Learn about Positive Discipline through Storybooks and Smiles

Experts work with education workers to make schools a place where children are safe to learn

Chotirot Suksangvoravong and Songporn Leelakitichok
Graphic of a storybook's cover. It's a picture of a big tree and a boy and a girl are playing by the tree.
UNICEF Thailand
23 June 2021

“School is a pleasure / All teachers are kind / Students do not whine / All of us love, love going to school!”

The lyrics of this song commonly sung by students in Thailand describe a school that every child would like to attend – a place of hope and opportunity, where students are safe to learn and develop the skills and experiences they need to thrive. But when school is a place of fear and punishment, children are at higher risk of poor physical and mental health, school dropout and violent behaviour in adulthood. That is why UNICEF is encouraging positive discipline over punishment through fun and creative classroom activities to foster healthy and compassionate relationships between teachers and students.

A screenshot from a Zoom meeting with 25 people in it.
UNICEF Thailand

In May, UNICEF Thailand organized an online seminar on “The Tree by the River and Building Positive Discipline Together” with Dr. Sombat Tapanya, clinical psychologist and founder of the Peace and Cultural Foundation of Thailand, who translated and edited “The Tree by the River” storybook; and Kru Jaeng Siriporn Tumsingha, a teacher from Pathum Thani Province behind a child rights campaign called Child Rightism. Forty participants, working in education and registered through our I Am UNICEF volunteer platform, expressed their willingness to become advocates for positive discipline and incorporate it in their schools and organizations by the seminar’s end.

During the seminar, these education workers examined the mistaken belief that physical punishment is necessary and effective in controlling children’s behaviour, as suggested by the proverb “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” This approach not only does little to encourage good behaviour among children but is also likely to make it worse. Instead, the seminar encouraged education workers to promote good behaviour through building a positive relationship with children, setting clear expectations and teaching skills like responsibility, compassion, cooperation and self-discipline.

A classroom during COVID-19 outbreak, where students had to keep physical distancing.
UNICEF Thailand/2020/Roengrit Kongmuang

UNICEF’s work to promote positive discipline does not stop with the seminar.  The team behind our I Am UNICEF platform is working with Santitham Foundation and InsKru to integrate the expert knowledge from the seminar into classroom activities – by turning “The Tree by the River” storybook into a card game.  In this creative activity, students and teachers illustrate the story together.

“The Tree by the River” tells the story of a teacher who uses physical punishment in the classroom. The narration gives readers a glimpse into the students’ mental struggles as well as the teacher’s guilt. In this way, the storybook helps teachers gain a greater sense of self-understanding, helps students better understand their teachers and helps readers learn about the impact of violence against children. There are also questions at the end of every chapter encouraging readers to discuss the different types of violence they observe and ways to practice positive discipline in everyday life.

With teacher’s support and volunteer power, UNICEF is helping pave the way to safer classrooms through positive discipline over punishment. After all, there are no bad children, only bad behaviours.



Download the storybook "The Tree by The River" here.

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