Do Six-Year Olds Need Zero Tolerance?

Six year olds are very smart and Zachary Christie is no exception. But, they are also naïve because of their lack of experience and judgment. Six year olds love to share, especially something new, love to tell stories and willingly show what they have to authority figures, like teachers and parents. This is exactly what happened when Zachary Christie brought his Cub Scouts utensil to school. He didn’t think about any consequences because he was innocent in his actions. As shown by immediately giving his spoon, fork and knife set to the teacher when asked.

Zero tolerance in schools is a good thing, as long as school officials use good judgment when kids do stupid yet harmless stuff. Age appropriate child development should always be considered when assessing a child’s behavior.

If a student takes a dangerous object to school and it is concealed then of course school authorities should always use zero tolerance.

There is a huge difference if say a fifth grader brings something dangerous to school than a first grader. Because by fifth grade most kids are abstract thinkers, meaning they can ‘think through’ different scenarios of what will happen if they behave in inappropriate ways or don’t follow specific school rules. And usually they will try to conceal their intent, because they know it is wrong.

Any six-year old, including Zachary Christie needs education not punishment! Punishment never changes behavior, so if the goal is to teach kids not to bring dangerous objects to school, suspension from school is not the answer. So what’s a school to do, just ignore the problem? Absolutely not! Why not turn this tragedy into triumph by having a first grade ‘show & tell’ learning day or night? Send an invite home to parents to participate with their kids in a ‘show & tell’ event. On the invite for this open house event put a list of acceptable things to bring to school to share. Then when parents and kids come to the school event use this learning opportunity to remind kids and parents again what is not ok to bring to school!

So my message to parents and teachers is to always look at how a child view’s the world at different developmental stages before making ‘across the board’ consequences for breaking the rules. Otherwise, common sense goes out the window and crazy decisions get made in the heat of the moment!

Please let six year olds be six and understand the beauty in their unintentional behavior and let zero tolerance go where it’s not needed!

As always would love your comments, Dr. Ann