B.D. asks from Augusta, GA on February 16, 2012
7 Yr Old Son Misbehaving in school..trying to Find the Appropriate Punishmnet
I got a call from the assistant principal today saying my son was calling a kid a baby and told him he needed diapers. It apparently turned into a physical altercation and my son got hit in the face. i dont agree with my son picking on the child at all but it shouldnt have escalated into a fist fight. the other child should also be punished for fighting. i could see it if my son hit him first and the other kid was defending himself but that wasnt the case. This isnt about the other kid though this is about my son. I dont know why he is picking on a kid when he himself has been picked on for the past 4 years in school. I taught him better than that and I am very dissapointed in him. He got 1 day of afterschool detention but Im trying to find the appropriate punishment for home. I was trying to decide on whether or not grounding him (no toys, video games, tv etc) until after his after school detention next tuesday was appropriate or not. He has a birthday party to go to this weekend and I definetely think he should miss it. no negative responses please
J.S. answers from Hartford on February 16, 2012
Your son was likely picking on the other boy BECAUSE he was picked on for the past four years. He felt powerless and bullied for years and the tables turned and felt a bit of power in doing it to someone else. It actually happens quite often. Children who are bullied in the home or by other people will very often become bullies themselves in order to feel some control and power.
If this was a first time incident, he may just need a reminder of how he felt when the very same things were done to him. He needs to be able to empathize with the boy he picked on. He also needs to apologize to the other child. A written apology would be a great idea.
Apart from that I would remove one important privilege that will have a strong affect on him. You can't realistically remove everything he enjoys and loves. That's not really fair. He's young and it was the first offense. Plus, it will make everyone in the house miserable. So rather than take EVERYTHING away from him you take away one very important privilege, so if he's looking forward to that birthday party then take it away and make sure he knows why. If you also ground him, I wouldn't take away all things he enjoys, especially if they center around family time. Don't take away his toys. No video games unless he's playing with you or dad. No TV unless he's watching with you or dad. I'd keep that grounding through Sunday evening, but with a new week starting on Monday I would also start his week fresh at home and end his punishment.
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T.S. answers from Washington DC on February 16, 2012
Unfortunately, having been bullied and picked on himself makes him MORE likely to do that to other kids, not less :(
Talk to him about how HURTFUL words can be (often more so, and certainly longer lasting, than a punch to the face).
I firmly believe that kids learn most from natural and/or logical consequences for their actions. "The punishment should fit the crime" and all that. He already got the natural consequence for name-calling... he got hit in the face. The school is issuing detention and you as his parent want/need to reinforce that name-calling is never okay.
If it were me, I'd assign him a task to do (as penance) and make the length of his grounding contingent on that. For example, write a letter of apology to the child explaining that he knows it was wrong to call him names and that there is no excuse for his behavior etc. 7 is pretty young still, perhaps it would be worthwhile to invite the other boy over for a playdate (whether he comes or not is his own choice, but it could be worth extending the invite). Whatever you decide he should do to make up for the inappropriate behavior, he should get that done before he has any fun/free time, but if it's done by Saturday, I'd probably send him to the party... but that's just me.
Hope this helps.
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B.G. answers from Champaign on February 16, 2012
I understand your frustration and disappointment, but I really don't think punishment is the answer. He needs to talk to you about how he felt when the other kids picked on him and how what he did must have really hurt the other boy. He needs to understand that you are "very disappointed" in him and really feel like he let you down.
I really don't know what the birthday party has to do with anything. My parents didn't believe in grounding or in those types of consequences, so I just can't relate to that one. I'm not saying there were never consequences to our actions ... they were just never in the form of missing out on things. Usually they involved extra choirs or doing something nice for someone.
Writing a letter of apology sounds perfect to me.
Just a quick comment on "the other child should also be punished for fighting." Do you know for a fact the other child was not punished for fighting? Usually the school is not at liberty to discuss the punishments of students with anyone other than that student's parents, so perhaps you just weren't made aware?
He screwed up and let you down. Focus on what he needs to do now and in the future. Grounding isn't going to send that message at all.
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R.K. answers from Appleton on February 16, 2012
I think you need to talk to your son. Ask questions about the other boy and his family. Ask why he was calling the other boy a baby and told him he needed diapers. Get to the bottom of their differences. Maybe invite the other boy and his Mom over so the boys can play together and you can get to know the other Mom.
Maybe if the boys spend some time together they find out that they have more in common then they have differences.
I also think that once you know more about the situation you can figure out the right punisment. --- Maybe this is one of the boys who was picking on him or some other child. This may have been your son's way of sticking up for himself or another child.
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T.S. answers from San Francisco on February 16, 2012
Has he behaved this way before? If not then the after school detention should be enough punishment, along with a conversation with you about how what he did was wrong (the name calling) and how to better handle himself next time.
If this is a pattern and something that he does often then I agree there needs to be consequences, but they should be directly related to school. A lot of teachers use a color card chart to help kids this age control their impulses. For example everyone starts with a green card. If he misbehaves his card gets turned to yellow (that's a warning) and if he misbehaves again then his card gets turned to red and he is punished. At our school it was usually a loss of recess which is a huge deal to the kids. Even the "bad" ones worked really hard not to get a red card! Do you know if his teacher does something like this?
He needs to be TAUGHT how to behave and how to control himself. Punishments like grounding and taking away privileges at this age aren't very effective because they only work in the short term. Sure he may be better for a while but unless he learns how to function well socially he will misbehave again. Nip it in the bud, if he has been bullied in the past he's even more likely to lash out at others.
ETA: I just read some of your previous questions re your son. I think you need to make an appointment with the school counselor, s/he will help support both you and your son when it comes to discipline, I think that could REALLY help!
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K.P. answers from Dallas on February 16, 2012
def not bday party this weekend, no tv and no outside playing with his friends (at least this is what my mother used to punish me as a kid) my kids are still in the time out stage.
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C.B. answers from San Francisco on February 16, 2012
First, you need to sit down with him and tell him to close his eyes and put himself in the other boy's shoes. He can feel the pain of being teased because it's happened to him before. Ask him does it make him feel good to know that he caused someone else to feel like that?
Then go on to tell him how truly disappointed you are with him. Tell him you never thought he would do something like that because he has been picked on before.
Then, yes, ground him and absolutely no birthday party this weekend. In fact, he should have to write a note of apology to the other child while he is grounded.
I think that the realization of how he made the other child feel combined with your disappointment in him will have more of an impact than the grounding, but I would still ground him.
Good for you for taking this so seriously. Ignoring things like this is how bullies and born and thrive!
S.S. answers from Chicago on February 16, 2012
you need to sit down with him and make a list of action / consequence's. make sure he understands what the consequences are. don't start with the worst one first. have it tiered so that it is a step to each one. kind of like don't go from no consequence to your grounded from everything. it won't get the reaction your looking for. he needs to understand what will happen. he now knows the consequence at school (detention not suspension) if that makes any sense. I think if your grounding him from a birthday party then that is consequence enough no need to ground him from all other stuff also. or if your grounding him from all other stuff then maybe not the party. sometimes it is so easy to jump right to the your grounded for life thing.