Replace repercussions with self-reflection

The memories we have of detention shouldn’t be of boredom and anger, they should be memories of learning and self-reflection.

I’m sure everyone can think of a time they got in trouble in elementary school. I remember the feeling of shame, the teacher’s paralyzing glare and my inability to listen to the lesson afterwards. I learned to stop whispering to my friends in class through the fear of punishment, not through the realization that what I’d done was wrong.

It’s this toxic attitude towards youth who misbehave that generates a culture of incarceration over rehabilitation.

While this is a small-scale example, kids acting up in school results from many issues other than lack of respect for the rules, such as the education system’s inability to accommodate all types and personalities of students.

Not all students can be disciplined through fear nor can each circumstance of a student acting out be treated the same. What if a kid in detention can trace their path to academic difficulties? Punishment instead of teaching is ineffective in solving the problem the child is having.

Penalties are seemingly surface level, while encouraging mindfulness actually helps someone evaluate their action. But our attitudes towards punishment versus rehabilitation in schools can have effects on children throughout their lives and the correctional systems that operate on the same principles.

Instead of handing out repercussions, the other option is to make a space for dealing with the reasons why someone is behaving wrongfully. An elementary school in Baltimore has adopted the practice of mindfulness instead of punishment.

The Mindful Moment Room is a new endeavor that encourages misbehaving students to recollect themselves through meditation, breathing and private thought.

If the only result of bad behavior is punishment, how can a child — or an adult — ever learn to cope in new situations? If never taught how to refocus vexations, for example, there is no way to deter someone from acting out because they don’t know how.

Whether or not it’s meditation, any exercise that focuses attention can achieve the same result — an improvement in both behavior and lifestyle.

Punishment should only be a last resort, but mindfulness is an ongoing life lesson and it can start alongside algebra and geography.

Jenna is The Journal’s Lifestyle editor. She’s a fourth-year English student.

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