The first time your child gets in trouble at school can be as scary for the parent as it is for the child. The first time my son got in trouble at school, the principal called and explained that our son was in his office because he had been throwing handfuls of mud at cars in the parking lot through the fence of the playground.
My first instinct was to want to deny that my son could possible be getting in trouble at school. I had the “not my kid!” response, and it’s completely natural to have that reaction. Of course, the principal had incontrovertible evidence (he saw my son and his friend doing it) and the result of this third grade mischief was a suspension from school for the rest of the day.
It was the best thing that ever happened to our son, and I’m grateful he was attending a school where the principal was not only kind, but also wise enough to know that you can often nip bad behavior in the bud with the right message when the child is young. Had our son come home from school, however, to hear us bad-mouthing the principal about the suspension or if we had let him play video games for the day-and-a-half he had off, we would have sent the wrong message.
Instead, we used it as an opportunity to talk to him about peer pressure, since his excuse for throwing the mud was that his friend wanted him to. We talked to him about making the right choice even when a friend does not. We talked to him about knowing the difference between right and wrong. In addition, we explained the important lesson that if he was doing something he didn’t want us to know about, then he probably shouldn’t be doing it. And, we made him do chores and homework the whole time he was supposed to be in school but was home, suspended. It was a great opportunity to teach him to make good choices. We’ve not had another serious discipline issue with him, and he is now 14 and in 9th grade.
Janet Lehman, MSW, says parents need to remember that “blaming the school or your child’s teacher won’t do any good. As much as is possible, work with school administrators and teachers. Partner with them instead of making an adversary out of them.” As parents, we need to remember that when a child is getting in trouble at school, it doesn’t mean that he is bad, just that he made a bad choice. It’s a moment in time that needs to be addressed, working with the school to ensure that your child understands why it was a bad choice and the consequences of bad choices.