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REASON-SKILLS

Don Bosco’s Way gives reasonableness great importance especially in formulating rules, dealing with corrections and applying sanctions:

a. On Rules
Some hints to make the rules reasonable are as follows:
1. Base your rules on common sense.
2. Keep them few.
3. Keep their formulations simple and clear.
4. If rules need to be explained, it is important to briefly emphasise how they will benefit the students.
5. Communicate the rules clearly, orally and in writing.
6. Youth have a tendency to forget, often without malice. Timely reminders will help.
7. Not all rules have the same value. Those that take priority need to be firmly implemented. Those that are merely convenient can be applied with a certain flexibility.
8. Rules have functional value and are not ends in themselves. Their usefulness needs to be evaluated in course of time.
9.  It is best to let students have a say in the formulation of their own rules. They are likely to show greater responsibility in abiding by them.
10. To check your sense of fairness before promulgating rules, it may be good to put yourself in the shoes of those who would have to observe them.

b. On Corrections
Since youth are apt to forget rules, corrections are often necessary. Here are some useful hints:

1. Decide whether a correction is really necessary. There may be more tactful ways of reminding a young person about an error committed. Note that an error may occur because of other intervening factors and not because of the student's fault. In such a case, deal with the cause and not the student.
2. Correct personal faults personally, in an atmosphere of concern and respect for the offender.
3. Before correcting ask yourself:
·    what the principal reason for the correction is.
·    what the core value violated is.
·    what method of correction is proportionate to the offence.
4. Avoid the following methods of correcting:
·    Don’t accuse, impute malice, or jump to conclusions.
·    Don’t call names, or use offensive language.
·    Don’t be sarcastic.
·    Don’t lecture.
·    Don’t moralise.
·    Don’t be violent. Don't raise your voice.
·    Don’t get personal.
·    Don’t publicise or make a scene of the act of correcting.
·    Don’t involve the parents – unless deemed important or urgent.
5. When correcting:
·    be factual.
·    be polite.
·    be reasonable.
·    be firm.
·    be brief.
6. After correcting:
·    do not hold a grudge; be ready to forgive students who ask pardon for their mistakes.
·    do not remind the student about faults committed in the past.
·    do not use the fault of a known student as a public example of behaviour to be avoided by your listeners.
·    ensure that the relationship and lines of communication with the offender are still intact.
·    ask pardon of the student if you have been unjust or rude in the act of correcting. 

c. On Sanctions
In general, never punish.
  • If faults are big ones, or if they are repeated often, check what is the underlying cause or the psycho-social background of the offender. It may be necessary to put the offender through a counselling session.
  • Invite parents to participate in the search for a solution, always with a view to understanding and helping. Care should be taken to create a respectful, non-formal atmosphere.
  • If sanctions are necessary, here are two suggestions. Use assignments that will redound to the long-term benefit of the offender: for example, make the youngster memorise an inspiring text. Or use deprivations: temporarily deprive the offender of a certain privilege, like your personal attention, or something he or she is fond of.
  • A sense of proportion is absolutely necessary. There must be no exaggeration with regard to the quality or duration of the sanctions given.
  • Never use physical force.
  • Never humiliate.

Discipline is necessary. It reveals the tough face of love. Reason is a useful means to discipline behaviour, yet, education is a matter of the heart. When reason and love work in harmony, the student at the centre of the educational project is always the winner!

Art: Salesian Province of Mexico (Artist unknown. Please write back to inform us if you are aware of his name.)
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Further study:
Don Bosco's 1833 letter on Punishments in Salesian Houses