Help Me Determine the Appropriate Discipline

Updated on August 30, 2013
S.J. asks from Cherryville, MO
15 answers

I know we will all have different views on this, but that is precisely why I am posing this question. I need ideas. My oldest (age 8) is a very bright and (usually) well-behaved boy. He does well in school, is such a great big brother and is a very loving child. However, school just started August 20. Since then, he has been in trouble already twice - once for talking in class and the other time for flinging food at a friend in the cafeteria (he and another boy engaging in the behavior). I am first, stunned, because he is the last child in the class to usually have any disciplinary issues. He is quite calm and somewhat shy/sensitive, so I am just surpirsed by this. And secondly, wow, we are two weeks into the school year and already this much trouble?? I am at a complete loss as to how to a) punish and b) teach him. We have never had to deal with this type of behavior with him so this is new for me. The worst we have ever dealt with is a little talking in class, and he is working hard at controlling that.

Does taking things away help? It hasn't seemed to bother him much in the past, but maybe I am not taking away the right things? He just doesn't get worked up over "things". He isn't one to be addicted to video games much, although he still enjoys them, he reads more than anything, and he of course likes all the typical boy sports. What can I do to help prevent this behavior? Is this more serious than I think, or am I overreacting? I just want to do the best thing to help him learn not to do it but also I believe some form of punishment has to come. Part of me says this is normal 8 year old behavior, but that doesn't matter. He is getting in trouble
for it at school, so it has to stop. I have such a hard time with determining whether punishment is the best route, etc. Help!

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So What Happened?

Ok all - thank you! Some really good answers here. And I agree, we will just remind him how unpleasant it was today to miss out on fun, and remind him, as I have many times, that he CAN do this, he is awesome, smart and completely capable of behaving well, and that we know we all make mistakes. I cannot say my hubby won't still take away the wii for a week, but nothing too drastic. =)

@nervy - I think part of my frustration stems from the fact that these are all great suggestions, but all things we have already done - no bad things for a week? get a treat. The school has things they teach the kiddos to do if a classmate is talking to them and they shouldnt be - hold up a "0" with the hand or the peace sign - both mean "shhhh". I work with my kids EXTENSIVELY to teach, guide, lead, etc. We have tried so many things and I don't see a behavior improvement, I see a decline (ie now we are flinging food when before it was just talking). Hubby also thinks he is getting a bit of an "attittude" lol - So while I welcome the suggestions, people act as if we haven't already worked on this for a loooong time and it doesn't seem to be improving. I wouldn't be here posting if this were a first timer. Yes, the food was a first timer. And I was a talker in school, and guess what, I got in trouble at home for it too! (see abbie's post - my hubby agrees with you =)

ETA: So I guess I should ask it this way - when does the school handling the issue NOT become enough? How many times does he get sent there for misbehavior, other than talking because that is just going to happen, before you do something "different". Because let's say he does this three more times, which I fully expect he won't, but say he does (because he will still get into some form of trouble), when do you make the determination that obviously missing recess isn't cutting it? For example, he has cried many times in the past for getting in trouble at school for talking, but that never made him quit. So he took it seriously, but not seriously enough? I made very clear in my post I want to teach him just as much as I want to make him aware this is not ok (ie punishment, etc).

ETA: and my little guy just called be bawling from the principal's office for the food issue, and he must eat his lunch in the office and miss recess, so that is the school's punishment. I am thinking I want to request that happen tomorrow as well as additional punishment, but I am not sure where to go beyond that. I know he is just having an awful day, and that breaks my heart. But I know that will help him learn to behave, just kills me.....

MAMAZITA - did you not read my post? I said it breaks my heart he is having a bad day BUT I know it will help him learn. He lets things bother him, so I know this will probably make him feel like crap all day - again, good for learning, but most kids get over it WAY easier than he does. Where did I say I expect perfection? I do expect my child not to get sent to the principal's office on a regular basis and I do expect him not to talk AS OFTEN as he has been. That is setting rules for him to be a good adult. I wish more parents would, then maybe my son wouldn't have such bad kids to follow! =)

ETA: We had problems last year with excessive talking, to the point he had to have his desk moved, and he wrote letters to the teacher, worked at it, etc. Now we are seeing that same behavior, and he has already written a letter to this new 3rd grade teacher. I just feel like it isn't really getting through..... I feel like we have already done all that is said below and maybe it should be a two strike deal?

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answers from New York on

Ditto Nervy Girl -- on this and everything ;)

He's had his punishment. If he's crying, that means he's taking it seriously and he recognizes that he's crossed the line. So no need to double down.

What it sounds like he really needs is a strategy for not letting this happen again. So many parents (I don't mean you in particular, everyone) focus so much on punishing transgressions, and they just assume that children will develop good judgment and self-control via punishments. And, good judgment and self-control are really complex. They take a lot more than that.

So, rather than a punishment, it sounds like he needs a sit-down. As in, "Wow. The principal's office. That's serious stuff. Let's talk about what happened in the cafeteria and how you can avoid having that happen again."

Remember, too, that shy, sensitive kids are often easily egged on. They don't usually instigate trouble, but they feel the need for social approval acutely, and when other kids prompt them toward troublemaking, the elixir of friendship is often impossible to resist.

So, think in terms of strategy -- some cool, mildly transgressive thing he can say to the other kids in a whisper -- so he can stay out of trouble without marking himself as a goody-goody.

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answers from Philadelphia on

This sounds like normal 8 year old behavior to me. He was disciplined at school so I would not punish him further at home. I would just tell him you expect him to not speak when the teacher is speaking etc... And not to ever throw his food again.
You said he is working hard at controlling his speaking during class time. What more can you ask for? Additionally, I would honestly be very surprised if he ever throws food again.
He certainly does not sound like a trouble maker. So remember...this too shall pass. I would not be concerned at all.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

These are only two incidents, so I don't consider it "this much trouble."

First of all, talking in class is extremely common, and it usually takes a few weeks for teachers to implement expectations and consequences in his/her classroom to deal with disruptions. I doubt your son is the only student in his class to have talked these past two weeks.

Second, a one-time flinging of food is also common enough, for boys. I assume that the school also has consequences in place for that.

My opinion is that the school is used to such behaviors, and if the school is any good, it has procedures and consequences in place, which will be much more useful than you trying to deal with it from home.

You support the school by telling your son, "Don't talk in class without raising your hand, and don't fling food in the cafeteria." Other than that, I don't think you need further consequences, at this point.

If classroom and cafeteria disruption becomes a pattern for your son, then you need to deal with it at home. But to me, two instances are not cause for alarm, and they need to be dealt with at school, not at home.

Re your "What Happened": When is it NOT enough? You will know. Cross that bridge when and if you come to it. Right now, your son doesn't need to be demonized. He's a normal kid.

p.s. -- He doesn't need two days. The school said one day -- leave it at that.

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answers from New York on

I've said this on other similar posts too - don't "double punish".

Misbehavior at school, is being punished at school. That's enough.

ETA: It is always enough. Leave it at school. You weren't there, you didn't see what happened (maybe the teacher "misinterpreted" your son's behavior, etc). Just discipline your son for bad behavior outside of school - that keeps most parents busy enough as it is! ;-)

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answers from Dallas on

This is what I think I would do. Continue to work with the teachers to impose consequences. Let the consequences fall at school where the behavior is an issue, not a home. Keep home safe and loving. If you are not making progress in a reasonable amount of time then talk to the pediatrician and consider your child cannot control his impulses and get some advice from a professional on how to help him. I wouldn't focus on the punishment. The school can be the bad guy. I'd focus on the teaching/or helping him. You can talk to him about it and learn how to teach him ways to control himself. Possibly positive reinforcement would help. Allow him to earn something special for a good (not perfect) week at school.

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answers from Boise on

I wouldn't punish further then the school has at this point. That may be all that needs to be done to curb the food fight appeal. In many cases the schools punishments are enough, it's only in extreme cases that parents need to step in on top of the school.

As for talking. I was a talker, my DD was a talker (only one of them, she more then made up for the other kids) and it was honestly nothing my mom could stop, or I for that matter. One teacher auctioned my DD to the highest bidder and she had to be that persons personal assistant for 2 days. My DD loved it, the other child had fun with it, and it did work to some extent. lol

Talk with the teacher. She will probably have some better solutions.


Stop looking at what he hasn't done yet. He hasn't had more then one food fight, he may never have another one, he may have another one in a year. Deal with what you have right now, not what might happen later.

I had overall good kids, who were also known to do some really stupid things. Things that make you shake your head and wonder what the heck were they thinking. It's a part of childhood, it's a part of growing up, it's a part of learning boundaries, and it's very normal.

So again, relax, it's been handled by the school. This just isn't that big of a deal.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on


This may be the end of things-- having lunch in the principals office and crying--sounds like he might have already learned his lesson. Think about it-- he was called out in front of peers and this sort of in-school discipline is something that gets a LOT of social attention.

If it were my kid, well, I think I would let it end there. Just a talk in private with you and Dad may very likely be enough. I'd check and see if he's just getting carried away with his friend, and then give good advice:"Just because he is doing this silly thing doesn't mean you should." And then, I'd hold any further punishment-- I would, however, make it clear that if I got another call from the teacher or principal for his behavior that there would be a serious consequence. Maybe it's writing a letter of apology to the teacher for disrupting the class, if that's the case, or doing extra chores. Flinging food? Maybe having kitchen duties for a few days with you might be instructive as to *why* it's messy and why we don't act like animals and leave a mess for others.

But for today, my guess is that he's pretty humiliated. Convey your disappointment because "we know you know how to behave in school and we expect good behavior at school" and then let him know that the next time, there will be a really un-fun consequence. I think humiliation is a great teacher, and as mad as I, too, would be, I wouldn't impose the kind of punishment that makes him focus his upset and anger on you instead of himself.

ETA: One thing I want to add, S., because I can see how frustrated you are-- some of this is really developmental. I know it's hard to understand, but at eight he may really be a social kid and just inclined to talking, so he's going to have to gain a lot of self-regulation on this. I loved the idea Mira suggested of having a pat phrase he can whisper to get refocused "Don't get me into trouble-- we aren't supposed to talk now."

I also think Patty W hit the nail on the head with the idea of rewarding his work at regulating himself. Perfect week with no negative feedback from the teacher? Let him choose the family movie to rent, or Saturday night's dinner or some extra time at something he enjoys-- it should be an *earned privilege*.

Some of this may really have to do with his level of maturity, too. There are some areas I wish my son was more advanced in (task persistence, staying focused) however, I know--through his teacher's feedback and guidance-- that this isn't a deliberate attempt NOT to do those things on his part. She has repeatedly reassured this anxious mama (me!) that those abilities come with maturity, which was such a relief to hear. All that to say, hang in there. This is something he's going to have to master on his own-- just keep offering positive encouragement and yes, a privilege to earn if that's what it takes. :) By conveying your disappointment, making expectations clear and offering a goal for him to work toward, you do support the teacher esp. over the long term.

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answers from Chicago on

I think the school is handling it just fine. I think the talking issue is difficult to manage in general, I have no suggestions on how to work with that, because that is an issue in my house too! I am following the teacher's lead on this issue.
She sends "red cards" home when the kids are having issues during the day and our deal is two red cards no PS3 for the rest of the week. That is easily his "currency."

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answers from Washington DC on

I think the school handled it. I would talk to my son when he got him to find out his side of the story as well - I've learned to not trust my kid's school, so I always get both sides of the story before I take any action.

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answers from Detroit on

Well, if the school is handling it, I would let them handle it. And I would give him a warning at this point - sort of "3 strikes and you're out". He's had 2 strikes already, a 3rd means that there will be some kind of consequence at home. Taking TV away for a period of time works well with our daughter. But it sounds like what the school is doing is enough for now. Sometimes kids have to learn the hard way.

I would also have a talk with him and give him a chance to explain himself a little, but then let him know that he needs to control himself better and think before he just starts talking out of turn or doing something that is going to land him in trouble. He can't get let other people egg him on into doing things like throwing food, no matter how much fun he is having at the time. If he's 8, I am guessing he just started 3rd grade, and he needs to understand that they may not be as tolerant of things as they were when he was in kindergarten.

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answers from Denver on

As a teacher I see this a lot. It is minor but they are being strict to set the pace for the year. I see a lot of people post about not double punishing. I have to say that I think this is a problem. What happened to getting into more trouble at home for your misbehavior elsewhere? I'm not saying be a tyrant but I do think you need to lovingly discipline at home too so the message is clear that you and the school are on the same page. This directly supports the teacher, something I rarely feel.

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answers from San Francisco on

So after reading some of your swh, it appears that the school has implemented a "natural consequence" consequence and I think that is enough. You said you don't think he will get over it as quickly as other children; that it will bother him for a while. So I say that's enough of a punishment.

Truly, these are bad behaviors, but they are kind of mild compared to what sort of trouble he could get in to. I bet he was just pushing boundaries and now he knows where those boundaries are and that they are solid boundaries. I'd give it a chance to see if the punishment he is suffering is enough to curtail this sort of behavior. I'm speaking of the food slinging - the talking in class is something that he will control soon enough and it's pretty typical so I wouldn't worry too much about that.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Aye yi yi!
Ok--the food incident was handled well at school.
I would suggest having him go to his room after school for an hour and write a few paragraphs about what he did, what happened, why he did it, etc. (who, what, why, when, where).
I think what lots of parents forget is that this is the age (grade 2?) is that personality and independent though kick in in a BIG way.
They're no longer little perfect robots.
And that's OK.
Yes, he needs to follow the rules, but breaking them is where the learming happens!
Good luck!

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answers from Austin on

Well he is getting a good punishment from the school at this point.
You need to tell him, this is the results of HIS behaviors and the school has your support.

If you want to reinforce that you will not abide this behavior, you need to set up an appt with his teacher/and or the Principal and all get on the same page that you are going to support any type of consequences they hand out to him. And you let your son know you are setting up this meeting. He can then be there sitting in the hallway as you 3 meet one afternoon.,

At home you tell your son you know his behaviors are better than this and you will not stand for him to continue to get in trouble at school. Let him know you do not want to have take activities and things away from him at home, but you will if this happens again. Put HIM in charge of his behaviors and consequences.

He is testing. This can fall in normal. He is trying out new behaviors and he is not keeping control over his behaviors. He needs to be reminded what happens to the students that are always misbehaving.. Let him know you are not pleased about any of this.

At our daughters school, they could miss half of recess, they might have to work out in the hallway of the Principals office, they would have to sit at a special table where no talking was allowed. It was not considered a good thing.

Ask him, "Do you like being in trouble? Do you want to continue to miss out on sitting with your classmates?"

Then work out some solutions. Ask him," do you think you need to sit somewhere closer to the teacher, facing her?" "Do you need to have a girl sitting on either side of you during class?"

Do not over react, but let him know you are talking and working with the school every day to make sure he behaves. And let him know you KNOW he can keep it together at school.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I didn't read all the responses, but a few, so maybe this has already been said. If he is doing things that are unusual for him (as in he is always talkative, so talking too much gets normal discipline), I would really sit down and find out what's going on. There is likely a cause, whether he's feeling anxiety, he's being bullied, he feels behind on one of his subjects, his teacher reprimanded him in a way that really hurt him, etc. It may not even be a very big deal (in our eyes), but sometime these things really fester and cause problem behavior. If you talking something out with him (often all it takes with my kids is listening to their problem) it might really help.

I also heard thoughts of "what's at school should be left at school," but I really disagree. I see it as backing the teacher up, not overriding her (unless you tell him to ignore her punishment). Also, keep in contact with the teacher, a good teacher wants you involved and wants to help get through this.

Taking "things" away from my kids never seems to work either.

I hope it gets better!


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