DIVERITSITY AND DISCIPLINE
“We outlawed time-out in our center a long time ago,” said a child care teacher in
a workshop I was leading about discipline in early childhood programs. She spoke with
“Outlawed time-out? Why? Time-out is a gift for children who need to get away
from the group to control themselves,” challenged another teacher.
“It’s not a gift—it’s a punishment. And a harsh one at that,” argued a third
participant. “Besides, the misbehaving child needs the group to help him change his
behavior. Isolation is the last thing he needs.”
The argument grew more emotional as the group polarized with one side yelling
at the other.
What was going on here? The workshop participants represented several
different cultures, and as such had different perceptions of the relationship between
individuals and groups. Alan Pence, Canadian educator, in a 2004 Interaction article,
wrote about how there are “quite different cultural orientations regarding the relationship
of the individual to the broader community. While Western practice recommends
separating children who are misbehaving (giving them a ‘time-out’), a number of
Aboriginal people feel this is counterproductive and that additional engagement with the
group (‘time-in’) makes more sense” (p. 32).
Those are two very different perspectives on discipline – a hot subject for many
people including early childhood teachers and the parents in their programs. Often
notions of discipline are based on personal childhood experiences and what the person is
used to, so it’s hard for them to understand a different perspective. Talking about
discipline taps into sensitive areas of personal histories as well as cultural differences.
In an early childhood program setting the discussion might end by someone
pointing out the program’s policy and thereby silencing diverse voices. It could instead
switch to problem solving if someone insisted that diverse voices be heard. Sometimes
that happens, but mostly