22 answers

Proper Punishment for 10-Year Old Boy

Our son has been misbehaving at school this year. He was suspended for half a day after a few altercations in PE and most recently not allowed to play in the school football game because he got in a fight with another kid. (Physical). My husband and I were married a year and a half ago so I'm still new to understanding discipline with my stepson. My stepson's mom is not in the picture so he is with us full-time and I've been trying to encourage my husband (with the help of the therapist) to take a step back from being strictly a disciplinarian and connect with his son. My husband used to take everything away for long periods of time as punishment and I learned you should just take one thing away at a time. There was a time the punishment lasted so long even I forgot what my son was being punished for!

My question to you fellow moms is what would be the proper punishment for getting in a fight. I thought taking away everything for the weekend and giving him chores to keep him busy then taking his video games for a week, saying each behavior problem to follow will add an additional week the next time around (next time it would be two weeks). Also we will only sign him up for spring sports if he can prove proper sportsmanship during his basketball season.

He came back with a report card (he's had a substitute this entire first year as his teacher is not arriving until after the New Year) that's better than what he's had in the past. Not great by my standards but nothing negative which should definitely be commended.

So in the midst of punishing how do you properly convey your approval for a good report card?

Thanks for all of your help. I really appreciate the wealth of advice I receive from you lovely ladies!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Well, if by 'proper' you mean 'effective' you might want to look at the book "Positive Discipline" and see if anything speaks to you. Sometimes kids have a goal in their misbehavior, and if you can identify it, you might be able to skip the punishment and solve the underlying problem.


Hi, A.;

My son got into a fight at about the same age. He had definitely been provoked into it, but we talked about the fact that, even though he had a right to be angry, the physical response was not appropriate. We then made him write an apology letter to the boy he'd been in a fight with, and hand-deliver it to the boy's house. He was MORTIFIED, but he never got in a fight again.

Good luck.

More Answers

I agree with Adrian. Sit down and talk to him in a calm manner.

Ask him what brought everything on, is there anything going on at school, why does he feel this behavior is acceptable? etc. Sometimes kids will say the most surprising things. Just remember that...NO MATTER WHAT he says...the most important things to say calm and give serious consideration to whatever comes out of his mouth.

One thing that I recently learned is to sit side by side, not face to face, when we want to have a deep conversation with someone. Face to face can easily become a defensive stance and for this type of conversation putting anyone on defense is counterproductive.

Good luck

Dear A.. IT could be he is asking for attention in the wrong way .he may feel out of the picture since the baby is in the picture. MAYBE MORE POSITIVE REWARDS SPENDING A DAY WITH YOUR HUSBAND doing someting he likes to do a reward for the report card . then a day with you to do something fun when is followed the rules. some times just taking a way his favor activeites for a short time added back with good behavior . why did he have a fight? maybe someone is bulling him and he got tired of it . I like I would try taling with him more being more positive and possibley look for a reasson why has been doing these things a school. well good luck S..

Discipline is always tricky. It sounds like your stepson has anger issues that need to be addressed. Get him into an anger management course or therapy or something. I would think he may have some feelings that he needs to deal with around the fact that his mom is not in the picture at all. I bet he misses her and doesn't understand why she's not around and in the back of his mind, he probably believes that he's done something to keep her away. He needs lots of love and to know that whatever happened, is not his fault and does not reflect on him at all. He's probably also angry with your husband because it doesn't sound like there'a any understanding, just punishment. I would definitely sick with the no springs sports if he doesn't do well with the basketball season, but ONLY if you get him some help. If you don't get him help, he won't be able to resolve these issues and no amount of punishment will resolve them for him. As for the good report card, I would give him back one of the things you took away to reward him and perhaps take him out for pizza or something. He needs some positive recognition!!!!

I do not have any thoughts on proper punishment for the 1st question, but I do think you are correct with the connect with his son and most importantly you need to reinforce positive behaviors. One thing you can try is instead of tv or video games, etc being a normal part of the day and if something goes wrong you take it away, try swapping it. When he has done good reward him with some play time or an hour of tv, whatever his fav activity is. A friend of mine has found this have made such a difference with her son (6 1/2) and I'm sure it would work at 10 too.

Good luck-

Hey A.!

Sounds like you have your hands full!

The first thing I would do is to sit down with the boy and dialogue about what he knows about right and wrong, and what he thinks appropriate punishments for different offenses are. Kids often times come up with stuff that WE think is too harsh! Allow the conversation to be both general (stealing from the store, stealing someone's purse, kicking a dog, etc.) and specific to the situation (lying to your parents, getting in to a fight at school, etc.

Next, put a reinforcement plan in writing. Let him do the writing, if he's interested, because it gives him ownership and makes him feel involved and responsible for his life, something kids at this age really want. These are the consequences for negetive behavior, these are the rewards for positive behavior. Make the incentives something you can handle that will be important to him: dinner at a favorite restaurant, family game time, extra tv or computer time etc. The consequences should also have importance: loss of friend time, early to bed, loss of TV/Computer time, etc.

Be ready to review your consequences/rewards list as needed, because what motivates him today won't neccesarily motivate him tomorrow.

If he's having problems every day, offer a daily incentive for good behavior. If it takes a month to earn the incentive, keep trying. Sometimes the first step is the hardest. If his problems are less frequent, offer a weekly reward.

Define exactly what you are measuring. Start with no more than three conditions to define a "good day" Mine are: No bench slips, No turning your card (no in-class behaviors that result in loss of privleges at school), and No being sent to the office. If those 3 conditions are met, regardless of anything else, he has earned the incentive. If not, he has earned a consequence. Sometimes, depending on the child, the consequence can be loss of the incentive. That's a "natural Consequence", and can be a very good teaching tool. For example, you earned a trip to Baskin Robbins for bringing home a good report card, but you also earned a consequence because you were suspended. So not only did you lose your ____________ (whatever the consequence was), but we can't go to Baskin Robbins until after the consequence period is over, because I can't reward you when you're in trouble. You earned it, and we'll do it, but not until you've finished your consequence.

I hope this helps, and keep us posted! Good luck!

Hi, A.;

My son got into a fight at about the same age. He had definitely been provoked into it, but we talked about the fact that, even though he had a right to be angry, the physical response was not appropriate. We then made him write an apology letter to the boy he'd been in a fight with, and hand-deliver it to the boy's house. He was MORTIFIED, but he never got in a fight again.

Good luck.

Hi A.!

It sounds like you are very "in tune" to your stepson. How lucky he is to have you :o) You are in a really tough spot, right now, so keep holding on to that patience.

First, it sounds like an awful lot of punishing is going for long periods of time. This gives him the feeling that "It doesn't matter what I do, because I'm always in trouble anyway!" It's to young for tons of grounding, that needs to be saved for when he's older. Now is the age to let him know what you expect from him, and he will simply follow through, it sounds like he's acting out for attention from his dad.

I would like to know WHY he got in a physical fight with another boy? Was he defending himself? Or did he start the fight? There is a difference, and what kind of boy are you wanting to raise? If he was defending himself then there should be no punishment. The school already handled it with a suspension.

It sounds like you are absolutly right, A.! Your husband needs to back off, and start "bonding" with his son. If it's not going to happen from him, then YOU can form a bond of trust with him. He needs someone "on his side that he can trust".

You really have different issues into your posting, and I don't want to write pages! I have been a stepmom for 16 years, and know really well how hard it is to be in your situation. I also have 2 more boys of my own, and now is a huge age for them to start developing responsibility, trust in you, and respect. It's much easier for him to deal with his own emotions if he thinks his parents are on his side.

As far as his report card goes, he's showing you "he's got what it takes" and he's fully capable of producing your expectations, but he is not behaving that way.

If he were my son, I would sit him down and don't expect for him to look you in the eye (he will be ashamed). Tell him things are moving WAY too fast in his little life, and you think you all are "trapped" in a cycle. Let him know that after you saw his report card, that you know how serious he can be. Ask him why his behavior got out of control. Tell him what you expect from him, have a few things written down. Ask him if you are being unreasonable with your expectations (he will say no, but ask). Then simply tell him you want to "start over". Wipe the slate clean, whatever. But give him a chance to show you what a great boy he is.

He just went through having a new mom, brother, and sharing his dad....of course he will act out!

It sounds like you are very loving, and care so much for him. I am sure that you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing :o) Trust yourself, A.. Mother's really do what is best!

~N. :o)

FIRST: With kids, always say the good thing first. "I am so pleased with the improvement on your report card!" No buts after it either!
THEN express your disappointment/disapproval of the school sitch. You do not say WHY he got in a fight. Maybe he had good reason. Which doesn't mean he SHOULD have acted on it. You see the difference? "Yeah that guy deserved a bloody nose! But you can't hit at school" etc etc
You are so right about OVER punishing! A week to a kid is like amonth to us. And take ONE thing away (i take the video. Then the TV if he gets lippy)
And remember this also: The school IS DISCIPLING him. You just have to get to the bottom of the incidents at school, he wont tell you if he feels judged. And tell him what he did wrong (fight at school) and that you know he knows better now and that you expect it will NEVER happen again.
As a step parent, your best bet is to be his FRIEND. Good luck,

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