A case study on punishment: How it encourages “cheating”

case study on punishment
I don’t envy the job of lunchroom aide, that’s for sure!

This morning, I was talking with my son about the school year he just completed. We started talking about his teachers, and he mentioned a man who worked as a lunchroom aide. I think that what he told me about this man’s way of handling discipline in the lunchroom is a good case study on punishment, and how it encourages “cheating.”

I want to begin by reiterating the caption under the picture above. I imagine that keeping a large group of children quiet is quite difficult. I also know from research that the typical school day is one that places demands on children that are unrealistic even for adults. Imagine yourself having to sit in various hard-chaired desks for up to 90 minutes at a time, listening attentively to a teacher the entire time, across 7 hour span. (I know you can do it, because you did when you were younger.)

No talking when others are talking. No joking around. Pay attention – don’t look out the window. Teacher may call on you at any moment, and test you on some fact that s/he just introduced, to see if you are engaged. Even for adults, the average attention span is about 10 minutes. After that, our brains just automatically go elsewhere. It’s happened to you, I know it. Think about the last meeting you were in, and how many times your eyes were on the speaker, but your mind was on the cheesecake you had at home, or your shopping list, or the fight you had with your friend last night. Continue reading “A case study on punishment: How it encourages “cheating””

Welcome to my site about effective parenting

Welcome to my new website about effective parenting! I am so excited to be living in a time when the technology available can allow anyone to share ideas with the world. Recently, I was given the opportunity to syndicate this site, and write a regular column for a prestigious New Hampshire news site. In addition to following me here, you can also read and comment on my posts at manchesterinklink.com

Applying research to the practice of teaching and parenting

When I was 4, 5 and 6 years old, my father’s mother came to live with us. I don’t remember much of anything about her, except for what she did when my parents went out, and I was left alone in her care. She would be perfectly pleasant while I was awake, but then, after I had fallen asleep, she would come quickly into the room and start hitting me with a belt. Sometimes, I would wake up from a sound sleep to the stinging feeling of that belt. Other times, some part of my subconscious would hear the turn of the bedroom doorknob, and wake me up to prepare me for what I knew was coming. Most of the time, I would go into my room to sleep, but I just lay there awake, terrified. Continue reading “Welcome to my site about effective parenting”

Teaching students skills, rather than merely facts

On Saturday, October 12, 2013, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, and his wife MacKensie Bezos, helped to launch the Center for Innovation at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. The Museum’s website introduces the Center in this way:

What does innovation look like? Who innovates, where does it happen, and how do great ideas evolve? To find out more, tackle a challenge in the Idea Lab, discover a Seattle-made invention in the Patent Tree, and check out cutting-edge concepts in What’s Next. Through lectures, special programs and changing displays, Seattle innovators will share their latest projects and invite you to take a look at the future as it unfolds. – See more at: http://www.mohai.org/exhibits/center-for-innovation#sthash.Nya7R3g3.dpuf

As an educational psychologist, I cannot help but admire this effort that models the very best practices in teaching and learning. For years now, academic research has been urging the education system to incorporate strategies that we know improve student learning. For too long, education has relied on a “top-down” approach, where experts fill the empty minds of students through lecture, and then ask those students to regurgitate those facts back on exams.

What educational researchers have found is that this model is fundamentally flawed in a number of ways. First, students do not enter the school situation with a blank slate. Rather, by the time teachers see their students, they have already developed conceptions of the world, pragmatic schemas for interacting with new information. A teacher’s job is not to spew facts, but to challenge students to question their constructed ideas, and to create progressively more complicated strategies for taking new information and integrating it with their prior knowledge.

Second, the secret to giving students the tools they need to succeed and remember the information we want them to have over the long term is to focus our energies not just on facts, but on skills. What our students need in the real world is not to become repositories of information, or to be good test takers. Students need great teachers to strengthen them into thinkers who can brainstorm, solve problems, and collaborate with others. Those are the skills that matter in real life. The Bezos Center for Innovation is providing a platform for visitors to interact with exhibits in ways that could inspire the highest forms of cognitive processing; namely, creativity and synthesis.

The days of stale lectures and memorization, when they finally disappear from the training programs our educators must complete to become teachers, will usher in a welcome phase of instruction that centers on helping our students be nimble of mind, and able to move our species forward with zest. The Bezos Center is a big step in that direction.

Positive parenting tips: Be the parent you want your children to be

positive parenting tips

One of my goals for this site is to read and review some of the most recent academic literature on positive parenting tips, and then summarize it for a more general audience. To that end, I am excited to tell you about an article that was published in Developmental Psychology journal in January 2015 called “The interpersonal antecedents of supportive parenting: A prospective, longitudinal study from infancy to adulthood.”*

Positive parenting tips
Positive parenting tip #1 – Treat your child with warmth and empathy

The authors of this study followed a cohort of children from the time they were three months old into their adulthood, when they themselves became parents. What they found was strong evidence for a connection between our own parenting and how we were parented ourselves. The authors were interested in trying to figure out how what they call “intergenerational transmission of parenting practices” actually worked. How is it that most of us treat our children the same way we were treated when we were young? Continue reading “Positive parenting tips: Be the parent you want your children to be”

Being kind to your children: It’s not coddling!

Every few days, I go on Google and search for articles that attempt to offer positive parenting tips to other parents. I generally feel that the first rule of positive parenting is being kind to your children. Treat them like human beings lol (because they are). Every time I do, I am surprised by the number of people who interpret listening to their children, and speaking to  them in an understanding fashion as “coddling.”

An example

On one site, psychcentral.com, the author attempts to answer the question of how to deal with a child that doesn’t listen. The author’s advice includes being honest, reliable, accurate, listening to your child’s needs, and being informative. Much of the advice corresponds to what I’ve written in my articles about rewards and punishment. In general, my own philosophy, which is backed up by voluminous amounts of psychological research, is that children learn the skills they need to navigate the adult world much better when the relationships they have with their parents are respectful, consistent, and loving. Being kind to your children makes them kind people, and kind people are more likely to have positive friendships. And yet, one of the representative comments from her readers says,

“That’s a bunch of BS on the second to the last one WE ARE THE PARENTS they will do what we say, they have to respect us we are placed over them… Not the other way around!!!” Continue reading “Being kind to your children: It’s not coddling!”