JOHN DAY – A Positive Discipline class has brought Blue Mountain Education Center students together as a “virtual family” as they study parenting skills and children’s developmental stages.

Although none in the class are parents yet, assistant teacher Crish Hamilton says they are learning an important social skill.

“I notice a real difference in the rounding of the students’ education and life experience when they have exposure to programs like this one,” she said, adding that almost all the BMEC students participated in the class.

On the morning of May 26, students were gathered in a circle on the floor as Amy Spangler and her five young children joined the class.

Lessons for the day included choosing age-appropriate toys, communicating at the child’s eye level and showing affection.

A role-play demonstration between class facilitator Katy Beliveau and Spangler’s little boy Jordan showed how to diffuse a challenging situation as he pretended to play with a potentially dangerous tool.

Beliveau said that asking him if the screwdriver was a toy, helped him think about his choice and easily decide to hand the tool over.

Making it clear that they were just pretending, Beliveau also role-played the wrong way to handle the circumstance, talking down to Jordan, which he said would make him feel bad.

The seven-week Positive Discipline series followed a longer Good Parenting: The Greatest Gift class, also taught by Beliveau who is a family support specialist for Families First Parent Resource Center. The class was made possible through funding from Grant County Commission on Children and Families.

“All the curriculums we use are really cohesive for all parenting skills,” said Families First director Teresa Aasness, who coordinates the program and supervises the class. She had workstudy help through the year from Grant Union High School junior Hailey Cates who helped prepare materials for the class.

Beliveau said she aims to help the students improve communication skills, expressing positive feelings toward each other, problem-solving collaboratively and learning nonviolent solutions.

“We formed a virtual family and we created an appreciation of compassionate behavior toward ourselves, toward our community and our real families,” she said. “If you have good communication you have very few discipline problems.”

Megan Long, a senior at the school, said she’s enjoyed Beliveau’s lessons this year.

“I learned that children have feelings too, and if you treat them like they know things, then they’ll be smarter,” she said. “You can’t belittle them – positive discipline is the key.” 

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