How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

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Peanut
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How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Peanut » Mon Nov 05, 2018 11:24 pm

So, I'm having a hard time with how to handle a problem with my son who is in kindergarten. I'm hoping anyone might weigh in, especially if you're a parent I suppose who has experienced anything like this on either side. If you're not I'm still interested in your point of view.

So, my son is in kindergarten and a few days ago during recess he and another boy apparently sat on a third boy and pushed his head on the ground. I learned of it when I picked him up from school. His teacher made a point of telling me that he received a warning* on his daily behavior calendar and that she had written a note explaining why in his folder. The note said what I wrote above. When I asked my son about it (before I read the note) he initially described the incident as wrestling. When I questioned him further at home after reading the note by his teacher he did not deny the accuracy of her language and when I asked him if the boy was crying he said he was. I asked if he started it and he said he joined in. I talked to him about the wrongness of his actions at length and when my husband came home I showed him the note and he talked to him about it too. I took away his privileges, but just for that day mostly because the way it was presented to me by his teacher made it seem like a noteworthy but not serious situation. I considered punishing him longer but I was sort of following her cues.

[*They have this complicated 7-tier level behavior chart. Normal (good) is the everyday score which they all get like 80% of the time. Warning is below that, and then there are two levels below that, with the last one indicating a call to the parent. There are also three higher levels than normal (all of which my son has received on various days.)]

Then the next day (which was an off day from school) I got a brief voice message from his teacher and an email which explained that she had been told the boy had developed a black eye and so the situation had become more serious. She concluded it with saying that she wanted to make sure we spoke with my son about it and emphasize that it not happen again. Of course we agreed with all that and I emailed her back to that effect. We spoke to our son again about it and the meaning of fallout. I had a tough weekend with the whole incident occupying my mind and wondering about how the boy was and so on. If and how I could apologize to his mother, etc.

This morning I happened to be volunteering briefly in class so I saw the boy and I was relieved that he did not have any bruises that I could see. I was not right next to him though, but after school I asked my son and he said that his boo-boo was gone. I spoke briefly with the teacher before I left to see if I should speak with her further (since I had not been able to return her phone call but only her email) and she said it wasn't necessary and that the incident had not been malicious.

When I picked up my son after school he told me he had gone to the principal's and vice-principal's offices during their two recesses with the other boy who was the perpetrator. Detention, basically. I asked if he would be able to have recess tomorrow and he said he thinks he and the other boy will be in detention again. I then got a late voicemail from the vice principal to touch base or whatever and so I think I am supposed to call her back tomorrow.

Ok, sorry for the boring novel. I'm wondering how the whole saga appears to you? I was very surprised to learn my son and the other boy were given four recess detentions over two days in the main offices for this incident when his teacher's assessment on the day of was only a warning. I understand the boy's parent called her or maybe more likely the principal? the next day which prompted her to contact me about it at greater length. And I guess, prompted the disciplining? I just feel they are more in CYA mode with the boy's parents than treating the whole incident objectively based on what may have actually happened and especially how it was all interpreted at the time of the incident. And maybe the detentions are appropriate and a great idea and I should have punished him more at home too but the whole process bugs me.

I'm supposed to call the vice principal back but I'm mostly annoyed at this point and think maybe I just shouldn't call back because of that. Is it a bad idea to suggest it feels like his punishments are being made retroactively? Probably, right? Am I just wrong about that feeling? I don't want to get his teacher (who is fairly new) in any sort of trouble since I like her and know she likes my son a lot and preserving that relationship is the most important thing to me. I have a problem with authority in general and now I'll have to stomach a moral lecture from an administrator who feigns confidence in disciplining 5 year-olds over an incident they did not witness. I'm guessing no adult including his teacher actually saw it unfold. I should call back and just agree with whatever the vp says right? Just let them know he had two years of pre-k and has never been in trouble before.

Gosh I hesitate to publish this even anonymously but I can't talk to any of my friends about it because I feel like I need to protect my son's reputation. Maybe that's crazy but I don't want people to think of him as a child who is getting in trouble at school or a potential bully. Maybe that's what he is but he's also 5 and I think he should have a chance to mature beyond badly-judged roughhousing with classmates.

Thanks for reading.

Sid
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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Sid » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:03 am

When I was in kindergarden my friend and I went to the cubbies that everyone had and we broke everybody's pencils. The situation was resolved and at this point in time it was 1 out of 1000000 events that make me who I am now.

This situation does seem like retro-active punishment, if it is probably to cover the school's ass. In this case this can be a teachable moment for your son, that the system is bs. Also I think your relationship with your son is more important than his relationship with his peers which is more important than his relationship with his teacher.

In case you don't like something I say, please disregard it.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by ffj » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:22 am

Oh my goodness, he's 5 years old. He wrestled with another kid.

All of the adults are blowing this way out of proportion. I wouldn't escalate it any further because it truly isn't a big deal.

In the future, there will be many occasions when as a parent you will feel your child is being unfairly treated. Just wait until they start playing sports and your child gets to sit on the bench while the coaches friend's kids get to play, even though they suck, haha. I've watched many a parent get all upset on their child's behalf up to including fistfights over some really stupid stuff when the kid was completely fine. The "adults" made the situation much worse.

Good luck and don't sweat these small issues.

Peanut
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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Peanut » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:32 am

@Sid: Thank you for your perspective. The pencil vandalism made me laugh.

I agree with your hierarchy and I fear the whole thing puts all three boys on display in a way that is not helpful to their everyday life in school and socialization. Oh well. I guess they wanted to make a very clear example at this early stage. My son is a very outgoing type so I think he will be fine.

I am not good with bureaucracy in any form so I dread engaging with it. I think I have to take my lumps here.

Peanut
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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Peanut » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:36 am

@ffj: Thank you for your advice. I have a tendency to escalate sometimes and sometimes it pays off but I need to know when to curb it and in this case it's a lose-lose so I will let it go.

Ah yes, I've read those sports stories many times. Good thing to watch out for.

wood
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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by wood » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:09 am

Boys need to wrestle and fight sometimes. Its part of their development in learning where the boundaries are. I generally teach mine that playfighting is ok until one clearly says stop or starts to cry. Stop means stop. Period. No resuming the fight after that.

The situation you described seems blown out of proportion. And you don't really know what exactly happened. I would still adhere to the school system way of handling this to avoid escalating everything. Either way, talk to your kid about fighting and teach him where the boundaries go. Pushing someones head to the ground while they cry is not ok. In the big scheme of things this is no big deal at all.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Campitor » Tue Nov 06, 2018 9:53 am

I think you need to ask yourself 1st how would you feel if your son was the kid whose head was sat on and came home with a 1 day bruise. While the other child might look "okay" perhaps there are remnants of emotional trauma. Kids wrestle and do get hurt. But even at a young age, most children understand that sitting on a boys head while he is crying, and presumably trying not to get sat on, is something they shouldn't do.

Consider that on the surface, your child employed physical violence AND lack of empathy, this would worry most adults and they probably would want to convey in the most serious manner that this type of behavioral combination will be met with somewhat severe measures. By experiencing outsized punishment at this stage in his life, your child will learn that sometimes even minor transgressions can have outsized consequences. This is a very valuable lesson which becomes even more appropriate in adulthood.

Your handling of the situation and your concern means your doing a good job as a parent. I'm not trying to chastise you or make your son out to be a monster. I only want to bring into perspective that others don't know your child and may perceive the severity of his transgression differently - another valuable lesson regarding life and potential consequences.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by prognastat » Tue Nov 06, 2018 11:27 am

I don't think the detention itself is that unreasonable, but the situation surrounding it doesn't seem quite right.

It sounds like you weren't made aware of this impending punishment(the detention) until after it happened. I would probably make a point of that you expect to be informed on these things beforehand. I can understand that if the event just happened and he gets pulled aside/timeout or sent to the principal's office for a while, but if it's a hey he's going to be pulled out of recess on other days they know this is going to happen before and I would expect to be told this is happening.

It also does sound like the extra punishment might be to appease the parents of the other kid after they found out about it and complained since the punishment was not the way it was discussed before with their system. If they want to have a system for punishment they need to stick to it and not bend the rules for their own convenience or they are the ones teaching your kid that the system doesn't matter and that it's simply that the bigger in power people get to decide the rules.

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Riggerjack
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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Riggerjack » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:33 pm

No kids, but you asked.

Boys will fight. Schools will pretend to stop them. And nobody involved is interested in justice.

The lessons your son needs are:
Fights should be one on one. Jumping in after the fight starts is always wrong. No matter who started it, the guy who jumps in makes it an entirely different kind of fight. This path leads to gangs.

If there is a fight, there will be punishment. Who started it, and why is irrelevant. Who deserves to be punished is irrelevant. Just know this before throwing a punch.

There is no justice for children in school. There never has been, and any stories that contradict this rule are probably glossed over, romanticised nostalgia. They won't apply.

School is not in the justice business, it's in the education business. When children understand that justice is only applied personally, or occasionally, socially, but never administratively, education is complete, but I hope they slip some math in there, too.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:54 pm

I would say that what happened with your son in terms of discipline is about average. In the most affluent settings, more developmentally appropriate punishment might have been devised. In the least affluent settings, similar events would be happening so often, probably getting yelled at in the moment would have served.

I would note that in my experience at that age the bullies and the bullied tend to be the same rowdy kids. The boys in the kindergarten group in very affluent district where I worked recently had to be forbidden from playing tag, because they were roughly pushing down whoever happened to be "it", and then that child would start crying. Also,one tiny recently immigrated Chinese girl kept hitting the boys to get them to play with her, because her English was not yet good enough to socialize with the girls.

Anyways, just be happy that your son is not the one who keeps secretly pooping in the corner or the one who can't learn the alphabet and identifies a picture of socks as "feet-gloves" or the girl who steals everything she can get her hands on, etc.etc. Rough-housing is very normal behavior for boys of that age, IMO, more developmentally appropriate way of handling it would be to break up the fight, and then make the aggressor and the victim relate their versions of what happened to each other, and then I would say something like "Can you tell Nick how it made you feel when he sat on his head?" Then I would ask Nick if he would like it if somebody made him feel that way and ask him to apologize. Then I would remind them that we are all friends in kindergarten and make them shake hands or fist-bump each other. Then I would let them go back and play. Only repeated incidents of similar behavior by particular student would lead to further disciplinary action.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by jacob » Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:07 pm

@OP -

I'm not a parent but I have substituted for one and dealt with children at all ages, so maybe this non-parent can weigh in too.

First, what Campitor said: It's important to also consider the injured party and that what everybody else sees as a wrestling-scratch might (or might not) be something the other person will remember forever, especially since there was crying involved and the Overton window was clearly exceeded. OTOH, if your kid gets punished or railroaded too hard by the system this could also have effects down the line insofar he develops an attitude that the system is unjust; that all systems are unjust. Insofar that this does not get resolved well, there could be residual resentment.

What we have here is a negative-sum game with multiple players, some of which are children. The goal is to solve this with the minimum damage.

Children are still developing morally. It's most effective to have a moral discussion with children (and to some degree also with immature adults) that is one Wheaton (or Kohlberg) level above them.

1) I should not make other children cry because I might get punished.
2) I should not make other children cry because they might make me cry.
3) I should not make other children cry because I want to be a nice person.
4) I should not make other children cry because it's against the school rules.
5) I should not make other children cry because we agree that it's bad.
6) I should not make other children cry because it's empathetically wrong.

A kindergartener will likely be in stage 1 or 2, so if it was me, I would have either a discussion about their tit-for-tat self-interests if they were stage 1 or encourage them to be a nice person and a good friend if they were mostly treating other people in terms of what they might get out of it.

Second, explain the fight-rules. Yes, there are rules. I just bring this up because many adults don't know that school yard fighting has rules.
Here they are as I know them.

1) If you don't want to fight, you don't have to. (Fights are voluntary)
2) If they other person cries uncle or otherwise indicates surrender, the fight is over.
3) Fights are always 1 on 1.
4) If it's a wrestling match, punching is not allowed.
5) If it's a boxing match, you follow boxing rules. No hitting below the belt, the back, or the head. (If someone gets the wind knocked out, you stop and help them.)
*) In my time kicking was strictly verboten. Maybe that's cool now with MMA ...
6) Don't use any dirty tricks.
7) Never injure physically or emotionally.
8) Fights should be even. No punching down. If you're obviously stronger, you don't go full force.

Boys will fight but they should fight for fun. I dunno if girls fight too now. In my generation they never did which is why I know there are adult women/mothers who don't know the rules and that is why I list them, just in case. Generally, those rules are unspoken and something kids figure out. If they don't teachers/parents step in ... which is what happened here. Unfortunately (in my opinion) it was the system that stepped in rather than a teacher. In my time, when a teacher stepped in, it was always a sign that you had gone too far. It was also not hard to know what you had done. What teachers were not good at detecting was systemic bullying and general harassment. General punishment at that time was that one party was sent inside and the other outside for the rest of recess. We were not forced through having to relate out personal feelings to each other. That would have been horrible, at least to me.

In terms of how you deal with this complex negative-sum system: Be careful about calling the parents of the offended party or at least handle it very diligently if you must. This was not done in my time/space. The risk here is that the children hear of it. Then there are rumors among the children themselves ("Did you know his mother called ..." This could turn into a total shitshow of repercussions in which the dynamic between the children is based on what the system is doing automatically and what the [helicopter?] parents are doing in response. It crucial that this is about the interdynamics between the children and it doesn't turn into being about the adults themselves or individual adults looking out for their own or their system.

Thus I would not "make it official" with a phone call. If you meet the other parent at the school at some point, maybe inquire whether this was traumatic/a big deal, etc.

On the same note, I would not make your kid go over and apologize. This could also change the dynamics and be overly shameful/embarrassing to everybody involved, etc. Maybe suggest that it's a really good idea to be "a nice person" and be friends/play with with the downed party.

Most importantly, though, is learning the fight rules to avoid shit happening in the first place. Since it did happen, and the system got involved, I suggest a strategy of defusing. After all, this was one incident. Might very well be a mistake.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:29 pm

jacob wrote:We were not forced through having to relate out personal feelings to each other. That would have been horrible, at least to me.
That's why it works :lol: Just kidding. I wouldn't drag a stoic 7 year old out from under a heap and make him talk about his feelings, but an openly bawling 5 year old is another matter. Young 5 year old children are sometimes not even in possession of enough physical coordination to properly manage a set of stairs, whereas an old 6 might be well able to play basketball, so their style of fighting in much less nuanced than it will become in just a year or two. Usually the aggressor will already be contrite OR will immediately leap to "..but he did something else first." Allowing each party to briefly relate their side of the story speeds up the resolution to fist-bump. I mean, there is no way that "We are all friends in kindergarten" is actually reflective of truth, but it is an efficient policy to promote if you are in authority. They will all nod their heads like good little ducklings when you say something like that.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by prognastat » Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:32 pm

I would say growing up myself the rules among kids were close, not among teachers/parents. Mostly 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7. Though of course those rules were broken not too infrequently. I don't agree that all fights are voluntary though. I would say there are 3 kinds of fights: play fights, fights for status, and bullying. The first shouldn't be punished at all, the second should be broken up and nothing more unless someone got hurt and the third needs more serious intervention. However even then among teachers/parents often any fighting was already considered unacceptable and grounds for punishment of both parties involved and I think this way of thinking about it has grown since then with the increase of anti-bullying efforts.

Bullying in my mind is persistent harassment of some form either physical or emotional. One offs don't count unless a very serious infraction such as a kid getting seriously hurt. However these days most schools have a 0 tolerance policy. Since boys generally learn social hierarchy through more physical interactions with other boys they tend to run afoul of this far more frequently than girls that tend to do this through relational aggression and as such don't get caught as much and often have plausible deniability.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Peanut » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:57 pm

Thank you all so much. Your comments have helped me a lot and taught me a lot. Although I would not classify what happened as a fight since it was so one-sided, I think fighting in general is just not permissible now. My son often plays with classmates after school at the park and I will observe a group of six of them, and a few will inevitably start sort of slapping hands or play fighting something of that nature, and the parents always intervene to put a stop to it. They all want to wrestle but there’s no avenue for it except in something like martial arts classes.

I wanted to say I did think about the victim and his parents a lot and I came to the conclusion then and reaffirmed it since that I would not have contacted the main office for a re-evaluation of the whole thing. Even if my son had a bruise the next day. My husband would not have even considered it. I am not saying she was wrong in doing it, just that in my view it looks like an overreaction based on what I can gather of the incident (ftr they did not actually sit on his head) and what I observed later not just of the boy’s appearance but also his social behavior in class (normal, at ease, etc).

@Jacob: great suggestions about resisting engaging with other parents and forcing issues between kids.

Thank you 7w5 for your assessment. I also felt detention was not appropriate bc the advice for time-outs is 5” for 5 yr olds but the vp has the two boys silently sitting for 15”. Today my son didn’t want to go to school bc he was dreading detention and I had to reassure him he could do it and practice being brave by handling his fear. It all just seems a bit much at his age, and ultimately just very distracting from the actual core issue of not hurting others. Counter-productive.

But as all have pointed out it’s a valuable lesson about how your infractions can be handled within a system you are mostly at the mercy of.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by IlliniDave » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:05 pm

When I was a kid we were forced to apologize and shake hands and that was pretty much the end of it as far as the school was concerned (assuming there were no grievous injuries like broken bones or stitches required, and no repeats). As kids got older and more savvy fights simply moved off of school grounds to places where parents and teachers wouldn't get involved. Fights were not particularly common either. Physical hierarchies were generally established via sports/games which meant fighting was only rarely "necessary" (in the minds of the combatants).

What I saw as a parent is that schools wind up with elaborate sets of rules for such matters, often "zero tolerance". That essentially relieves the adults in the school from having to make any sort of reasoned judgement on matters, and lets them avoid accusations of being unfair or whatever. In the local school district here I believe the guidelines for fighting is still a one week suspension for all involved regardless of circumstances. Missing a few recesses is more like getting probation.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by Jason » Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:30 pm

I don't have kids but this so happens to be a topic that I am an expert in.

The three things to look out for if you have a kid is torturing small animals, playing with fire, and bed wetting. If he's doing two of those three, he's a serial killer and well, you got your hands full. If he's only doing one, or better yet, none, than he's a normal kid and there's nothing to be concerned about. Based on your story, it seems that he's a normal kid who likes to sit on other kids and fart in their faces. I mean, you got to think that's been going on since the original German asshole decided its a good idea to throw a bunch of random kids together in a room.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by BlueNote » Wed Nov 07, 2018 10:14 pm

When I was a kid my dad, and most of my friends dads, taught us school yard justice. My Dad was actually quite forgiving, he told me to provide 3 verbal warnings before engaging in physical retribution with other boys. I generally followed that rule. Maybe things are different in Canada but fist fights , scuffles, shoving etc. were a normal part of life in the 80's when I was your sons age. It was like a bunch of chimps with alpha males you wouldn't even look at the wrong way without getting beaten up for it. I'm an introverted, nerdy type of guy and I was basically forced into fighting or becoming someone to be targeted for bullying. Schools are an institution where people are forced to congregate regularly, this stuff happens in these situations. I can remember being ganged up in the school yard on and held in a "full nelson" while another boy punched me. I got out of the hold and beat on the boy who was punching me. He cried to the teachers and lied about what happened and I got spend half the day in the hall while he walked a free man lol. I have him on facebook now, he's a farmer or something, perfectly normal guy. I watched one boy pick up a squished pepsi can from the ground and slap a kid in the face with it cutting him and causing a lot of bleeding. I went to school with some very violent people , the school could have given two shits about it unless these people caused issues like severe bleeding or knockout blows, they'd be suspended and returned to the population in those cases. The main thing is that your child understand what they did, why it is wrong and what to do next time. It's also helpful if they learn to apologize and ask for forgiveness from the other kid but sometimes at that age it's difficult to get both parties to behave civilly like that.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by suomalainen » Wed Nov 07, 2018 10:38 pm

I think you and hubby handled the incident appropriately. I think the "victim's" parents reacted in an understandable, if perhaps overprotective, fashion. But given said reaction, I think the school handled the incident appropriately. As for advice, I wouldn't react / escalate the situation.

In general, I teach the kids that they can control/choose their actions, but they can't control/choose the consequences of their actions and sometimes those consequences will seem "unfair", like a retroactive punishment. Protecting them from said unfair consequences or enabling them to harbor a sense of unfairness would be counterproductive in my view. The essential thing to remember is that your kid did wrong at the very least by continuing to sit on a kid's head when the kid was crying - shifting the focus from that would be a mistake.

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Re: How to approach school disciplining my son (detention)? Parents please weigh in

Post by enigmaT120 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:21 am

Jason wrote: "The three things to look out for if you have a kid is torturing small animals, playing with fire, and bed wetting. If he's doing two of those three, he's a serial killer and well, you got your hands full."

Oops. I did all three at some point, though putting a horned lizard on a red ants nest doesn't bother it. Putting carpenter ants on a red ants nest bothers both kinds of ants.

I no longer engage in any of those 3 behaviors! Well I still like playing with fire.

I do have my serial killing career sort of planned out but I'm lazy enough I doubt I'll ever indulge.

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