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How does Sound Discipline’s approach differ from what is traditionally in schools?

Photo of adults sitting in a circle, closeup on one woman looking at her colleague.

Our goal is not to “fix” kids. Sound Discipline combines science-based, trauma-informed, restorative, and Positive Discipline practices to integrate equitable discipline practices and learning in schools. Using these approaches, we focus primarily on shifting adult perception and behavior so that adults and children build relationships and integrate these new practices into classrooms, homes, whole schools, and districts. 

We see deep cultural change as a starting point for a more profound transformation of how our society sees schooling. We seek to demonstrate and validate the power of shifting the mindset and practices that educators have been taught for decades.

We offer workshops and shorter-term engagements with a variety of organizations and adults working with children. Our primary programmatic approach is to partner with schools and districts for the long-term to transform schools into equitable learning communities. Our programs support comprehensive, deep, self-reinforcing, and resilient cultural change.

How do you engage families?

Our goal is to encourage full participation of all of the adults, families included, in a student’s life. We lead parenting workshops, support parenting peer support networks, and collaborate with parents whose children are being marginalized by adapting our programming for their specific cultural contexts.

We develop and distribute tool kits, resources, and videos to train and support our approaches here in the United States and around the world and to raise awareness about a variety of effective approaches for families.

How do you measure success?

We track changes in adult perception and practices in terms of the level of adoption and consistent application skills and approaches. We assess systems and practices related to disciplinary referral rates, attendance, academic scores, and school climate. We collect qualitative feedback from school leaders, educators, families, and students to gauge satisfaction, belonging, and learning.

How does Sound Discipline support schools to dismantle inequity?

Inequity is woven deeply into the structure of the school system. Sound Discipline programs build equity by providing training and coaching in the following concepts:

  • Interpreting and responding to situations through a trauma lens
  • Educating as co-creative practice centered on student agency and aiming for the well-being of the whole child
  • Being solution-oriented in ways that respond to feelings, address root causes, teach new skills and strategies for meeting needs, and repair harm
  • Using data to identify damaging systemic patterns of inequity and implement solutions that address both the immediate harm and the structural causes
  • Practicing social emotional life skills such as emotional self-regulation, naming feelings, and receiving and offering support

How long does it take to see results?

A graph showing a decrease in behavior incidents in a Sound Discipline partner school

Sound Discipline partnerships typically last for three years. In the case of Sound Discipline demonstration schools, our partnerships are longer.

Teachers often report immediate and significant change in their classroom and with their students. Schools report that after one year, they see a shift in mindset and perspective and noticeable indications of improvement.

In year two, both educators and students have become more adept in shared leadership and class meetings. Students show evidence of improved self-regulation, relationships, communication, and problem-solving. Students begin claiming their identity and voice. Adults use data to track and respond to systemic inequity.

In year three, the school climate is noticeably different. Adults have adopted and integrated Sound Discipline approaches into practice. The tone and culture change is visible in classroom and school hallways. The office is not inundated with student referrals. The school practices data collection, review, and solution-focused and restorative problem solving). Systems are continuously reviewed and refined.

Families trying Sound Discipline tools in their homes are feeling more connected to their student by practicing approaches the student is using at school at home.

What does trauma-informed mean?

By understanding how trauma and toxic stress shape our brains, we can understand just how varied our circumstances, and responses, are. Through this lens, behavior becomes a form of communication, as opposed to a problem to solve.

Trauma-informed practices are beneficial for everyone, not just those who have experienced trauma. These practices draw on brain science, specifically the effects of the human stress response and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

We work with our partners to begin or deepen a trauma-informed practice and overall in the following ways:

  • Being firmly grounded in the brain science of stress, relationships, and how they influence  learning.
  • Emphasizing the widespread impact of trauma and ways to heal;
  • Assessing and revising school policies and practices (such as student isolation and public shaming) that may re-traumatize or trigger anxiety or aggression in students;
  • Providing educators and adult caregivers information about how to support children to regulate their emotions and build positive relationships;
  • Encouraging adults to recognize children’s strengths and to help students develop their own learning goals;
  • Addressing and supporting the wellness needs for adults in educational professions; and
  • Providing staff with emotional self-regulation tools, such as meditation, to build capacity to respond to children impacted by adversity or trauma.

What is permissive and what is positive?

Teacher crouching to support student

In the context of family or classroom discipline, “positive” carries the connotation of permissiveness. Students need clear agreements about what is okay and what is not. They need authentic responses from adults that are both connected (caring) and firm. In practice, that means when a child is upset, the teacher doesn’t simply smooth it over and say it will be okay. They notice, name, and listen for readiness to facilitate the child to problem solve.

Positive Discipline teaches adults to “connect before correct.” As leaders of their classroom or as parents or caregivers, adults make expectations clear.  When problems arise, adults use restorative approaches aimed at getting at root causes, identifying solutions, and making repair.

What is the relationship between Sound Discipline and Positive Discipline?

Sound Discipline is separate from Positive Discipline as an organization but uses the Positive Discipline curriculum to support social emotional learning in schools. Our facilitators are in most cases Certified Positive Discipline Trainers (CPDT) and Certified Positive Discipline Parent Trainers (CPDPT). We offer Positive Discipline in the Classroom (for educators), Parenting with Positive Discipline (for parents), and Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way (for parent educators) workshops. Completion of our workshops is a step in the qualification process for participants to receive Positive Discipline certification. Sound Discipline and Positive Discipline are both based on Adlerian Psychology. Fundamental to this theory is that every human being is equally worthy of dignity and respect.