In late 2009 I read a book called Lost at School by Ross Greene. Greene espouses a management/discipline approach called Collaborative Problem solving. One of the points he makes is that standard discipline practices tend to revolve around the idea that "maybe Johnny will think twice before he does this again". However, our best evidence shows that students are not thinking when they act out, they are reacting to emotional and psychological triggers that they do not know how to handle in an acceptable manner.
Well, I added some evidence to support Greene's idea two weeks ago. Frustrated by events at school and home, I did something stupid and ended up with a broken hand. The thing is, I knew it was stupid before I did it, and I sure knew it was stupid after I did it, but in that moment my emotions were so piled up and tangled up that I could not stop myself from acting out. The good news is that I only hurt myself. The bad news is that the hand will be in a cast for another six weeks, drastically limiting my employability for that time.
And I'm an adult, turning 40 later this year, with all that experience and wisdom(?). Imagine how hard it is for a 15-year-old to do better.
So, when dealing with students or your children, remember that they do not have full control over their actions. It is better to keep an eye out for trigger situations and to try and disarm those triggers rather than punishing in the aftermath.