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Toss away the stick of isolation

Written by Paul Dix

I have been looking for the biggest stick.

I searched right down the punishment scale. I rejected losing points, phone calls home, detention and castigation. I looked over the imaginary cliff edge to exclusion, restraint, community service, even pain compliance techniques. I rejected them all. You see there are some punishments that sow the seeds for long term behaviour issues. Punishments that teach more than just negative consequences for negative actions. Some punishments teach children that adults are giving up. The punishment that just keeps giving (up) is isolation.

Short time outs can be highly effective way to reset expectations or find a way around a problem. Prolonged or repeated use of isolation teaches children that they are not really wanted. Forcing children to feel as if they are alone with their problems is a disproportionate punishment. It cruelly demonstrates a collective lack of empathy. We expend so much effort in telling pupils that they belong, they are one community, one team. We accommodate a huge range of diverse needs but when the symptoms are behavioural we begin the process of shunning. Am I right to feel a sense of shame that we have no more sophisticated response to poor behaviour than shutting children in cells.


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© Paul Dix

2 thoughts on “Toss away the stick of isolation

  1. Nicely written but I disagree to a certain extent. If children are getting ‘shut in cells’ then yes I totally agree that this forces children to feel as if they are alone with their problems and is a disproportionate punishment.

    This isolation process, in my opinion, is a good deterrent so long as the room is manned by a competent member of staff who is prepared to spend some of the isolation time talking to the child to show that there is actually somebody in their life that does care and will try and help them. If not then I agree with you.

    “We expend so much effort in telling pupils that they belong, they are one community, one team.” Do we? All of us, you and I may, but do the masses? Therein lies a problem.

    And seen as you have not offered a solution to the question, I take it that like me you are still searching for a caring, humane and loving way of how to deal with these poor individuals? As I always say “no child is born naughty”
    Consistency is a great start…

  2. Also, the reintegration process is so important… when a student is moved back into class they often need a person they can go to, someone who will take them aside regularly to check in and offer support, heading off potential difficulties. Many students need an advocate to help counteract the reputation that goes before them. There is much we can do to help!

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