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Disciplining School-Aged Kids
My almost 9 year old has had chronic behavioral issues at school-- disruptive behavior in class, being sent out in the hall, or being sent to the principal's office. Typically this is shouting out or goofing off.
We've tried many disciplinary techniques and at times gotten counseling-- all with pretty lukewarm results. Last year my son was on a competitive, travel team (I'll leave the sport out just to conceal identity). He's quite good, really loves it and especially loves the travel, staying in hotels and all the rest of it. Some of the tournaments require travel that has meant missing a half or even full day of school, maybe 1 or 2 times a year. Participation is a huge commitment for us of time, energy, and $$.
By the end of last year, we were so frustrated with the behavior at school that we began to threaten taking away the sport-- but we wer torn, because taking him off the team mid- season would also have hurt the team. We stuck it out, but warned that if the next school year didn't get off to a good start, we would not allow him to join the team again.
Well-- here we are, 3 weeks in -- and 2 notes home, and a visit to the prinicpal. So, we are following through-- but I am deeply torn. Am I taking away the one activity in which he has a healthy outlet for his energy and spiritedness. Are the social skills he's learning there more important than the few hours of school he might miss. Am I being old fashioned about thinking that if he doesn't tow the line at school, he loses his real love? My heart is breaking along with his to see how devastated he is since yesterday when the final straw was added to the camel's back.
I would so appreciate the advice/insight of someone who's been here or of a professional anon please
as a mom of two kids who play organized sports, one of the values that we stress is the responsibility of being on a team. we show up for practices & games. it is a commitment that they take seriously.
so what to do? if he likes going away for tournaments- the hotel experience, etc. how about just leaving immediately after the game? no pool time, no playing with buddies right after. when we do tournaments, especially far away, there are many group activities that my kids enjoy just as much as the games. so, perhaps you can have him honor his commitment to his team, but not the ''extras'' & fun stuff that go along with it? good luck a sports mama
Or, perhaps there are there other privledges you can take away. Punishment can run the gamut from grounding him to taking away all of his possessions (except his bed, clothes, and toothbrush) and making him earn every single thing back. Or every minute he misses class time due to being in the hallway or principal's office equals one hour of work around the house or community service. anon
You didn't mention whether you had tried therapy for your child--maybe, this is something beyond his control--ADD or some other behavioral issue?? You also didn't mention whether or not your son is experiencing a particular stress at home or school. Could he be and you don't know?
Good luck, but I definitely vote for not taking away the sport Julia
anyhow, we had also considered pulling him out of his sport (basketball) but everyone we talked to said not to - his teachers, counselors, therapists.
what we did was make a loooong list (posted in his room)of other things that would be taken away if he continued to not turn in homework or achieve at a minimum (c's) in all of his classes. This included cell phones, clothes, television, going out w/ friends etc.
take an inventory of what your child values - and give him a list. then if he does not do the basic outlined requirements (turn in ALL homework, tell you about where he is having trouble, tell you if he got in trouble before you get the phone call, no acting out etc.) then it is up to him to stay w/in the ''law''/rules...the basketball should be lowest on the list after several failures. also you could talk to his coach about benching him a game or so for various violations - that stings and is not as dramatic as pulling him all together. don't know a coach who wouldn't support that.
we did this and it totally worked like a charm. we even took all his clothes once and locked them up for a week (he had a few pairs of plain clothes and ragged shoes to wear to school).
you have to follow through on the consequences. after one or two missteps you should see improvement in their behavior and attitude.
we also enforce these consequences without lectures, yelling or beratement - which i think definitely helped our relationship. there can be so much stress and tension in the house when you are in this type of situation.
also, by keeping him in the sport - they have something they are successful at - if they have nothing - imagine the depression and despair. we used bball as a constant metaphor for other areas of success - hard work translates into better achievement etc. good luck to you on the other side now
My son has been suspended from school for bringing a weapon. I was called by the principal of his school and informed of the situation. At first I thought it was a plastic toy or something. I was soooo wrong. It was a pocket knife that belongs to his grandmother's boyfriend. She and her boyfriend had been camping this last weekend and he had used it during his trip. I could very well believe that he found it outside, however I am having trouble believing his reasons for carrying the item. My first reason to not trust him is his explanation he gave the principal. About two years ago there HAD been a man posing as a cop and used his disguise to lure children and hurt them. We talked to the kids about it and just told them they really needed to be careful about strangers and to go to the school office if something seemed fishy. That was two years ago though and it just doesn't sound convincing. Secondly when I arrived he was surrounded by some of his friends who were talking about a bully. When I got home my husband and I both asked him about a bully but he said he wasn't being bullied. I don't think there is any reason for him to deny a bully, I feel he can trust us enough to share anything regarding a bully.
Overall he's a good kid. A little manipulative with his younger brother and can bs, but we know when he is bs-ing with us. We've talked to him about zero tolerance at the beginning of the school year and what it means so I'm at my wits end. I know we can take away tv and movies and dessert, but I would like to discipline him in such a way that 1) he never does that again and 2) he learns something from this experience. Considering he's a really good student and citizen at school, his principal felt suspension was the best course of action.
Has anyone else had this happen? How did you handle it? Any suggstions would be deeply appreciated. Wants to discipline with positive results
I don't see how positive discipline can work on this one. This is more of a case where your son has to learn by facing the consequence of breaking a school rule. Suspension is appropriate. Tell him that if he brings the knife to school again, he will get suspended again or worse because it will be a second offense; maybe he'll get expelled. Remind him that if he's expelled he won't get to see his buddies and do fun things at school anymore.
How did he get the pocket knife from your grandmother's boyfriend anyway? Was it lent to him by this man or did he secretly take it? Did he lie about how he got it? I'd be more concerned about this than the reason he took the knife to school in the first place. CC
My 5 year old son has just started Kindergarten. He comes from a play based preschool, with almost no structure. While his kindergarten is structured, I chose it because I believed it was a good transition froma play based preschool into the real world...one big table and a lot of centers. Anyway, my son has gotten into the habit of talking to his neighbors when the teacher is talking, and not coming inside when recess is well over. I am a single-parent and my mom says to spank him. I have taken away his television for 30 days and no playdates in this time frame as well. While he has been generally well behaved, I don't want this to be a pattern. Any advice? Help!
Then I volunteered in his classroom last week and realized how bad the problem was. Right then and there I decided that I needed to take him out, give him the ''gift of time, and re- enroll him in Kindergarten next year. I have never felt so strongly and so firm in my decision to pull him out, and I knew it was right. He needed more time to play (because of the kindergarten standards there is so much work and very little time for recess - what a shame). He was emotionally immature, even though he could do the class work. He was also one of the younger kids.
Needless to say pulling him out of kind. and enrolling him back into his old preschool has created havoc on my schedule and life. It has also meant more expenses. I've been able to communicate my decision as a positive, ''you need more time to play,'' ''we can go to kindergarten next year when your better able to sit still and listen'' etc. So far so good, and he loves being back in his old preschool. I should also mention that his ''play based'' preschool did diddly squat to prepare him for kindergarten. I needed to be more involved in letters, writing and phonics than I was - hindsight! We live in a very competitive school district, and the pace of the school work moves very quickly, and by not listening he might never gain an edge or be on top of the curriculum.
You cannot totally fault your child for not being able to sit still and listen at this age. Some children simply are not at that stage! My son tried so hard, but couldn't conform. By giving him an extra year I hope to prevent any negative feelings about school. I truly believe that kindergarten through 1/2nd grade is the time children form an impression of WHO they are in relationshpip to school. Are they good at school or not? I should also mention that I did NOT want my son retained in kindergarten for having failed. He would be stigmatized for a long time, since he would be in school with the same children till 12th grade. Good luck with your decision. Believes in the gift of time
Another approach would be for you, your son and the teacher to have a meeting. With you present, she can explain to him why it's important to listen, and you can reinforce her message. At five, he's still just learning appropriate school behavior, and how to listen to directions. Ilene
My husband and I have always been extremly strict with our son. We raised him by setting very high behavoir standerds and telling him abosolutly NOTHING bellow these standards are acceptible. We do use spankings (though we only use these on VERY rare occasion), and we insist upon old-fashioned disipline methods. We emphisize respect, esspecially with adults (always call ladies (Ma'am and men Sir). Indeed, we have taught not to speak unless spoken to at table, insist that he be a gentleman and so on. This has worked very well, he is a exceptionaly bright, sweet, happy, and extremly well-behaved child. However, my husband recently drew to attention that none of his friends have these rules, and, though we forbid him to ever complain about rules of any kind, he may get jealous and think it unfair as he gets older. My husband also has been wondering if our extreme strictness and disipline is not really very good for him in the long run. So I wanted to ask other parents,
To me, discipline is about the kind of person you want your child to be in the long run. My goals are to have an independent child who is empathetic with others and who realizes her potentials as an adult -- that is finds a career that is important to her and satisfying relationships. I think in developing your discipline strategy, you need to focus on your goals as a parent. Given my goals, I try to work on getting my child to see the other person's point of view, and to reflect on the consequences of her actions (not that we always succeed). So, not knowing your goals, I'll just mention a couple of areas I would have questions about. The not speaking unless spoken to could be a significant problem in school. When there are 20 or 30 children in a classroom, a child who doesn't ask for help is likely to be ignored. Second, is your son getting any practice negotiating the limits on his behavior -- kids who can negotiate have an easier time working things out with other kids and with adults outside the family. Third does your discipline system have any kind of a feedback loop (like family discussions) so that it can evolve with your son as he develops?
Best wishes as you think through your own philosopy.
I would like to address only one part of your post. You mentioned that you have taught your child that he is not to speak at the table unless spoken to. When I read this I felt quite sad, both for you and your son. I hear the most amazing things from my daughter... little memories from preschool, or random thoughts, or questions about the world -- all of which just bubble up from the percolator that is her brain. They pop out all of a sudden and I simply can't imagine stifling that. We have had so many wonderful, interesting conversations that originated with HER. Now, I do understand where you're coming from... you want to have an adult conversation; you don't want to be interrupted; you want him to learn to respect others when they are talking, etc. But I believe we are doing all of that with my daughter, yet still allowing her to speak of her own accord and, at times, to lead the conversation. She is learning to wait her turn to speak and to say "excuse me" when she wants to cut into the conversation. I think a child is much better served if he or she is taught to be a polite but active participant in conversation than if she is instructed to sit back and be quiet. In fact, it seems to me that if you encourage your son to speak up and share his mind with you, you'll be showing him the respect that you are asking of him.
As a child, my parents were very strict with me and my siblings. Overall, I don't think we are the most well-adjusted adults. This has made me question whether having a well behaved child (the outcome of strictness) necessarily results in a well adjusted adult. My goal as a parent is to raise well adjusted adults. Not to necessarily have well behaved children. While I would love for my children to behave as well as your child does, to try to get them there would surely do some harm to their "spirit".
I think before you can decide whether or not you are "too strict," you must first consider what it is you want as a family, and how you define "family time." For example, dinner time/table time at our house if FAMILY TIME, not a time for children to sit in silence. We take turns going around the table, giving each person a chance to say something about their day and so on. The children are included in this process. I, too, want children who are respectful (but not fearful), polite (but not silent). I think in addition to assessing whether or not you are too strict, you must also assess what you want from your family and what type of relationship you want with your child. Remember, we learn as much from our children (and from what they have to say) as we have to teach them ourselves. Don't be so strict that you miss the beauty of their wisdon, their innocence, and their amazing take on the world. I would suggest redefining what you want as a family, and try including your child in discussions/talk/and so on. And finally, consider that in the long run, a hug works a lot better than a spank.
Mom of three polite children
Wow, this sounds way too strict to me. Do you really want to raise a person who does not speak unless spoken to and never questions authority? As a counter example, I watched as my sister raised her son without saying "no" to him for the first five years. I feared he would not respect others' boundaries, but I'm now impressed with my 15 year old nephew who is a sensitive, independent and friendly young man capable of verbalizing his feelings.
Perhaps a gauge on strict parenting is a measure of the child's real happiness expressed around his parents and other adults. Do you sense that your son has good freedom to be silly and express his feelings with you? Does he laugh out loud and feel comfortable teasing or playing with adults like a typically kid his age? If not, your son may be more repressed than well- behaved. But if so, his spirit and your discipline are in fine order.
more Dad than Father
We are also strict, not mean, parents. I feel that holding the line has paid off for us in well-behaved and happy children. They receive a lot of compliments. I also believe that we will have fewer problems with them as they grow older. Some of our rules are different from yours; we don't have the same table rules, for example. When my kids were younger, I occasionally felt frustrated when we were with friends who were more permissive, but I don't feel so insecure about it anymore, because time has proven that a little leniency never led to a big backslide. However, if it was something I felt strongly about; for example, running around in a restaurant and yelling or disturbing other patrons, I would not allow it at all. My kids understand that they have rules that are different from other kids' rules, and I think you are going to find that is the case universally, whether you are strict or lenient. Also, my kids don't seem to mind and I think they even take pride in their behavior.
It seems to me that parents who are extremely strict with their children should look at WHY they want their children to behave in such a rigid way. Are you overly concerned with how other people perceive YOU (and, as an extention, your child)? I do think that it is nice for children to have good manners (it "butters" social interactions and children with good manners are often more considerate and concientious), but the most important thing for parents to do (I think) is to help their children become kind, empathic, good, and caring people. Remember that children (and adults) learn by making mistakes and it is impossible to have children live up to extremely rigid behaviors without mistakes.
To expect your child (or anyone!) to not fall below certain standards (after all, people/children get upset, tired, etc.) is putting too much pressure on him! You expect him not to speak unless spoken to at the table??? Has he nothing (as a 6 year old) to add to a conversation? Do you not care about how his day was, what his ideas are, how he feels about things? Understand that children who talk/communicate/share at the dinner table will have closer relationships with their families and feel closer to their parents. Will you expect him to share his feelings/ideas/thoughts freely with you later on in life, as an adolescent or adult, when you do not respect his voice and opinion as a child?
And, you forbid him to complain about rules??? True, I don't necessarily change rules because my children complain about them (we would have none then!), but to forbid them to voice their opinions/feelings seems draconian to me. Understand that I am not one to tolerate disrespectful and rude children, and I agree that parents do sometimes give their children too much power/control. However, if you do not respect him as a person, and his voice/opinion, he will come to resent you. He can be gracious, kind, and a gentleman without being repressed, oppressed and bullied.
Mom who appreciates manners, but....
Wow, my gut reaction is that your email really scared me. I know that you are doing what you feel is best for your son (and obviously you are open to rethinking it, or you wouldn't be posting here)--but my answer to your question, "Too Strict?" is YES!!! Here are my reactions to what you wrote:
"abosolutly NOTHING bellow these standards are acceptible"...little kids make mistakes of all kinds. Behaviorally, academically, socially...that's how they learn. It is important for them to know that their parents still love them even when they do something wrong or make a mess of some sort. High standards are great. Being inflexible is not.
"We do use spankings...and we insist upon old-fashioned disipline methods"...my dad grew up this way and had nervous breakdowns as an adult in part because he was a very sensitive person who was traumatized by being spanked and humiliated by his father as a child. However, this didn't stop him from spanking me, though...and although it made me FEAR him, it didn't make me RESPECT him. Later in life he deeply regretted that he had passed along this type of violence to his children, but it took him YEARS to admit it. He defended the strap for decades until he got truthful with himself and realized he lacked the communication skills to discipline in kinder, more productive ways. (I was really proud of him when he was brave enough to admit this.)
"We emphisize respect"...again, if I were your child I would not feel respected. Respect can (and in my opinion, should) be mutual between parents and their children.
"we forbid him to ever complain about rules of any kind...he may get jealous and think it unfair as he gets older"...Do you allow him to discuss rules? Or feelings? If not, yes, he may indeed think your rules are unfair. I work with kids and I have seen a lot of kids raised strictly who seriously rebel when they are older. Because they hide their rebellion from their parents for fear of severe punishment, often the parents do not know there is a problem until really late in the game. Now of course all kinds of kids from all kinds of families get into things they shouldn't, but I think it is worth asking yourself whether or not you want your son to feel comfortable coming to you if he has a problem. It sounds like at the moment perhaps he is being so controlled that he might not feel free to speak up about things you don't want to hear.
I hope you are able to make a decision that is best for you and your child. I am impressed that you were willing to post such a message as I am sure you will receive many strongly felt responses (like mine!). Thanks for reading.
Spare the Rod and Love the Child
I think that different expectations in behavior are okay, up to a point. It's great that you are teaching your kid to have good manners; it's something that will serve him well his whole life. However, please be aware that you will have to adjust expectations as he ages. For one thing, if he's still calling all the adults he knows "ma'am" and "sir" when he's a teenagers all the other teenagers will make fun of him, sad to say.
The only thing I really object to is not speaking unless he is spoken to at the table. It's a fine idea to teach children not to interrupt, but they should be able to speak when they have something to say. The older your son gets the more you will value having good, open lines of communication with him. I've always felt that one of the most important things in parenting is listening to your child.
Good luck, D.
I was raised in the South at a time when it was standard practice to insist on the kind of behavior you're talking about. We were not allowed to "talk back", we ate what was put before us, we said yes ma'am and no ma'am and we got spankings and switchings on a regular basis from our parents and even our grandparents! I'm a happy, well-adjusted adult (if I do say so myself). But I am not raising my children the way I was raised. I do insist on polite behavior - no rudeness, no name-calling, no wild behaviour indoors, and always please and thank you. My oldest tells me I am stricter than other parents about curfews and such, though I've confirmed this not to be the case. I do expect respectful behaviour, but I do my best to model the behaviour I want from them. No one is allowed to be rude, not even the parents.
But I decided early on that I would not spank, because the message seemed counterproductive (if you are angry, strike them!) And, I decided that I did not want to instill in them the kind of blind obedience to authority that was instilled in me. The reason is that obedience isn't useful for the kind of life I want them to have. Politeness is very useful, and their good Southern manners have paid off over the years in helping them develop long-lasting social relationships with friends and family, making a good impression with their friends' parents (very useful for their girlfriends' parents!), and improving their grown-up encounters as they start to enter the world of working and networking. Politeness is a useful tool, but blind obedience without question is no longer useful for the world we live in now, where creativity and independent thought are more highly valued, and so important for so many kinds of interesting work. I don't want my kids to be in a submissive relationship at work or in their personal lives just because that's what they learned growing up. I don't want them to be afraid to speak up if they think a friend or a teacher a boss or a president is doing something wrong. I still have trouble speaking up because of the way I was raised. It's been hard for me every time I've needed to solve a problem for my kids that involved going in to talk to the teacher or the coach, because I am so ill-equipped to challenge an authority figure. My children are not like I am, and I'm very glad of that. My two oldest have now made it through their teen years, and I know that things went as well as they did in large part because they were raised to think independently. They have never felt they had to go along with the crowd, or engage in destructive behaviours just because somebody told them to. We can't always be there telling our children what to do and how to behave, and unless you expect someone else to be there telling them what to do, like a mean boss or a spouse you won't like, you will need to teach them about mutual respect and give them the ools to think for themselves.
PS: the ma'am thing - nobody does that out here, though it is still done in Alabama, and I do it myself to old ladies when I go back there - they like it. But people here think it's odd, so I wouldn't recommend training your kids to do it.
We need to raise our children to think for themselves, so that they can make good decisions when we are not around. And we are not around them for many hours of the day once they start school. If we constantly threaten our children to do whatever we tell them to do, we are not raising independent thinkers but followers. Developmentally, pre-teens will turn away from their parents to find their own uniqueness and later on turn against the entire ''older'' generation for a while. Instead they will listen to their peers. The kids who were raised to be followers will now obey their peers, replace one authority with another. These thoughts stem from my favorite author Barbara Coloroso, whose works ''the Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander'' and ''How to win at parenting without beating your kids'' I can highly recommend.
I was born in post-war Germany. I was taught at home and school to always speak up if I didn't understand something and have it explained to me (that includes questioning authority when need be). Discussion itself was the objective, this was not about renegotiation nor agreement. In the exchange of ideas and perspectives everybody gaines depth.(Did that cost parents more effort? Well, nobody wanted another generation of followers. Post-war parents were done with the word ''Fuehrer'' (Leader).
Well, you asked, so I'm going to add my opinion. Yes, you are too strict. What you describe doesn't sound like a situation that teaches a child to be respectful and happy, but one that will teach him to be fearful and insecure. Fearful of your anger (you will spank or otherwise punish him) and insecure that you will withdraw your love if he doesn't behave properly. I have been doing a lot of reasearch on child rearing, including seeing a parenting specialist. I have been learning that extreme strictness tends to result in resentment and, frequently, self destructiveness. One of the concepts that I have been learning the value of is the notion that we are here to serve our children, not the other way around. That our children grow up to be loving, respectful people when we show them love and respect - when we support them to express themselves (not require them to be silent untill spoken to), and make sure that they know that they are loved unconditionally (not punished for failing to abide by rigid behavior expectations). Please read ANY book by Alice Miller, a gifted writer and child psychologist: ''The Drama of the Gifted Child'', ''The Truth Will Set You Free'' are just a couple. They are excellent and explain clearly the kind of damage that can be done by certain kinds of strict, ''old fashioned'' dicipline. I know you want what is best for your son, so at least read these to get an alternate point of view.
Learning to Love My Child Unconditionally
Any time a parent achieves compliance by anything other than teaching or modelling, such compliance is unreliable and suspect
And, by the way, I am not saying to subvert rules and expectations of courtesy and respect; I think that respect goes both ways--from parent to child and child to parent.
Good luck to you. Gentle but firm parenting style
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