Opinion on Punishment for a Pre-k Student in School??

Updated on February 10, 2011
T.S. asks from Austin, TX
22 answers

My daughter attends Pre-K in a public elementary school. They eat lunch in the cafeteria with the other Pre-K class and also the Kindergartners, earlier then the rest of the older students.
My daughter has come home numerous amounts of times explaining that she got in trouble by the lunch lady for playing at the lunch table and was sent to the "trouble table" to eat lunch by herself (in front of every one else in the cafeteria). She tells me that she is usually the only one that gets in trouble, every so often she says someone else got sent to the "table".
At first I didn't think much of it, after all she is 5 and she does play at the dinner table sometimes. As it happened more often, I thought that it seemed that this woman had it in for my daughter. But then it didn't happen very often anymore. ( I noticed it was coming in spurts)
Anyway, she would tell my daughter that she was going to have to sit at the table by herself again the next day, which made me mad..because why would you punish a child for something she didn't do?
Yesterday, she was put at the table for playing with another child (no, the other child did not get in trouble)..so, when I picked her up today she told me she was sent to the "table" right away before she was able to sit with the other kids.
To me this seems very humiliating to her and it doesn't seem right to punish her when she didn't do anything wrong. This doesn't seem right.
This is a super sweet child who does have a lot of energy...she is 5.

What is your opinion on this?? I am going to speak with her teacher tomorrow, but who else would I talk to? The principle? I have never had to experience something like this before.

What can I do next?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You need to get to the bottom of this. Request a meeting wil the principal and the caf lady. You have to watch out for caf ladies-they can be huge bullies. Don't let her get away with it on a child that young.

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answers from Austin on

This happened once to my kindergartener last year. I think it is completely inappropriate and unacceptable to single out a child like this and went to the principal. I think there should be an adult at the table if they are young, or there need to be other actions available that aren't so severe. Good luck!

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answers from Fort Wayne on

You need to go get the adult side of the story. Your daughter is 5 and at that age they don't really necessarily understand what's going on. I'm not saying that your daughter is lying, but she might be skipping over details that she deems unimportant. I would speak to the teacher and the person that's doing the reprimanding. Once you figure out exactly what's going on, you'll have a better idea of where to go from there.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Definitely check with the teacher first. I know we all want to believe our kids, but there's a saying that us teachers joke about. "If you only believe half of what your child comes home and tells you, I promise to only believe half of what she comes to school and tells me." Make sure you have the story straight before you react.

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answers from New York on

Hmmmmm. I can't say I have a definite opinion on what's going on in the lunchroom.

First, I would like to say that I have been a public school teacher in NYC for 13 years. As teachers, we are not required to be in the lunchroom during lunch. I know that not all cities and states are the same. Lots of schools have teachers present during lunch.

That being said, I would not want to be in the lunchroom. Wow, is it loud in there. I am all for kids enjoying their lunch, but some of the behaviors I have witnessed when dropping off my class or stopping in to give someone a message, is appalling.

I know that all of our kids are wonderful. I am not saying that sarcastically. They are wonderful.

Their behavior in the lunchroom may not be.

School aides come with all different attitudes. Some really love the kids and have their best interests in mind when disciplining them. Others have may have a chip on their shoulders and are working out their own issues. That's a whole other post.

I have seen some of my own students, who are darlings, behave awfully and disrespectfully to the lunchroom aides. Sometimes they are acting independently and sometimes they are taking cues from other children that this is ok behavior. Many hear from their parents at home that they don't have to listen to the lunch aides because they are not teachers. No, they are not, but they are adults who are left in charge of about 60-100 students during lunch and should be shown a little respect. Unless, they are being outright out of line or abusive.

Oh.....if only we could be flies on the wall.

As a mom and a teacher, if I found out through my five year old daughter that she was being singled out at lunchtime, I would definitely investigate what was going on. I would of course listen carefully to her and see if you can get the whole story out of her. Not just the regular, "She just doesn't like me. She's mean." You know your daughter. You know when she is being totally truthful and when there is just a little something that is off.

Next, I would contact her teacher and ask if the school aides have been reporting this lunchroom behavior to her/him. If yes, I would inquire why you haven't been notified. If no, I would also inquire why, if the behavior is punishable, they haven't notified the teacher.

I would then try to come up with a plan of action for lunchtime. Find out EXACTLY what your daughter is doing that is causing this lunch aide to continue punishing her. The lunch aides complaints could be valid. (I know this is not the popular answer.). The lunch aide could be overly sensitive and burnt out. Very common.

Elementary school lunchrooms are high stress areas. Until you have spent ten minutes in one as an adult please don't judge. And if you simply can't help but judge then go visit your local school during lunch and see if you would like the job of a lunchroom aide. You've got to walk in someone's shoes.........

Finally, I am sorry that your daughter is going through this. I have witnessed tons of unfair treatment and lots of completely justified treatment of students in the lunchroom. It is a unique place in our society.

I am such a bulldog that I would have to try and calm myself down and probably re-read this post if my super wonderful, loving son was being singled out during lunch.

Incidentally, the kids whose parents say that lunch aides are uneducated and don't know what they are doing, are usually the ones getting into the most trouble and behaving the most disrespectfully to the adults in charge. Teachers included.


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answers from Los Angeles on


If I were in your shoes, I would investigate further. A couple days of standing in the shadows at lunch time and watching my child's behavior first hand...then maybe a conversation with the lunch lady herself. Maybe your child needs to be re-introduced to this lunch lady and given the rules and guidelines again, in front of lunch lady...maybe they will both benefit from this personal introduction?

IDK? But I do know that I would want to get to the bottom of it...as much as I hate the idea of my child being singled out and made to sit at "the table", I hate the thought that my child is not minding or being respectful of an adult in a position of authority even more.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

You have recieved some lovely helpful comments and some/one really stupid ... can't even think of a better word, just plain stupid ones.

Please take time off work or what ever you need to do and go to the school and watch your child eat lunch, then go back and eat lunch with her. I"m sure the kids have a ton of freedom to talk and hang out at lunch. So that makes me think that in order for your daughter to have done something to be removed to another table, it must be dangerous to herself or others, jumping around with food in her mouth, yelling, knocking into kids. I highly doubt that normal energetic 5 year old behavior would get her sent to the other table. I would think that if your daughter didn't like being at that table and it was hurting her self esteem, she would stop doing what ever behavior she was doing to be sent there in the first place.

One other suggestion, i know this seems a little silly but i have had experience in preschool and have seen it first hand. If the teachers don't actually set aside time for everyone to use the bathroom to pee before lunch it could be that she has to go but doesn't really recognize it, Kids have an amazing capacity to hold it until right before they burst especially if they are having fun with their freinds. Maybe if you talked to the teacher and made sure that your daughter was encouraged to take the time to empty her bladder and be comfortable she would be less "energetic" at lunch. I know my 6 year old daughter will swear up and down that she doesn't have to actually use the bathroom before dinner, even though i send her in to wash up. half way through dinner she is bolting out of her chair and barely making it. Just something to try.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

In the elementary schools in our district the kids are required to sit quietly and eat. There is no playing or goofing off. If the kids are acting up they are moved so others can eat. They only have about 15 minutes to go through the line and sit and eat so they better get to it.

I agree you should go and watch to see what happens with your child at lunch but don't let her know you are there, also it may be one of the good days so don't even take that as a sign she is always minding.

If she is doing what the "lunch lady" says and the consequences for everyone is sitting at a separate table just how do you want her to be treated? Maybe the other children are minding and she is bothering them. Perhaps the lunch lady decided that making her sit at the table is not enough and is basically grounding her from her friends. Maybe sitting at the other table all week would get her to understand what sit down, be quiet, and eat your lunch means.

It seems reasonable to me that "if" she "is" doing the talking and bothering other kids then she does need to move away from her friends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

Maybe go have lunch with her tomorrow, it will definitely give you more of an idea of what is really going on.
The cafeteria can get really insane, i was a noon aide for one year and I was pretty horrified at how kids can act and how the school can't do anything about it... So, I said "no more of this".
If the cafeteria aid couldnt get your daughter to mind today, she may have told her that she has to sit alone tomorrow, I don't see what is so unreasonable about that. Definitely check it out tho.

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answers from San Antonio on

Go and observe your child's behavior without interfering to see exactly what she is or isn't doing. Remember their rules might be different than yours and she must follow them regardless. If you observe her without her seeing you than you will know if it is really your daughter not telling you everything or it really is the lunch people. Then you will have the whole story and you can take appropriate action. Kids that age don't know anything about humiliation. They just know they can't sit with their classmates or friends.

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answers from Tampa on

My child's school does this too. The before lunch even starts, sent to the table means they had an issue with the child and another student or teacher earlier that day and that is the 'discipline'. If sent DURING lunch, meant they either left their seat or was being disruptive to other students at their table.

When you go to the teacher, maybe ask if there are steps to be taken to ensure she is more closely watched to maybe STOP the undesired behavior before she does it.

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answers from Atlanta on

I would ask the teacher on duty in the cafeteria for the whole story -from an adult's standpoint. The lunch lady/cafeteria workers don't deal with the kids at my son's public school prek. Their teachers and para-pros eat in the cafeteria with them, so if there's disciplinary action -it comes through them. If no other children are sent to that table, ask why -if they're involved in whatever your daughter is doing. As far as sending her or any other kid to a different table if they misbehave -I have no problem with that -but it should apply to any kid who is misbehaving.

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answers from Chicago on

Speak w/ the teacher & principal...teacher first. This is completely out of line (for the lunch lady). I would be very upset. If there is a recurring problem on either end, it should have already been discussed with you. This sort of punishment sounds way too severe. Most kids that age play at the table.

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answers from Austin on

My son often had to eat at a separate table, or in the principal's office in pre-K or K for punishment. If he was having a bad day in the classroom or had been the day before, especially if he had been hitting or spitting they worried that he was a danger to other kids. Other kids got sent there too, but it was usually for fighting or other major offenses during that lunch period, the next day would start over for them with a clean slate.
Have you tried talking to the classroom teacher to find out more details, or gone to eat lunch with your daughter to see how she acts?

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answers from San Antonio on

Hi Mom,

That is totally unacceptable to even sit a child by herself in front of the other children to stare and laugh at. She is 5 not 15!!! Your daughter is barely learning the rules and the school is doing a BAD job a setting a good example. The teacher or aide is not doing her job by just pushing her aside and not dealing with the issue. Young kids who get this treatment might and usually do worse in the long run because they have been outcasted at an early age. I would definetly go to the school unannounced during her lunch time and see what is going on and then talk to the Principal about this type of punishment for a PRE-K.....if you do not, your daughter is not going to like school and that is not what you want for a child who JUST started school.

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answers from College Station on

I would start at home. If she is playing at the table at home she has to learn that it is unacceptable. Let her know that the same discipline will happen at home as she gets at school. Children like to stretch the truth and often leave things out when they are questioned about " what were you doing". If you practice the same rules at home I think you may see a turn around in her behaviour at school in the cafeteria. I think even high energy children can learn proper protocal. Hope this helps.


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answers from Dallas on

You've gotten some great advice but I gotta say this just doesn't sound right. This is pre-K and the punishment sounds too severe. Check out the reality of it, but even if your little girl is bouncing off the walls then the school should be calling you. There has to be ways to deal with a child that young that is not so punitive and ego crushing.

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answers from Houston on

It seems crazy to expect PreK kids to sit quietly and eat without visiting with their friends. They are expected to sit quietly and pay attention all day in class; it seems like lunch should be a time for them to relax a little bit. I don't get why kids can't chat and giggle at lunch as long as they aren't running around or hitting one another. I know it gets noisy in the cafeteria but maybe if you don't like noise you shouldn't work in an elementary school...? Anyway I think you are doing the right thing by talking to the teacher. If you don't get anywhere with her I would go to the principal next. This is humiliating for your daughter and obviously isn't getting the results the 'lunch lady' is looking for anyway. Good luck--let us know what happens!



answers from Austin on

It sounds like she is chatty and if they are on a short time schedule, she may be eating too slowly or keeping other kids from finishing their food. Knowing this ahead of time, they may be separating her because they know she has a hard time just eating. I would meet with the teacher and just ask what the routine is and what you can do to help. Don't go in all bent out of shape. (You won't get anywhere.) The teacher will really appreciate it if you see things from their perspective. Remember, the goal is to work with the school to do what is best for your daughter and the other children.



answers from Houston on

As a former teacher I told my parents if there was ANY questions or problems come to me. You just call the office and schedule a conference with the teacher. You might even ask that the lunch lady sit in on conference. Teachers eat their lunch in teacher lounge and might not have any idea what is going on. You must go thru the chain of command to get any results, Teach, Lunch lady, then if the problem is not taken care of contact the principle for a meeting. Meeting face to face is so much better than a phone call so if teacher calls just tell her you would really like a time to meet together. If your daughter is getting in trouble because of something she is doing you need to know. Everyone involved should make a plan on how to HELP your daughter succeed. For awhile daily notes from the lunch lady might be enough to settle things. Teachers ALWAYS pay attention to the child that their parent is involved. You are doing a great job!



answers from Kansas City on

If this is really happening THAT often, the school should have already contacted you about it. Sounds WAY too severe to me!



answers from Macon on

I would have went right into the school and ask to speak with the principle about it..Why is a lunch lady saying anything to your child to begin with.You do not punish one child and not the other nor should she be punishing her rite off the bat..O this makes me mad.If you do not stick up for her now the school will walk all over her.I have seen many people get harassed in school by teachers and even principles.My daughter is not yet old enougg to attend pre k.But I would have been in that office a long time ago.Best off luck.

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