as their own. Levels 3 and 4 bring increasing decentering and the ability to coordinate mutual perspectives. However, these generally do not emerge until adolescence and adulthood. Theory of mind research points out the role of maturation as children develop understanding of their own and others’ thinking (Flavell & Hartman, 2004).
This information about children’s thinking should help you to be more accepting of how they behave. You will respond differently when you realize that young children probably aren’t being mean when they disregard another child’s feelings; they’re just being young. This information about levels of intellectual development also offers essential guidance for helping children move to higher levels. The message is not to just accept the child’s lack of perspective-taking, but to aim your teaching one level higher than what the child is doing (DeVries, Hildebrandt, & Zan, 2000).
Working with young children, you will often see situations like the following:
- Jessie is working on a drawing, using the only yellow marker at the table. Jack reaches over and grabs the marker out of Jessie’s hand. He seems somewhat startled when Jessie yells at him and tries to grab the marker back. Soon the two are in a tug-of-war, with both sides claiming they need the marker.
- Dennis stops the struggle and calms the children with his gentle presence. He works at getting each child to explain his or her feelings, trying to get them to use the “I messages” he consistently models. Then Dennis shows Jack where he can get another yellow marker.
- When Jack grabbed Jessie’s marker, he demonstrated that his perspective taking was at level 0. He took the marker simply because he wanted it, with no thought about Jamie. Therefore, Dennis aimed at helping Jack realize that Jessie has wishes and feelings, too. It probably wouldn’t be worthwhile trying to teach higher-level cooperative negotiation to Jack because it would be too far above his level of understanding.
Children can make better than normal progress through these levels of understanding with the support of understanding teachers (DeVries & Zan, 2006). And, as Vygotsky (1962/1934) reminds us, children can perform at higher levels with assistance than they can alone. Vygotsky’s writings about the zone of proximal development and scaffolding refer to how adults help children to do things, and thus teach them to perform independently. Puppets, role playing, and storybooks may also provide assistance to children as they learn to think about the feelings of others. InJamaica’s Blue Marker (Havill, 1995), Jamaica comes to understand why Russell was acting mean; this type of story may help your young students think about how others feel.
The ability to understand and empathize with others is crucial to adult society as well as children’s interactions. “Children are less likely to behave aggressively toward someone if they can put themselves in the other person’s place and imagine that person’s thoughts and feelings” (Slaby, Roedell, Arezzo, & Hendrix, 1995, p. 145). This statement seems equally true for adults.
There is widespread support for continued improvement of the educational system. Scientific and technological literacy is the main purpose of science education in grades K through 12. This goal is for all students, not just for those individuals destined for careers in science and engineering.
In the early decades of the twenty-first century, the curriculum for science education at the secondary school level is not meeting the challenge of achieving scientific and technological literacy. Many scientists and science educators are urging a review of school science programs, a review that would affect millions of school personnel in thousands of autonomous school districts, but one that is necessary. Increasing the scientific and technological literacy of students also requires several fundamental changes in science curricula at the secondary school level. First, the information presented must be balanced with key conceptual themes that are learned in some depth. Second, the rigid disciplinary boundaries of earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics should be softened; greater emphasis should also be placed on connections among the sciences and among disciplines generally thought of as outside of school science, such as technology, mathematics, ethics, and social studies (Confrey, 1990; Newmann, 1988).
Achieving the goal of scientific and technological literacy requires more than understanding concepts and processes of science and technology. Indeed, the need exists for citizens to understand science and technology as an integral part of society. Science and technology are enterprises that shape, and are shaped by, human thought and social actions (Bybee, 1987; Yager, 1996). Our recommendation includes some understanding of the nature and history of science and technology. There is recent and substantial support for this recommendation, though few curriculum materials. Including the nature and history of science and technology provides opportunities to focus on topics that blur disciplinary boundaries and show connections between such fields as science and social studies.
The substantial body of research on learning should be the basis for making instruction more effective (Bransford et al., 2000; Tobin, Tippins, & Gallard, 1994). This research suggests that students learn by constructing their own meaning of the experiences they have. A constructivist approach requires varied methods of science instruction in the secondary school (Driver & Oldham, 1986; Sachse, 1989; Watson & Konicek, 1990; Bruer, 1994; McGilly, 1995; Bransford et al., 2000).
Related to the implications of research on learning theory is the recommendation that science teaching should consist of experiences exemplifying the spirit, character, and nature of science and technology. Students should begin with questions about the natural world (science) and problems about human beings adapting (technology). They should be actively involved in the processes of inquiry and design. They should have opportunities to present their explanations for phenomena and solutions to problems and to compare their explanations and solutions to those concepts of science and technology. They should have a chance to apply their understandings in new situations, as well. In short, the inquiry-oriented laboratory is an infrequent experience for secondary school students, but it should be a central part of their experience in science education. Extensive use of the inquiry-oriented laboratory is consistent with the other recommendations made in this section, and it has widespread support.
The issue of equity must be addressed in science programs and by school personnel. For the past several decades, science educators at all levels have discussed the importance of changing science programs to enhance opportunities for historically underrepresented groups. Calls for scientific and technological literacy assume the inclusion of all Americans. Other justifications—if any are needed for this position—include the supply of future scientists and engineers, changing demographics, and prerequisites for work. Research results, curricula recommendations, and practical suggestions are available to those developing science curricula for the secondary school (Gardner, Mason, & Matyas, 1989; Linn & Hyde, 1989; Malcom, 1990; Oakes, 1990).
Science education in middle schools is a special concern as educators look toward achieving higher levels of scientific literacy. Numerous reports and commissions have addressed the need for educational reform for high school science education, but few have specifically recognized the emergence of middle schools in the 1980s. The movement toward implementing middle schools, and phasing out junior high schools, was a significant trend in education. Yet, thus far, the middle school reform has not thoroughly addressed the particular issues of subject-matter disciplines—in this case, science and technology. Contemporary reform must not allow the science education of early adolescents to be overlooked or assumed to be part of either the elementary school or secondary school curriculum.
Improving curriculum and instruction will be a hollow gesture without concomitant changes in assessment at all levels, from the local classroom to the national and international levels. In general, the changes in assessment practices must reflect the changes described earlier for curriculum and instruction. Incongruities, such as teaching fewer concepts in greater depth but testing for numerous facts in fine detail, will undermine the reform of science education. New forms of assessment are available and being recommended by researchers, policy makers, and practitioners (Frederiksen & Collins, 1989; Murnane & Raizen, 1988; Shavelson, Carey, & Webb, 1990).
Reform of science education at the secondary school level must be viewed as part of the general reform of education. Approaching the improvement of science education by changing textbooks, buying new computers, or adding new courses simply will not work. Fortunately, widespread educational reform, which includes science education, is underway. The improvement of science education in the secondary school must be part of the reconstruction of science education for K–12 and must include all courses and students, a staff development program, reform of science teacher preparation, and support from school administrators. This comprehensive or systemic recommendation is based on the research on implementation (Fullan, 2001; Hall, 1989) and research literature on school change and restructuring.
Early in the twenty-first century we think the improvement of science education is a national mandate. You will be a part of that process. Although the challenge is large, we have clear guidance in national standards and benchmarks. These guidelines will be followed through changes in instructional materials and increased support of professional development to help science teachers improve. We have all the tools for the job; now we need commitment at the local, state, and national levels.
There are many goals of science teaching. By using the following simple criteria, most goals can be summarized into a few categories.
- Goals should be comprehensive enough to include the generally accepted aims and objectives of science teaching.
- Goals should be understandable for other teachers, administrators, and parents.
- Goals should be neutral, that is, free of bias and not oriented toward any particular view of science teaching.
- Goals should be few in number.
- Goals should differentiate concepts and abilities.
- Goals should be easily applicable to instructional and learning objectives.
Using the aforementioned criteria, we can identify the following categories of goals for science education: scientific knowledge, scientific methods, social issues, personal needs, and career awareness. Many objectives can be deduced from these goals, but keep in mind that at any time all of the goals are not equally important. Still, they have been the goals underlying science curriculum and instruction.
# Scientific knowledge. There is a body of knowledge concerning biological, physical, and earth systems. For over 200 years, our science education programs have aimed toward informing students of these natural systems. This goal has been, and will continue to be, of significant importance for science teachers. Stated formally, this goal is: Science education should develop fundamental understandings of natural systems.
# Scientific methods. A second goal has centered on the abilities and understandings of the methods of scientific investigation. Descriptions of the goal have changed; for example, the terms inquiry and discovery have been used to describe the scientific methods goal. The goal can be stated as: Science education should develop a fundamental understanding of, and ability to use, the methods of scientific inquiry.
# Societal issues. Science education exists in society and should contribute to the maintenance and aspirations of the culture. This goal is especially important when there are social challenges directly related to science. This goal is: Science education should prepare citizens to make responsible decisions concerning science-related social issues.
# Personal needs. All individuals have needs related to their own biological/psychological systems. Briefly stated, this goal is: Science education should contribute to an understanding and fulfillment of personal needs, thus contributing to personal development.
# Career awareness. Scientific research, development, and application continue through the work of individuals within science and technology and through the support of those not directly involved in scientific work. Therefore, one important goal has been: Science education should inform students about careers in the sciences.
Throwing temper tantrums often is a child’s way of expressing anger or getting attention. Behavior displayed during tantrums includes crying, yelling, biting, hitting, and kicking. Young children frequently throw tantrums because they cannot verbally express their feelings. Young children with language delays are more prone to throwing tantrums because of their limited ability to communicate (Wagonseller & McDowell, 1979). Children with motor delays may have tantrums because they cannot perform tasks they would like to or observe other children doing (Goodman, 1992).
Tantrums may also be a response to frustrating situations including limits imposed by adults, lack of time to complete tasks, or in response to another child’s actions, such as taking away a toy (Bagnato & Neisworth, 1991). Tantrums are not considered abnormal unless they occur frequently and last for a long time. It is important not to overreact to temper tantrums. When a tantrum appears likely, using redirection may prevent it or lessen the intensity (Crary, 1979). Methods used to reduce the likelihood of tantrums include avoiding saying the “no” words.
Removing objects that contribute to tantrums and placing them out of a child’s sight and reach also helps reduce tantrums (Bressanutti, Mahoney, & Sachs, 1992). Allowing children to make choices and providing them with advanced warning for impending transitions is also helpful in preventing tantrums (Blechman, 1985). For example, a child who often has a tantrum when asked to help clean up could be told, “It will be time to put away the toys in five minutes. Let’s set the timer. After we clean up, we’ll have a snack.”
Once a tantrum has begun, it is best to ignore it (extinction). During tantrums children may need to be moved to a safe spot that reduces their chances of being hurt. When children appear to be “out of control,” it might be necessary to firmly hold them for a few minutes to help them regain control and prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else (Dreikurs & Cassel, 1972).
Adults should not yield to demands that lead to the tantrum. For example, if a child began to throw a tantrum because the child was not allowed to have another cookie, the child should not be given a cookie during the tantrum or after it stops. Giving the child a cookie might reinforce the child’s behavior, leading to even more tantrums in the future. After the tantrum is over, children often need to be comforted because the “loss of control” frequently is frightening and embarrassing. Once the tantrum is over, adults should not focus on the tantrum (Blechman, 1985). An adult might say, “You were very upset. I am glad that you are feeling better,” and then continue with the regular activities.
Frequent or very intense tantrums or tantrums that result in children intentionally hurting themselves or someone else are abnormal. In these situations, it is advisable to seek professional help. Pediatricians, social workers, and psychologists are appropriate individuals to contact (Thurman & Widerstrom, 1990).
Concepts of discipline vary. The conventional elementary school concept of discipline is based on obedience (Gartrell, 1997). Many parents and teachers see punishment as a part of discipline. However, some educators view discipline as a “neutral” term that can exclude punishment (Marion, 1995). Discipline in this article is considered to be different from punishment both in its intent and consequences. It may be referred to as positive discipline or guidance.
- is control by fear, power, and coercion;
- is done to the child;
- elicits anger, guilt, resentment, and deceit;
- impairs communication and wholesome parent-child relationships;
- stops undesired behavior in the specific situation temporarily, but behavior often is exhibited in other ways.
- is guiding and teaching;
- is done with a child;
- requires understanding, time, and patience;
- teaches problem solving and builds a positive self-image;
- develops long-term self-control and cooperation.
All parents discipline their children by teaching them appropriate ways to behave. However, discipline is interpreted by some parents as correcting or punishing children in order to stop the reoccurrence of unacceptable behavior. Discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, meaning instruction or teaching to correct, strengthen, or perfect. Obviously, the leader models the ideas or principles to be followed. Disciples respect and care for the messenger. If parents want their children to behave in caring and appropriate ways, they must show them how. The ultimate goal of discipline is to have children responsible for their own actions.
Punishment is the use of physical or psychological force or action that causes pain in an attempt to prevent undesirable behavior from recurring. Scolding, threats, deprivations, and spanking are all forms of punishment. Physical punishment of children by parents and teachers is legal in most states and most countries. It is outlawed in Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland (Straus, 1994). Back in the nineteenth century, Froebel wrote that the use of punishment was a good way for adults to make a child “bad.” If the goal for the child is the development of morality, of making good choices on his or her own, then punishment should not be involved. Conditions should be created that not only allow but strongly induce children to be or become moral and disciplined individuals who can make good choices on their own (Bettelheim, 1985; Ramsburg, 1997).
Punishment teaches a child that those who have the power can force others to do what they want them to do (Bettelheim, 1985; Samalin and Whitney, 1995). In addition, punishment, such as spanking, does not teach a child an acceptable alternative way to behave (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1995). Punishment is the least effective form of changing behavior and may have long-term consequences. The child feels humiliated, often hides mistakes, tends to be angry and aggressive, and fails to develop self-control. Punishment stops behavior temporarily, but the behavior is often repeated in other settings.
Forms of punishment with fewer negative consequences than physical or psychologically demeaning punishment include ignoring the behavior, showing a mild disapproving look, the use of time out, especially to gain control of one’s emotions, and taking away a privilege. Ignoring the behavior can be very effective in eliminating its repetition, especially if it is a new action and not reinforced by someone else. Time out has been overused in recent decades as a way to change children’s behavior. Although experts disagree about its use (Ucci, 1998; Schreiber, 1999), it can have negative effects such as embarrassment, anger, or confusion. More importantly, by itself it does not teach a child how to behave differently. It is more effective if time out is followed with a discussion of the actions and support to help the child learn how to behave appropriately. Gartrell (2001, 2002) believes that time out should be replaced with teaching children how to solve social problems rather than punishing them for their behavior over problems they have not yet learned how to solve.
If punishment is used, a number of conditions can increase its effectiveness. It should occur immediately after the problem. It is also more effective when the child is punished by a nurturing person (Baumrind, 1978). There should also be consistency in being punished for an offense. The punishment should include an explanation and allow the child some control over the situation. For example, in using time out, the child should be helped to decide when he or she is able to follow the rules and return to play. During time out the child must be removed from all forces reinforcing the unacceptable behavior.
Physical Punishment of Children
Physical punishment includes spanking, slapping, grabbing, shoving (with more force than needed to move the child), and hitting a child with an object (Straus, 1991). Spanking is the most controversial method of discipline and continues to be used as an acceptable form of “discipline.” Some parents define spanking as slapping a child on the buttocks (Straus, 1995), while this and other reports use spanking to cover any corporal punishment that does not cause injury. Many parents believe spanking will teach children not to repeat forbidden behavior while other parents spank because they are not aware of more effective ways of changing behavior. Some parents do not believe that nonphysical forms of punishment, such as denial of privileges, are effective. In 1994, a parental opinion poll conducted by the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse showed for the first time that a majority of parents reported not spanking their children in the previous year. Denying privileges was used by 79 percent, confinement to a room by 59 percent, 49 percent spanked or hit their child, and 45 percent insulted or swore at their child. (Straus, 1995).
Does Physical Punishment Lead to Child Abuse and Later Violence?
Social science researcher, Murray Straus, and professor of criminology Joan McCord, agree that physical punishment during childhood often leads children to violence when they are teenagers and adults. However, McCord believes that all punishment accounts for later violence in adults (DelCampo and DelCampo, 1995). Straus reports that, as adults, the children whose parents spanked them, compared to children who were not spanked, have higher rates of juvenile delinquency, spouse abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and lower economic achievements (Straus, 1994). McCord reports that a study on criminals found that the largest number of criminals came from punitive and unaffectionate homes. The next highest number came from punitive but affectionate homes and the fewest came from nonpunitive homes. McCord believes that the use of reward and punishment models the norm of self-interest over the welfare of others while Straus argues that the act of spanking sends a message that the use of violence is a legitimate way to solve problems (DelCampo and DelCampo, 1995).
Societal Norms Supporting Punishment and Violence
Physical punishment has always been a part of European American religious and legal traditions (Straus, 1991). One definition of violence is any act carried out with the intention or perceived intention of causing physical pain or injury to another person (Straus, 1991). Not only is some physical punishment legal, so is some violence. Society models violence in many ways.
One can legally use violence or force to defend oneself and, in some cases, one’s property. The law in most states permits capital punishment. When violence increases in our society, the response is to increase punishment. For example, California enacted a law placing convicted third-time offenders in jail for life. It’s known as “Three Strikes and You’re Out.” The age for trying youth offenders for specific violent crimes under the adult penal system has been lowered in many states and in recent federal legislation (Children’s Defense Fund, 1998, 1999).
Historically, there has been a difference of opinion about when children actually begin the process of learning to read. Perhaps you have heard people speak about reading readiness and thought that this was current terminology. Actually, this is an echo from the past; reading readiness is a concept from the 1940s.
In the 1960s, Marie Clay challenged the view that real reading started when children were in formal school settings and reading from their textbooks. She argued that this view disregarded all of the important milestones that occurred before children could read independently (Clay, 1985). For example, perhaps the biggest breakthrough in learning to read is realizing that all of those marks on paper mean something. At first, children do not know how an adult performs this almost magical feat of reading a picture book in the same way each time. Young children appear to assume that it is the pictures that are being read, not the words. This is reflected in their earliest attempts to pretend to read, in which they study the illustrations and tell the story while sprinkling in some words and phrases that they remember from repeated readings of the book.
The realization that print carries meaning is a major achievement of emergent literacy. Emergent literacy consists of the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are presumed to be “developmental precursors to conventional forms of reading and writing and the environments that support these developments” (Lonigan & Whitehurst, 1998, p. 849). As Braunger and Lewis (1998) concluded from their review of the research, “In a very general sense, emergent literacy describes those behaviors shown by very young children as they begin to respond to and approximate reading and writing acts” (p. 16).
Reading emerges as children do the following :
# Acquire oral language by exploring its meaning, noticing its structure (e.g., word order), and experimenting with its sounds (called phonological awareness).
# Ascribe meaning to the symbols around them (e.g., a stop sign, a food label, a fast-food restaurant billboard).
# Attempt to produce symbols, signs, and letters.
# Approximate print behaviors modeled to them, such as pretending to read a book, make a shopping list, or write a check.
# Repeat processes until they are clearer and more refined, such as mastering an action song with all of the accompanying motions.
# Begin to connect speech sounds to print patterns, such as saying “Y-e-s spells yes, and n-o spells no” (Braunger & Lewis, 1998, pp. 16-17).