Writing an Apology Letter to the Teacher for Bad Behavior.

Updated on January 16, 2013
N.P. asks from Santa Rosa, CA
25 answers

If your child got in trouble with her teacher for being rude during class and the teacher punished your child appropriately at the time of the infraction, would you also make your child write an apology letter to the teacher as well? My daughter is in kindergarten and speaks out of turn or shouts out often and is working on controlling her outbursts. She has gotten in trouble for it before but this last Friday she was exceptionally rude and was made to sit outside in the hallway while the rest of the students were allowed computer time. She was in tears about it but it was her own fault and I'm glad she was punished right then and there.

My mother is visiting and thinks this should be the end of the story, however I want her to write her teacher an apology letter telling the teacher what she is sorry for and that she is going to try and do better. In the end, I ignored my mother and I sat down with my daughter to help her compose the letter. My mother still thinks it was too much and I want to know if I'm so far off the pulse of normal by having my kid write: "Dear (teacher's name here), I am very sorry for being rude on Friday. I'm also sorry for shouting out in class. I will try and be better. " She signed it and drew a picture of herself holding her teacher's hand.

This teacher is a wonderful lady and I feel so badly that my kid made her day difficult. The letter wasn't very long but it did take a little time since every letter had to be painstakingly crafted by her own little hand. We used that time to reflect on what she did and how her behavior affected the teacher and the rest of the class. In the end I'm glad I had her write it... but I have a trickle of doubt coming from the direction of my mother that maybe I was too hard on her. Was I? Did I give her a "punishment on top of a punishment" as my mother said?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your replies. They are appreciated, but I think my feelings are still a bit split, just as the responses here seem to be. To answer a few questions that were asked, my daughter is one of the older students in the classroom. She turned six just as the school year started. She's learning the hard way that she doesn't always get a chance to answer a question. That sometimes there is only time to hear two or three students and then the teacher must move on. For a time she stopped raising her hand and would just call out whatever she wanted to say because she knew that there was a chance the teacher wasn't going to call on her even though her hand was raised. She's doing much better with that but she still slips up. She's learning she just can't shout out and talk without raising her hand because she's not the only person in the room and has to share the teacher's time.

Friday was a bad day because she not only shouted out without raising her hand during the beginning of the day, she was very very rude to her teacher later in the day during computer time. Once a week, on Fridays, the kids get to walk to the computer lab where all the computers are ready and loaded up with the appropriate program so the kids can just file in and sit at their places to begin their lesson. However, this last Friday, the aide that normally gets the computers ready for the class wasn't there or didn't get them ready for whatever reason so my daughter's teacher had all the students line up along the wall and wait while she moved from machine to machine, booting them up and getting them loaded.

My impatient daughter managed to wait quietly through half the setup process before stomping her little foot and yelling out to her teacher, "You are WASTING our time! You are wasting ALL our computer time!" And her teacher turned around, told her that was a totally inappropriate thing to say and that her impatience bought her a one way ticket to the hallway while all the other kids would have their computer lesson without her. I was told that she sat in the hall and cried.

After hearing all this I was mortified. Completely embarrassed. I was glad the teacher didn't let her participate in the activity after that terribly unacceptable outburst. I wasn't sure how to deal with it at that moment with all the kids and mothers milling about during the after school pick-up rush, so I apologized to the teacher and told my daughter I was very disappointed in her behavior and we'd talk about it later. Her teacher then handed me a book she checked out from the school library entitled, "Manners in the Classroom" and I read that to my daughter every night in lieu of her normal bedtime selections until we turned it back into her teacher Monday morning.

Around Sunday night, after we had a nice weekend with grandma (she arrived that Friday, just in time for all the hullabaloo, so that's why she feels invested in the process) I sat down with my daughter and we had a heart to heart about how she handled herself and helped her to realize that her shouting at her teacher didn't make the computers boot up any faster. I asked her how she would feel if someone yelled at her the way she yelled at her teacher. We talked about how it was sad that things weren't properly set up like they should have been but sometimes things don't always go the way we expect, but we have to keep our temper and have patience even when we are very frustrated. She agreed and said, "Because if you don't you get stuck in the hallway all alone." So she remembers the incident and her punishment in school and appears to be appropriately contrite. I told her that I thought it would be a good idea if she wrote an "I'm sorry" letter to her teacher. I asked her if she wanted to tell the teacher she was sorry and she said she did. So she got her colored pencils and her notepad and sat on the couch with me while I helped her spell most of the words. In addition, I thought this would be good handwriting practice because she's always reversing her s when she writes, and this apology letter had a fair number of s's to work on. Two birds, one stone and all that.

I hope that clears up a few things. I think I'm OK with having had her write the letter and this is all behind us now. I just really wish none of it happened in the first place. I felt really disarmed when I picked her up that day. She's been a handful because she has trouble staying quiet when it's time to be quiet, which is a rudeness in its own right, but she was never outright RUDE to anyone in particular like she was this last Friday. This was a new infraction that I couldn't just shake off as "kids being kids". I know kids have impulse control issues, like sometimes not being able to wait to yell out, "I LOVE THE WHOLE RAINBOW" when the teacher asks the class, "What is your favorite color?". But spewing impatience, ire and unkindness in the direction of someone who has done nothing but bend over backwards to help you progress through the deep ocean of education seemed to require something extra. The apology letter seemed like just enough of a something extra to put things to rights in my mind. My mother's input made me doubt myself.

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answers from Washington DC on

I guess I don't see having her write a letter of apology as a punishment. Isn't apologizing what we are supposed to do in situations like this?

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answers from Raleigh on

You aren't too hard on her. Writing a letter is not punishment, either. Punishment was given by the teacher. The letter is atonement for her behavior. You are teaching her to become self aware.

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answers from Kalamazoo on

I think it's great and appropriate.
I had my son write a similar letter to his teach in 1st grade when he got in trouble for talking too much. It's a lesson learned in "manners" and if they are being rude in class then they shold apologize and a written letter is a great way to do it at that age. It's something that is beyond "punishment", it's more of a lesson in manners and doing what is right.

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answers from Miami on

Your mother is right. She isn't a 5th grader, N.. She is very young and is struggling to control herself. What is really going to happen is that you're going to paint her into a corner so that she'll be so stressed about this that her behavior will get WORSE. And she'll be writing I'm sorry letters every day. Is that what you really want???

You are expecting her to understand and process like a much older child and she is not capable of it.

Yes, you are being too hard on a child who is already contrite, crying about her failures and wanting to comply. You need to let the TEACHER give her consequences.


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answers from Denver on

Well.... I see your mom's point, and it wouldn't have been a mistake to have left it at that. BUT... I think you are awesome for taking charge of the situation. So many parents anymore blame the teacher, the other kids, this and that. No one just says my kid made a mistake and suffered the consequence. You rock, and your daughter is lucky to have you.

Your daughter didn't scream and cry through the writing of the letter, I think it cemented the lesson for her, that this was not acceptable behavior. My hope (and thought) is that this gives the teacher the opportunity to have a final conversation with your daughter to say thank you admitting the mistake, maybe why it's important to behave, and then hopefully love on your daughter a little. If the teacher is wonderful as you say, this is a way for them to 'make up' and move on.

So bottom line- it would have been fine to not do this, but I think there is a lot of value in it. And btw, I don't see writing the letter as another punishment, it is an apology, and your daughter was not traumatized in writing it. Way to go mama!!

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answers from Washington DC on

My kids are almost done with school .. my oldest has graduated from high school, my middle child is a senior and the youngest is a freshman in high school.

However, they KNEW if they got in trouble at school they also had to deal with whatever I decided to do with the situation. They KNEW they were to respect their teachers AND their classmates by trying to do their best to behave and make the classroom a good learning environment for EVERYONE in the class. No ifs ands or buts about it.

I think you did the right thing. You had her own up to her own behavior, acknowledge that SHE was in the wrong, discussed ways to work on doing the right thing in the future and learned how to say "I'm sorry" in a heartfelt and appropriate way. I think it was just enough "extra" to drive the point home that certain behaviors will NOT be tolerated.

Now ... had you grounded her for a week on top of it also ... then I would have said you're being a bit harsh LOL

Edited to add: I lived in Santa Rosa for 7 years and miss it BADLY :) My kids went to school there too :) And all the teachers we had were GREAT :) PM what school she goes to :)

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answers from Dallas on

I think you did well. It reinforces the fact that she cannot get away with that behavior with you or the teacher.
Most parents have the attitude that she was punished and no more needs to be addressed on the issue. Eventually it becomes a problem. BUT by doing this your daughter will remember and understand that her behavior will affect her at home as well as in school.
Remind mom that she needs to be grandma and leave the parenting to you.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm a teacher and I think this is a wonderful idea. It teaches empathy and, if nothing else right now, negatively reinforces her poor behavior, hopefully discouraging her desire to repeat it. What is too hard on her about it? We take responsibility for our actions and humble ourselves and apologize when we're in the wrong. This lesson (repeated over and over) will help her to be successful in many different types of relationships in the future.

I think too many parents are way to light on teaching their kids these things, personally. As a result, kids are entitled and don't know how to communicate or commit to things. They just bow out when things get awkward. I think you did well here, mom!

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answers from San Diego on

Exactly something I would have my daughter do.

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answers from Phoenix on

I think this is totally appropriate. If anything, I wouldn't call it a punishment but rather as more of a chance to reflect on her behavior. Also she's receiving different consequences from different people- her behavior affects not only what happens in school but also what happens at home.

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answers from Hartford on

The discipline at school was appropriate, and having her write a short apology was appropriate too. It showed that you're supporting the teacher and encouraging the same lessons at home.

I wouldn't worry about what your mom is saying. You handled it just fine.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Good for you! As a mom and teacher I think that showed your daughter that you and the teacher are on the same page and that you will reinforce what your daughter's teacher says. As a teacher I would really appreciate that letter because it says a lot about you as a mother. I don't think it had to be done or that the teacher expected it, but again I say good for you mom. Your daughter will think twice before she is rude to her teacher. Once because she doesn't want to miss computer time and twice because she doesn't want to disappoint you.

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answers from Boca Raton on

Honestly, I say go with your gut. If you feel that she should write a letter, then make her write a letter. As a teacher myself, I appreciate knowing that a parent has gone home and reinforced an issue that I had in the classroom. It is very nice knowing that the parent actually cares enough that their child behaved badly. Good job Mama! :)

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answers from San Francisco on

School should deal with punishment for school infractions. Parents should deal with the issues that happen at home. She is in Kindergarten~ She is a baby and just learning how to wait her turn etc. All kids have to learn these things. I would leave it alone. She already got punished, felt bad about it and cried---what more can you teach her?? She wasn't deliberately doing this to make the teacher's day harder. She did it because she doesn't quite have the needed impulse control that is required to sit in class all day.

Don't punish her mama. She needs her mama to just love on her and tell her she is sorry that she made that mistake and next time she will do better. End of story. :)

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answers from Dallas on

I think your mom is right. K is about making mistakes and having automatic consequences. You are too hard on your daughter. As for taking responsibility for her actions and the teacher deserving an apology- really? I would want to have respect as my reward as a teacher. Not an apology in writing from a K student! You want to let me know you are sorry? Don't do it again and we are hunky dory. Let the teacher and your daughter work it out and you stay out of it.

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answers from Tyler on

I think you are doing a good thing. By now, you and your daughter have both calmed way down and you can ask her if she remembers what happened in class that caused her to be sent out to the hall. Listen to her response, it could be very informative. Does your daughter have a really hard time handling transitions and this be a root cause for her tantrums? Does she take her time on a project until it looks "just right" and hates quitting until it is done? Was her previous activity more socially fun to her than computer time? Every kid is different, it just takes some time to learn to either wait for the fun stuff or enjoy it while you have it, but put it away when the teacher says its time to. By calmly talking to her now, you may gain some perspective AND it would be a good time to remind you daughter how her tantrum made her teacher feel. She is very young, if a letter is too much, maybe draw a picture of how she thinks she made her teacher feel and then a picture of how she really likes to see her teacher feel. (hopefully that one will be happy!)

Your mother had her chance to raise children, and it looks like she raised a pretty great mommy!! Feel good about YOUR parenting decisions!

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answers from Jacksonville on

I think you handled it well.
It is obvious that you take a keen interest in your daughter being respectful in the classroom (and elsewhere) and that is something sorely lacking in many homes (which means in schools as well). It is not because of anything to do with the teacher's feelings that I think what you did was good and right (though I'm sure she will appreciate it), but because of what it emphasizes to your daughter.
"What happens at school stays at school"... seems to be a lot of the mantra we are fed today. And sometimes, that is fine. The typical daily annoyances, or whatever. But when you have something happen that is directly related to underlying big issues, like respect for the teacher/adults, and it is out of character, I think some extra attention to the matter is due. I can promise you, that your talk and the letter writing your daughter did will stick with her. It made an impression on her. It may not prevent her ever having another outburst, but I'd give you good odds that she will not have such a rude one that is so disrespectful to her teacher.

She might whine or complain loudly "what's taking so long".... but I'd bet she never puts her low opinion of her teacher on such display again. And I say low opinion, because her comments elevated herself and her time WAY above that of her teacher... as if the teacher was her paid servant, and that was WAY off base.

Good for you, and your daughter.
To sum it up: Interrupting to blurt out responses in class... that can stay at school. Blatant disrespectfulness needs to be addressed at home, as well.

ETA: And I don't think of writing an apology so much as an additional "punishment" but rather as a way to make amends. It is logical that she apologize to her teacher. Additional punishment would be taking away some privilege or making her write "I will not say you are wasting my time ever again." 100 times.

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answers from Minneapolis on

You did exactly the right thing in my opinion. I have had to do the same years ago with my youngest. Now, as a grandmother of a Kindergartener I see it a little differently. It's hard to think it's such a big deal once you have dealt with all the other stuff coming in years ahead - but it is a big deal. If you don't do teach her now it will be much more difficult in the years ahead. Don't second guess yourself. You are doing a great thing for your daughter by teaching her what is expected. (I know I have to bite my tongue sometimes when my daughter and her husband discipline their kids because it's hard as a grandparent but it is necessary).

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answers from Austin on

My daughter is also an "alpha," who is having a hard time interacting with other "alpha" personalities. She also came into problems when some little friends who used to let her take charge matured a lot in kindergarten, and now insist on choosing the games sometimes. This is shaking up her world a bit.

I have my kid write letters, too. If the infraction is against another child (a shouting match on the playground, for example, or pushing in the lunch line), then she has to write a letter to the other kid, too. Remember, the minor stuff that the teachers feel they have handled and are done with at school, you don't hear about. The teachers know these are little kids. They won't tell you if it's really minor. You heard about this one, because it was serious, and you NEEDED to do something. And I think this was perfect.

In kindergarten (my child was an advanced reader and writer, though), I had my daughter do LINES for really bad things or repeat offenses, and send them with the letter of apology. A girlfriend also did this with her son, but the teacher asked HER not to. The difference being, one child was a hesitant writer, the other wasn't. If your daughter is enthusiastic about writing, then go to it. However, if your daughter is already struggling with wanting to write, then this exercise may turn her away from it even more. Just a thought.

It sounds, though, like this went just fine. Good job, mama!

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answers from Lewiston on

I think it may have been over the top, but I can totally see why you feel that way. It also sounds like you were able to teach your child a lesson just through the process of writing the letter.

Another alternative would be if your child approached the teacher and said she was sorry personally :)

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answers from Dallas on

I know your SWH said you were happy you had her write the note and were done with the issue......but I just wanted to say Way To Go!!! Parents not holding kids accountable for behavior at school is one of the reasons our schools are sooo out of control. You can still love your kid and expect appropriate behavior. We always have home consequences for school misbehavior - and ALL of my kid's teachers (now in 3rd & 5th grade) have told us how much they appreciate it and how few parents do it. So Good For You, you are setting a wonderful example for your daughter!

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answers from Austin on

Is your child sorry?

Does your child even remember this happened on her own without anyone reminding her?

At this age, the immediate punishment and the childs response is the best apology.

Later when the 2 of you are cuddling or just driving in the car, mention to her your expectations at school. "When you are at school, you need to use your ears to listen.". "We do not talk while the teacher is talking." " We use inside voices."

also remind her, she is there to learn. This means she needs to behave so that ALL of the children can learn.

reinforce these listening, using inside voices, no running inside. rules while at home also. Some children are not good at understanding nuances.. They need black and white instructions all of the time..

Hang in there. She is still learning the correct behaviors, this is what kindergarten is about. Just keep working with her and noticing the good job she is doing when you notice.

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answers from Tampa on

I actually do the exact same thing that you do. If my son comes home with anything but a green for behavior, he automatically has to write an apology letter. I did NOT make him do this in kindergarten when he was just learning to write though...I wrote the apology note and told him that he had to tell his teacher that he was sorry. HOWEVER, now that he is in 1st grade and knows how to write his letters really well, HE is the one that has to write the apology. This is not negotiable and he knows that he will have to write the apology note when he gets home.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think your intentions are good but unless your daughter is TRULY sorry then it was just a pointless exercise that will only make her more angry and resentful about school AND her teacher.
Instead of punishment REWARD her for good behavior. That's usually a lot more effective at this age, or any age for that matter!

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answers from San Francisco on

Sure, have her write the letter. The letter you described sounds nice, and it's a cute activity for your child. It's good for kids to learn how to write letters.

Just don't make her feel terrible about her actions. She's only in kindergarten, after all.

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