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New Zealand Schools Find Less Structure Improves Children's Behavior 127

First time accepted submitter geminidomino writes "A research project involving eight schools in Dunedin and Auckland report that loosening rules on the playground may lead to fewer incidents of bullying, vandalism, and injury. One principal opines, 'The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.' As one might expect, the article states that there was a lot of resistance to the project, and I'm kind of surprised they got as many administrators to sign on as they did. The story may be premature, as the article states that 'the results of the study will be collated this year,' but it may be interesting to see how the numbers shake out."
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New Zealand Schools Find Less Structure Improves Children's Behavior

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  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:59PM (#46091695) Homepage

    True, but I'd add two caveats. First, too little rules can lead to kids engaging in patently dangerous activities. I'm not talking about potentially dangerous things like climbing trees, but doing things like bullying or hitting each other with objects. You need basic ground rules. The trick is setting those ground rules without them morphing into a "control every move you make" rules system.

    Second, there are some kids that like organization. My son has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and Anxiety Disorder. He thrives on schedules and hates disorganized time. The more time he spends where he doesn't know what he is supposed to be doing, the more anxious he gets and the more likely he is to engage in behavior that will get him in trouble. (Sadly, too few people see this rising anxiety and just assume he's a trouble-maker despite a doctor's diagnosis and repeated talks with people about ways to spot his anxiety.) In his case, you almost can't schedule his day too much. Almost because being too specific on the schedule can lead to anxiety when the schedule needs to change on the fly. He doesn't handle this well either.

    Of course, I recognize that he's the exception rather than the rule, but it just goes to show that you need to take the individual child's needs into consideration rather than assuming that one set of rules (or lack thereof) will fit all children.

  • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @01:17PM (#46091847)

    Yes. Now imagine how bad their toys must have been before, if tires are an improvement.

    Seriously? I would have loved to play with those tires in elementary school. In fact, I can tell you right now that the best week of the year during my childhood was always the week the city allowed you to dump all your trash in the street for pickup. We would most certainly play with old tires during that time. We would also take apart old/broken TV sets that were awaiting disposal, and other electronics. I had all sorts of fun fancy toys at home, but I always preferred being creative with random every day junk. You could satisfy all sorts of curiosity that you were not allowed to indulge in with your toys at home.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @01:24PM (#46091903)

    Basically, if you let kids self-determine what to do, they don't try to regain a feeling of power by forcing their will on others. Don't make kids bridle against authority, and they won't.

    CAPTCHA: quarrels

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"