You Can Join Us, But Only If You’re Good???

August 25, 2023

Dear Educators,

When you have “end of year”, “end of semester” or “end of testing” parties, and base participation in those events on “good behavior”, you’re making some children feel TERRIBLE and alienating them in the process.

Your students want to do well. ALL KIDS WANT TO DO WELL! The students who were “bad” were having a hard time meeting your expectations. They were trying their best. You may not BELIEVE it, but they were. It doesn’t do a teacher, a school administrator or anyone ANY good to think a child is being bad for the sake of being bad, or to seek negative attention, or any other judgement we may have. They need your help. They need to feel safe with you and they need to know you will help them, and you’re threatening that relationship and their feeling of safety by excluding them. It may be an unintended consequence, but it’s true.

When you don’t let kids participate:
You’re telling them they don’t belong.
You’re telling them you can’t be with your friends, that you’re not one of us.
You’re telling them you only love the kids with “good behavior”, and they are NOT one of those kids.

Since the overwhelming majority of behavior in young children is stress behavior and not volitional, you are telling children that, even though their behavior was because of stress, a learning difficulty, emotional regulation challenges , sensory overwhelm, or a thousand other “invisible” reasons that you may not know about, they can’t make it right. You’re wielding your power and making them feel helpless, embarrassed and sad.

And if you think that will improve behavior, you’re wrong. Neuroscience says you’re wrong.

Please stop making kids who are struggling sad. They need your help, not your punishment.

Am I saying that the child who didn’t have “good behavior” should be allowed to participate in all the events, and field trips, and recess, without ANY punishment?

That’s exactly what I’m saying!

Let them participate and help them when they’re having a hard time.

They need our compassion.
They need to feel included.
They NEED to participate.