Teachers Need to Stop Taking Recess Away From 'Bad' Kids

Rant 42

recessMoms. Dads. Can we talk about discipline in schools for a minute? Specifically, the habit teachers have of punishing kids by trimming time off of recess? Have you ever heard of a discipline technique more likely to fail?

Let me just put a little disclaimer out there: I have an 8-year-old who attends public school. She has lost time off of her recess a few times, although not often. But this isn't just a problem in my house. Every time I turn around, another parent is telling me their kid is being kept inside while the rest of the wiggleworms go outside to run around and get all that energy out of their system.

More From The Stir: School Deserves an 'F' for Putting D-Students on Honor Roll

Is it any wonder some kids are "problems" in the classroom? The one time of the day when children are actually allowed to be up out of their seats, and their teachers are saying, "Uh, uh, no way, we're going to make you sit there even longer ... oh, and we expect you to deal with it."

The problem with this? Ya know, beyond common sense?

Experts have practically been screaming their lungs out for the past few years, trying to be heard by school districts about the benefits of downtime for kids even as those same school districts whittle away at the time kids get to spend outside a classroom. Programs like No Child Left Untested, er, No Child Left Behind, have put pressure on the districts to maximize academic time, and the loser is the kids. On average, today's kids get only 26 minutes of recess per day, and that includes lunchtime (when their butts are required to be in seats, and in many schools socialization is limited). Some schools have even gotten rid of recess entirely.

Unfortunately for the schools -- and for our kids -- that's not enough. Kids' activity has been intrinsically linked to their behavior.

When researchers asked teachers to rate the behavior of third graders, the kids who received at least 15 minutes of daily recess scored better than those who didn’t get recess. As Dr. Romina M. Barros of Albert Einstein College of Medicine told the New York Times when their study of recess was released back in 2009:

Our brains can concentrate and pay attention for 45 to 60 minutes, and in kids it’s even less. For them to be able to acquire all the academic skills we want them to learn, they need a break to go out and release the energy and play and be social.

Put it that way, and taking away a kid's recess is essentially setting them up to fail. It creates a vicious cycle whereby a rowdy kid misbehaves, loses recess, and then misbehaves again because they haven't gotten that break they need to be able to concentrate and pay attention.

And lest you say I'm being way too kid-centric here (shudder), the researchers will tell you that not only is recess better for the kids; it's better for the teachers too. One study released earlier this year by researchers at Stanford University actually showed that schools that put a focus on giving kids a "better" more worthwhile recess experience actually got more academic time out of the kids because the children were ready to learn.

So my question: when are the schools going to recognize this and do something about it?

I'm not anti-discipline. Kids need to be held accountable for their actions if they're ever going to learn. But then again, if kids are ever going to learn, they need a system that isn't setting them up for failure.

Do your kids lose time off of recess for misbehavior? What do you think should be done instead?


Image via NCinDC/Flickr

behavior, discipline, elementary school, education


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Shahayla Shahayla

Wow, stfu. My moms a teacher and yeah she has taken away recess. It usually happens on a warning system where they only get it taken away by the second or third time they get in trouble. If your child is misbehaving then they're gonna be punished. And if they are being bad then tell me how successful your child is being anyway? How else? I bet you coddle the hell out of them and your kid does no wrong right? And for another thing it's sometimes a punishment that helps them. When a kid doesn't turn in their assignment fr lying about hw to parents or just had lazy parents who don't make them do it then they get held in to gain extra help on that assignment at a time where it's not taking attention away from other important issues. You seem like a slap on the wrist kind of parent. Like you'll yell at a teacher or something for taking away a recess because your kid ignored multiple warnings but won't lift a finger when notified that your kid is being a bully or flicking rubber bands during study time. RANT OVER.

nonmember avatar Alx

I think it stems from the home environment. We hear a similar story from a lot of our students quite often, "I went to the movies two times, I played video games 'til 2am, or I was watching tv late because Mom wasn't home." It seems our kiddos are already used to sitting down and do not make efficient use of their recess time. We give them 20min and 10min in, the kids are sitting down and the playground area empties out and soccer balls are lamely kicked to one another. We can't get them to play kickball, we are also not allowed to give them basketballs or even fully inflated soccer balls because of PARENT COMPLAINTS. Football's are not allowed either. So what's worse, a parent complaining over sports equipment? The lack of equipment? The lack of recess? Or children who really do not even use recess effectively?

nonmember avatar Kate

ABSOLUTELY! And no one needs this more than little boys. We wonder why there's a rise in diagnoses of ADHD? It's not that the kids have a syndrome, it's because they're full of energy and need to burn it off! Schools don't see recess as a necessity, but they're not giving the kids any alternative ways to burn energy. And once-a-week gym class doesn't cut it.

nonmember avatar tanya

What do u expect If the child is misbehaving there Is a consequence the rules tell them whats going to happen if they misbehave. if your child acts up at home do u let them go out to play if so your child isnt going to learn anything as far as getting there energy out thats what p.e.is for. recess is a reward and for kids who know how to follow rules maybe u should explain rules to the children misbehaving instead of downing a teacher for doing what they should

MrsSa... MrsSamMerlotte

There are many many many studies out there on the benefits of recess.  It allows kids to burn off extra energy so they can actually sit in their seats during class time.  Physical activity stimulates the brain and allows for quicker thinking. It gives children time to socialize and engage in imaginative play which in the long run helps with impulse control and increases creativity.  The children who are a little hyper in class are usually the ones who would benefit the most from recess. 

nonmember avatar Lbdmom

Whenever there is an article about recess there is always someone who thinks they know about ADHD and how it's not real, those kids just need to blow off energy. ADHD is real. Come hang out with my son for ten minutes and you'll be eating your words. Kids should have recess, but when my son misbehaves or doesn't complete his work I don't mind having his recess revoked as a consequence.

nonmember avatar S.Smith

Ok so if your child is bad they should still get rewarded with recess? Yeah that makes sense!! Ok let's make a deal..you want your child to be rewarded with recess for acting bad ? Then go to their school and write a statement that a teacher can spank your kids butt when he acts up so recess wont be taken away but he will still get punished..and FYI recess shouldn't just be a school thing!! Wanna know why we have so many overweight children in the U.S. Because they are lazy.. Tv and video games are most children's idea of exercise!!

nonmember avatar Bree

Hey, some of you moms should at least be grateful for what your children DO get!! My children have not had recess since preschool!!

sweet... sweetaspie630

I agree with Kate. Also research has clearly shown over and over that kids would do better if school started later, and yet schools won't agree to that. Maybe instead of pushing tests, schools should push doing what is PROVEN to help kids learn.

Brain... BrainyMommy

Well we could cane them. 

1-10 of 42 comments 12345 Last