A Culture of Belonging and Respect

One of the first things people notice upon visiting our school is the peaceful, happy undertone that permeates our campus and the positive way our children interact with one another.  That’s no lucky accident.

These skills don’t necessarily come naturally – to the children or to us as parents and teachers.  When needs are not met, there are plenty of times when what comes naturally is to yell,  hit, or  throw a fit.

Here at NUA Sparrow, we recognize that in order to help children grow into caring, respectful, responsible adults, we need to teach and model important social and life skills.  We have found that the positive discipline approach, authored by Jane Nelsen and based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, teaches these skills in a manner that is deeply respectful and encouraging for both children and adults.

The key to positive discipline is not punishment or rewards, but mutual respect.  As children find themselves embraced in a classroom culture in which they feel loved and respected, their needs for belonging and significance are met, drastically reducing their need to act out or misbehave.

When problems do occur, teachers endeavor to uncover the mistaken goal behind the misbehavior – whether it’s attention, power, revenge, or assumed inadequacy – and work with the child to find more appropriate ways of meeting their need for belonging and significance.

This does not mean that children do whatever they want without repercussion. It simply means that problems are seen as opportunities to learn new skills, deepen our relationships, and become more responsible citizens.  It takes far more skill and courage to mend a damaged friendship than it does to accept an arbitrary punishment for say, name-calling.

From www.positivediscipline.com:


  1. Helps children feel a sense of connection. (Belonging and significance)
  2. Is mutually respectful and encouraging. (Kind and firm at the same time.)
  3. Is effective long – term. (Considers what the child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his world – and what to do in the future to survive or to thrive.)
  4. Teaches important social and life skills. (Respect, concern for others, problem solving, and cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school or larger community.)
  5. Invites children to discover how capable they are. (Encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy.)

You won’t find color cards, marble jars, table points or stars here at NUA Sparrow.  These behavior management systems do not meet any of the positive discipline criteria, and are damaging to children’s sense of automony and self-respect.

You will find children engaged in problem-solving discussions during class meetings and on the playground.

You will find children taking responsibility for their actions, helping one another, and working things out together.

You will find teachers speaking firmly but kindly when kids make mistakes and need redirection.

You will find happy children who know they are loved, they are capable, and they matter.


If you’re interested in bringing positive discipline into your home, we are excited to be offering a 5-week course in Redirecting Children’s Behavior  (RCB) starting on February 23rd here at NUA Sparrow.

RCB is based on the same body of work as positive discipline, and offers immediately usable tools for improving your relationship with your kids and creating a more peaceful home environment.  To sign up or for more information, email Neda at ngilson@nu.edu.


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