Alternatives to Withholding Recess as Punishment - Action for Healthy Kids
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Alternatives to Withholding Recess as Punishment

By now, you know all about the benefits of giving kids time to be active during the school day: It helps improve learning, behavior, social-emotional skills, attention during class, and much more. So when recess and physical education are taken away as punishment for students who didn’t complete their homework or acted out in class, it’s beyond frustrating, for kids and parents alike. Too often, these are the students that need physical activity the most!

Healthy Alternatives

Kids need to learn there are consequences to bad behavior. But if your kid’s school withholds physical activity as a disciplinary measure, you can do your part to ensure that she and other students get the activity they need throughout the day by implementing healthy, alternative consequences.

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Educate school administrators, teachers and other parents. Make sure they understand the importance of recess and physical education and how it impacts learning. Use information from The Learning Connection report to make your case.
  2. Team up with a teacher to host a staff professional development on using effective classroom management techniques to avoid behavior problems in the first place. The fewer behavioral issues that occur, the fewer disciplinary measures that will be needed.
  3. Train staff on alternatives to withholding recess and PE. Share tip sheets in their mailbox, take five minutes of a staff meeting, or send a staff-wide email to communicate the message. If possible, connect it back to the district’s wellness policies.
  4. Work with the school dean and social worker to develop effective disciplinary measures for students who misbehave. Make a list of behaviors and appropriate, corresponding consequences that aim to improve student behavior, self-discipline and overall school functioning.
  5. Don’t focus only on the negative. Make a point to reinforce positive behavior, too, through non-food rewards, recognition or an incentive program.
  6. Develop an accountability system. Who can students tell in the event they’re denied physical activity? How can teachers be held accountable and given alternative options?

Here are a few more tips to make sure all kids stay active throughout the day:

  • Make sure your school administrators support alternative consequences. Ask them to approve materials that are shared with staff and help enforce this practice.
  • As you’re making a list of positive disciplinary measures, identify a teacher or other staff member who excels in classroom management. What consequences does he/she use for poor behavior?
  • Develop a pledge to not withhold recess and physical education as punishment. Pass it around to all staff at the beginning of the year and encourage them to sign on.
  • Encourage teachers to review classroom expectations frequently and develop consistent routines to help students understand what appropriate behavior looks like in the classroom.

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