Lean in for Discipline

We have a student who’s been having a rough time. She’s severely dyslexic and has been mishandled her entire three years of formal education.

It happens.

Most people don’t know what to do with an angry child who’s lashing out….especially if she’s a unique learner.

The worst part?

The child rarely feels heard, and that only compounds the problem. A whole syndrome develops where the child becomes a master at pushing people away in fear of getting hurt.

Parents, siblings, friends, and teachers.

This happened with Lexi.

I met with her frantic teacher last week, who hung her head in shame. "I don't particularly like Lexi," she confessed.

Now…you’d have to know this teacher. She loves all kids and they adore her in return. But Lexi tripped her up, and she was writhing with guilt over it.

“You need to get to know her,” I advised. “You need to sit down and listen to Lexi and see what makes her tick.” I smiled knowingly. “You’re going to tell me one day that Lexi is one of your favorite students.”

She twisted her face, not believing a word I said. She literally pulled back, which is exactly what she’d been doing with Lexi.

After all, if a child yells that she hates you, you aren’t exactly going to turn to mush.

“Lean in,” I said. “It’s hard to do, but if you build a bond with Lexi, you’ll be surprised at how discipline issues dissipate.” I gave one more tidbit of advice that I always tell someone who’s struggling with a behavior issue with a child. “And catch her being good. Search for it if you have to then praise, praise, praise. And praise some more. Just make sure it’s authentic and specific praise.”

The next day I checked in and the two were in a room together. Lexi was working on her program while she chatted away with her teacher. It was calm and serene.


I knew they’d crossed the threshold, but I didn’t know how far until yesterday when I popped in for work. My teacher scurried up to me. “Guess what?” she breathed out, smiling.

Now…you have to think of all the things that blast my attention away and that I assumed it would take some time for Lexi to come around.

“What?” I asked.

“Lexi and I…well…I really like her now. And she’s so much calmer and behaving…” She went on and on about how smart Lexi was and how fun she could be and what a darling personality she had.

I laughed, knowing better than to say I told you so.

Leaning in. It’s so hard to do when a child is acting out.

Of course, we had to put Lexi on a discipline plan with structured expectations, clear and swift rewards, and consistency. And I know better than to think these two won’t have some hiccups along the way.

But in a week’s time, with one little change, two people are able to spend their days in relative peace and joy.

The one solution that makes a huge difference – leaning in for discipline.

Behavior Improvement System

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