Ancestry UK

The Barnardo Rule Book

In 1944, as an adjunct to its recently established training programme, Barnardo's issued a confidential staff handbook, providing detailed guidance on every aspect of life in its homes. The "Barnardo Book" included sections on such matters as the daily routine, health, maintenance of discipline, and sex education.



For private circulation only.


Control of Very Young Children. The guiding principle in all matters relating to the control of very young children should be to prevent a situation arising where punishment becomes necessary. This is more difficult obviously when dealing with groups than with individual children. Actual numbers give rise at once to possibilities of friction; but even so, a very great deal can be done by diversion, to prevent a difficult situation crystallising, or a conflict of wills ever developing. Johnny is going to bang Charlie on the head; Johnny is diverted by an errand to be run, a job of work to be done. The moment of tension passes, and Johnny is free from the necessity of punishment.

Children should not be slapped. The following methods of control are suggested: (a) If a child is disobedient, it is best to stop him from playing with the other children. He can be put in the corner of the room, or made to sit in a chair and look on. He must never (1) be shut up in a room; (2) be put in the dark, (3) be left alone anywhere.

(b) If the child is nervy, or tired, or out of sorts (factors which often are the cause of disobedience) he may be put to bed (this is applicable to small children only; it is not considered advisable for "over-sevens"). If put to bed, he must not be left in a room alone. Arrange for someone to be occupied in the room.

(c) Respect of other people's belongings must be inculcated. Small children are, by nature, acquisitive. Nursery School methods advocate that every child should have his own locker where he may accumulate his store of treasures. This, it is believed, is the best way to teach a respect for private property. Never search or empty a little child's pockets at night; it only tempts him to make up losses from other people's belongings. Stealing a cake round about tea-time may be punished by deprivation of cake at that meals but threats of cakeless and jamless teas are deprecated. The little child cannot connect two separate incidents divided by a space of hours.

(d) Noisiness. The only way to combat noise in the nursery is for the teacher herself never to raise her voice or shout. Noisiness is highly infectious and it is essential for the habit of speaking quietly to prevail in the nursery.

(e) For persistent unkindness and bullying, if the methods indicated above fail, advice should be sought from the Chief Executive Officer or Chief Medical Officer.

Never punish for enuresis, masturbation, nail-biting, or other nervous affections. The physical or psychological root of the trouble must be sought. Encouragement here can work marvels, and definite rewards should be given for a bad habit overcome. It is essential that confidence be established in the child's mind. Care must be taken not to comment on a child's misdemeanours before the other children, or the child's feeling of insecurity will be intensified.

In conclusion, infinite patience, humour, a sympathetic understanding, great ingenuity in finding suitable diversions, these, and not a code of punishments, are the essentials for the happy control of little children.

The ideal home is a place where each member feels secure in the kindliness and affection of the others, and willingly co-operates in the duties to be done, taking a full share in the activities and pleasures of the community. Such a home is a happy place, and in an atmosphere of happiness and security serious difficulties of discipline rarely occur. No community can be run completely without rules, but they should be those of courtesy and common sense; children readily grasp the reasons for such rules when they are explained to them, and when they understand, are willing to co-operate in their maintenance.

In planning our corporate life, we should try to arrange matters so that children find it better to do what is right than to do wrong ; praise and approval for duties well done achieve far more than constant nagging about those badly performed. Encouragement is far better than chastisement. While it may temporarily lessen efficiency, it is better not to keep the same children always at the same jobs; a rota of groups can be made, and the variety thus introduced will give greater zest and interest to their performance. It is specially important for our children that each individual should feel himself to be loved and wanted in the home to which he belongs and that he should feel that he makes a contribution, however small, to the corporate life. No healthy child is "good" (in the sense of not annoying adults) all the time, and it is important to distinguish between different kinds of naughtiness:

(a) Pranks which result from animal spirits done to attract attention or powers of leadership which have not sufficient outlet. The way to deal with these is to find some useful and constructive channel into which this energy can be diverted, e.g. becoming a member of a voluntary youth organization, starting a hobby, taking on some responsible task, such as looking after a younger child.

(b) Misdeeds which spring from some physical or psychological cause such as unhappiness, discouragement, ill-health, the emotional disturbance of adolescence. Here it is vital to find out what lies behind the child's actions —a process which may take much time and trouble, but is immeasurably worth while. The school teacher can often help if consulted, and frequently a talk with the offender will deal adequately with the difficulty. It is well to try and ascertain the strong point in a child and build on that. Difficult cases may call for special treatment, and should be reported to the Chief Executive Officer. To do this should not be thought by the Head of the Home to be an indication that he has failed in his handling of the case. On the contrary.

(c) Nervous disorders, like nail-biting, masturbation and enuresis and cases of uncontrollable temper, should receive very careful treatment as punishment would not only be unjustified but definitely harmful. In serious cases the advice and help of the medical officer should be sought.

(d) The problem of lying should be dealt with carefully and may want quite different treatment according to the reason which led to it, e.g. to get out of a difficult situation or for romantic purposes. In every case the root of the difficulty should be sought. The inclination to steal could be lessened by children having their own possessions which they can use as they like. Each child should have his own locker and his property should be respected. It is then easy to make him realize that he must do as he would be done by in this respect.

(e) Noise is best dealt with by the example of the staff, who should never shout at the children or raise their voices in an attempt to get silence. Quietness is far more effective.

(f) Discourtesy or rudeness depends so much on the attitude of the staff to the boy or girl that it can only be dealt with individually. An expression of surprise may help with some children, and impressing on them that if they adopt such speech, they cannot expect to do well in life.

(g) The telling of-unpleasant and silly stories can be best combated by filling the child's mind with new ideas and giving him interesting and exciting stories of deeds of adventure and heroism to read.

When dealing with large groups of children, and particularly in the case of boys, it is not always easy to choose the right course between the extremes of laxity and severity, but it is undeniable that the maintenance of a proper standard of discipline depends upon the personality of whoever is in charge, and it is also true that the best disciplinarian finds it least necessary to employ punishments. Though it must needs be that offences come, yet the Head of a Home would do well to consider in his own mind whether the need to punish a child may not be to some extent a confession of his own failure. The first requisite is to build up in a Home a good tradition. This is not always an easy task for there will be and must be in our work occasional difficulties in the case of those boys and girls who are admitted to the Homes in their "teens," and who come from a previous environment of vice or neglect, and yet these are the children who most need our sympathy and help. When once the boys or girls realize that their offences are anti-social acts which injure their own community and themselves, much has been done towards the creation of a standard of public opinion, and this will do more than any system of punishments to decrease the number of such acts. In some schools it has been found that this sense of corporate responsibility has been helped by the institution of some form of House competition, be it for the holding of a "Good Conduct Shield" or for the award of special privileges. The essence of it, of course, is that the child's behaviour reacts not only upon the individual, but upon the members of his House or Group.

It is important that children should learn that they cannot share the privileges of a community unless they share its duties and responsibilities. When some form of punishment is necessary, the first essential is that the offender, and the other children in the Home, should realize the fairness of it. Any punishment which leaves a sense of injustice has definitely failed. For this reason it is right that there should be sufficient interval of time between the offence and the punishment for tempers to cool down. An angry child should never be scolded until the anger is past, although it may be well to separate him temporarily until he has regained his balance. The previous history of the child should also be very carefully considered so that it should be quite certain that the punishment is suited to his or her particular case. This interval, however, must not be too long, particularly in the case of small children who may fail to associate the punishment with the previous offence. All this sounds very obvious, but there is reason to think that it has not always been observed. For example, a man who boxes a boy's ears or cuffs or shakes him, or inflicts any other form of unauthorized physical pain, is not merely forfeiting the respect which the boys would hold for himself, but is doing definite harm to the discipline of the Home and adding to the difficulties of his colleagues. It should be clearly understood that actions of this kind are absolutely forbidden. The Council of the Homes will not tolerate them and will not keep in their employ anybody who uses such methods.

Though a printed list of positive instructions as to conduct (" Do this ") may possibly be justifiable in that it gives children something constructive to aim at, a printed list of negative instructions ("Do not do this") is not wise. Such a list cannot be complete and an omission might be used to provide an excuse. In all cases, a child should be given a chance to state his case—his delinquency may be due entirely to ignorance or error.

On occasions when punishment is necessary, it is permissible: i. to withdraw temporarily some privilege (of which there should be as many as possible) or withhold the right of using pocket money for a short period; or ii. to substitute extra work of some useful type for a period of recreation. This would include detention classes if there were several offenders. "Punishment drill" is not recommended; "lines," if set, should be a very small number, and should not be cumulative. It is more effective to set a passage of ten or, at most, twenty lines to be done in a child's very best handwriting than the mechanical task of hundreds done anyhow. Such cumulative impositions not only injure a child's handwriting, but create a feeling of resentment, and he or she is apt to forget altogether the breaches of discipline which caused the punishment. Alternatively a child may be made to learn a passage of similar length by heart; or iii. in cases where children appear tired and fractious—to send them to bed earlier than the others. This should be used only with discretion, and a child should never be left in a dark room or dormitory alone. Means of communication with a member of staff should be provided and some form of occupation allowed, and an early opportunity taken by the Superintendent to visit the child and talk over the difficulty. This punishment should not be used for older boys. There are obvious dangers in leaving a boy for any length of time alone in bed unless he is asleep. On no account must a child or children be left locked in a room; or iv. to use the "probation" system of reporting two or three times a day to some member of the staff who may be on duty, and once a day to the Superintendent, as a reminder to the boy that he must behave himself; or v. for misbehaviour, rowdiness or greediness at meals—a day or two at a Defaulter's or "Silence" table; or vi. wilful damage to the property of the Homes, of other children or of neighbours, might be punished by some system of small fines to be paid from pocket money for two or three weeks ; or vii. in normal times, to substitute a less for a more attractive part of a meal, e.g. bread and butter for cake. During the war period, however, this is not permitted.

Corporal punishment.

Boys. It should be remembered that corporal punishment, which in our Homes means caning and the use of no other instrument, is to be regarded as the final resort and should therefore be very seldom employed. It is probably a good thing that the boys should know that there is a cane in the cupboard, but the more that caning is used as a punishment, the more it loses its efficiency as a deterrent. A cane should only be used when all other methods have failed, and when it is quite clear in the mind of the Head of a Home that it is absolutely necessary. These conditions are the rules of the Homes :

It must be administered by the Head of the Home or by an officer of the Home in his presence and under his direction. If the Head of the Home is away on holiday or sick leave, it may be administered by the second-in-charge to whom such authority has been specifically delegated for the period.

It must not be administered in the presence of other boys. It must be administered in the presence of a third person who should be the second-in-charge (or other senior officer) and of nobody else.

A record of every case must be fully entered, dated and signed at once in the "Punishment" book. The reason for the caning must be stated.

It may not be done under any circumstances to boys under seven years of age or those who are physically or mentally afflicted or temporarily in a Hospital or Convalescent Home.

The boy must be wearing his ordinary clothes, and must not in any circumstances be tied down.

Generally two or three strokes should be sufficient, but the maximum shall not exceed six for boys under fifteen or eight for boys of fifteen and over. In no circumstances may sentences be consecutive.

No punishment should normally last for more than one week, except a fine, which in extreme cases may run for three or four weeks.

Such punishments as head cropping, wearing labels or entering offences on a placard placed above a child's bed, are not permitted. A child should not be unduly humiliated before his fellows. Under no circumstances should the punishment be of such a nature that a boy or girl finds difficulty in regaining self-respect.

A list of specific punishments for specific misdemeanours is not desirable, since a punishment should fit the character of the child rather than the misdemeanour.

It is useful to have regular staff meetings to ensure that members of the staff understand and co-operate in the maintenance of discipline.

It may be found helpful to ask each member of the staff to keep a "Remark" book in which comments on the behaviour, good and bad, of each child are recorded. This should be submitted weekly to the Superintendent, as in this way he gets a picture not only of the child but also as to how the member of staff is dealing with any difficulties.

The Superintendent should be responsible for the imposition of all punishments as distinct from the natural correction of any childish misbehaviour.

A record of every punishment, except quite trivial ones, together with reasons for it, should be entered at once in a "Punishment" book, dated and signed by the Superintendent. A copy of this must be attached to each week's report to Headquarters.

Humour, patience, and understanding affection for growing children are the indispensable qualifications for those whose work lies with them. In our Homes we have a unique opportunity of training for our nation some thousands of children in happy self-control, by providing an environment in which they can feel loved and secure and which is "home" in the fullest sense of the word.

Girls. Corporal punishment, striking, cuffing, shaking and any other form of physical violence, should never in any circumstances be inflicted on girls or threatened.