Positive Discipline in The Classroom: Charlie, The New Student

This post is part of a series on the skills children learn in a Positive Discipline classroom, and how parents can support their children in using these skills outside of school. For more background on this series, read Positive Discipline in The Classroom: Bringing The Skills Home.

If you are in the Pacific Northwest, check out Sound Discipline to learn more about bringing Positive Discipline to your school or community.

What Children Learn:

This is an activity that helps children understand the long-term effects of hurtful words. They are introduced to Charlie, a stick figure drawn on paper. This is Charlie's first day in the class. He has had to change schools a few times, and isn't really liked by his classmates. Students are asked to share statements that might hurt Charlie's feelings. Each time a comment is given, Charlie is crumpled a bit. Pretty soon, Charlie is crumpled into a ball. Students are then asked to share how Charlie is different now. How might Charlie feel at the end of the day? Does Charlie feel like he is a part of the class? Would he want to come back tomorrow?

Next, students are asked what they could do or say to help Charlie feel like he belongs and is welcome in the class. With each statement, Charlie is smoothed a little bit until he is a full page again. What do they notice about Charlie now? Did the wrinkles go away? Can we really take them all away? Discussion moves to sharing how this activity might change how they work together in the classroom and school community.

Why It’s Important:

Mutual respect is a critical component of learning. It is only when students feel safe and connected in their classroom that they are ready to do the academic work of being a student. Everyone has Charlie days; days where we feel like we don't belong or matter to those around us. It's an important skill to be able to recognize those feelings in ourselves and others so that we can takes steps to move toward connection. When we can imagine what it feels like to be in someone else's shoes, it helps us more readily show empathy to others.

How Parents Can Support Use At Home:

Parents can use Charlie as a way to check in when we sense someone in the family is feeling disconnected. "Are you feeling like Charlie today?" Or,"I notice your brother looks sad, do you remember what helped Charlie feel better? What might we say to your brother to help show him that he matters to our family"

We can also recognize and share when we are having a Charlie moment. Modeling that it's ok to take care of ourselves and ask for what we need will help your child do the same. When we can connect around hurt feelings and discuss them openly, we are much more likely to find cooperative behavior instead of resistance or defiance.