Rules & Consequences


At first glance, the rules for the kids at my job are fairly simple and straightforward:

Respect each other and the equipment
Use good manners
Listen and follow directions
Everyone cleans
Stay in sight of a teacher

But to a five year old…? What does respect mean? What does it look like? What do you consider good manners? Who should I listen to, and whose directions should I follow? Do I really need to clean up if I didn’t play with that? If I can see the teacher, is that good enough?

Those are just a few examples off the top of my head, and all things that concern me. I wrote previously about picking and choosing which aspects of respect to teach, but I’m also concerning myself with how. In my training as a pre-service teacher, I’ve been told to use examples and non-examples to teach a behavior. Let’s use “respect the equipment” as our guide. What does that look like? Placing legos gently back into boxes and picking them up off the floor immediately so they don’t get stepped on and broken are good places to start. A non-example or what disrespect looks like is throwing legos across the room or throwing them haphazardly into boxes. So my next question is, how should I teach that? Do I give the kids a chance to contribute and come up with those ideas? Or, do I ask them yes/no questions about how we should handle the equipment? For time’s sake, I think the latter is better, but does that constitute any actual learning about behavior? I’ve just spent an entire paragraph on a single aspect of a single rule. How much time does that take in a classroom with 10-15 kids?


Although there are rules, there don’t seem to be any consequences. Kids who are running around the room or play a little too rough during break just get talked at. (I use at instead of to because I really can’t see a lot getting through). When it comes to respecting equipment and everyone cleans (the R and E in Mr. K’s RULES), things go mostly okay. However, we still have to tell different kiddos in various frequencies to pick legos up off the floor, be careful with the motors, or please help finish cleaning. I don’t really want to spend the first 20 minutes of class going over rules, respect, and consequences, but it may be worth it so that the week runs smoothly. I think it may be especially important since the rules were only briefly explained on the first day of camp (and never really reviewed).

The meaning of respect runs deep, and the specifics of the rules can be complicated; but I think the consequence of not following the rules is fairly straightforward: if you can’t follow the RULES, then you can’t participate. I tried that consequence with a somewhat disastrous side effect. A little boy (maybe 7) was messing with a plant outside that we said he needed to leave alone. He ignored his name being called and both teachers saying to leave the plant alone. I called him over and told him he needed to sit out of the game since he did not listen. Out came the wailing and crying, even though not a single crocodile tear fell. It made me look bad, and there was no support since consequences were never discussed or previously used. I feel like if a quick conversation about consequences had happened at the beginning of the week from the lead teacher, then the boy who cried wouldn’t have had much use for it since he was told the result of his actions before they ever happened.

There was finally an instance in this same camp where the lead teacher mentioned not being able to participate in the next activity if he didn’t get everyone’s attention. It was barely effective and won’t be in the future because there was no follow through (from him. I did have a camper sit out one round for not following directions). I understand that it’s summer and that this is not an official classroom, but I still think you need to say what you mean and mean what you say.


For any parents or teachers who may be reading this, what do you think about my expectations? Are they too much for this type of summer camp/after school program? Is it just enough to make the week run smoothly? Do you have any advice or suggestions? Please leave a comment below to tell me what you think.



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