Make eye contact, demonstrate love for students to activate problem-solving

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February 1, 2017 by HCDE-Texas

Elizabeth Montero-Cefalo.jpgWhen faced with misbehavior or disrespect, many teachers naturally resort to traditional systems of reward and punishment. Gold stars, names on the board, isolation from the group – these tactics are often passed down as ways to control classrooms, but since they are not grounded in brain science, they are often ineffective at helping students learn and develop. Conscious discipline may sound like the latest buzzword in early childhood and special populations education, but Elizabeth Montero-Cefalo says it’s more than that.

“Adult behavior regulates child behavior,” Montero-Cefalo said at Saturday’s 31st Annual R.T. Garcia Early Childhood Winter Conference. Her featured presentation on conscious discipline asked teachers not just to focus on the child’s behavior but to reflect on their own as a way to bring more love – and ultimately more learning – into the classroom.

Conscious discipline is a brain-based, comprehensive self-regulation program that has reached more than three million children. It’s the brain child (so to speak) of Dr. Becky Bailey, an internationally recognized expert in childhood education and developmental psychology. One of conscious discipline’s most recognizable practices is the “I love you” ritual, which seeks to ensure first and foremost that children feel safe and loved – necessary prerequisites before children’s frontal lobes can be activated and problem-solving can take place.

Teachers who kneel to make eye contact with students and establish loving connections with them, either through words or through touch, are already practicing conscious discipline. Bigger disciplinary challenges require more self-regulation and understanding of the neural pathways that lead to decision-making. To learn more, go to

To see more professional learning opportunities for teachers and educators, see our upcoming workshops.

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