what to do when I've threatened too big a consequence??? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 07:12 AM - Thread Starter
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I do my best to always follow through with consequences for my son.  He is now 5 years old and normally very well behaved.  He started hitting his friends at kindergarten three weeks ago.  The first time he came home with a note from the school.  He had scooted across a hallway to hit a girl because he overheard her saying something that made him angry.  I told him how upset I was and how hitting was not allowed ever.  I talked about how he should walk away or tell a teacher instead of hitting and had him repeat back to me those two options.  He had an early dinner and sent to bed very early - missing out on his dessert and bedtime story.  The next morning we practiced saying what to do instead of hitting all the way to the bus.

He came home with another note for hitting that day.  He had hit a little boy at recess because he said he wasn't his friend anymore.  I took some advice from my mum and didn't punish him that night.  I told him how disappointed I was and that I loved him and knew he was a very good boy who doesn't hit people.  I told him that we would start fresh again tomorrow.  Again we practiced what to do instead of hitting when he got really angry with someone.

The following day he and another boy pushed down and hit a boy who was new to the school when they saw him at recess.  OMG????  I was extremely upset.  He lost his privileges again that night and listened to a very long lecture.  I told him that if I couldn't trust him not to hit people at school then he wouldn't be sent back (he loves going).  I drove him in the next morning and talked to his teacher.  She said she was also taking away his favorite activities for these incidents as soon as they happened.  I had him apologize to the little boy and then took him home to spend a very boring day, mostly in his room.  I also told him that if he ever hit anybody again he would lose school entirely and not see his friends or teachers again.

The following day was okay and then we had the weekend.

He hit not one, but two kids on two separate occasions on monday.  I kept him home for the rest of the week.  I told him that this was to show him how awful it would be not to go to school anymore and that if he hit again he would NEVER go back.  I reminded him of the special activities he was missing out on throughout the week.  I did my best to make sure he was very bored at home.  I said no to pretty much anything he asked for and reminded him about the hitting.  I got books on bullying from the library and read and discussed them with him.

The next monday (this week) he came home with a special note from the teacher saying how good he'd been all day.  I high-fived him and got really excited.  We celebrated with his favorite dinner out (hotdog and fries)... he had a great dessert when we got home and lovely bedtime stories.

Tuesday he hit someone again.  I took him in to see the teacher wed morning and she doesn't know what to do or suggest.  I really wish I hadn't threatened to never allow him back to school if he kept hitting.  I now feel that I can't let him go back.  There are 3 1/2 months left to school... and it just isn't any school.  It's a french school that I worked really hard to get him accepted into.  We don't speak french at home and he has really been doing well with the language at school.  He is pretty much fluent already and is talking to his baby sister in french and singing french songs.


Is there anyway to get myself out of this mess I've created?  I really want him back in school.  This is friday and his 3rd day home this week.  He seems to miss it.  I've told him about the special events at school that he's missing out on this week.  I thought I might keep him out for another week or maybe make it two this time and then send him back (as if that's what I had mean't all along) but he asked me, with lots of tears, if he really wasn't ever going back like I had said... and I had to agree... that is exactly what I had threatened.  Lots of begging and crying on his part made it more and more concrete that he wasn't allowed back.


What should I do?  Keep him home for the remainder of the school year and try again fresh in Sept?  Or is there anyway I can send him back to school soon without teaching him that I don't follow through on the big consequences?

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#2 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 07:33 AM
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Wow, it sounds like he is totally testing to see if you will carry out all of the consequences. I think you are allowed a do over. It's okay for adults to admit mistakes -- children learn that lesson as well, which is an important lesson.


You could sit him down, and explain to him (again) that you are very disappointed that he is hitting people. Try not to lecture, but instead be concerned. Let him know that hitting people hurts, and you don't want anyone to get hurt. Ultimately, he needs to hear the message that you don't want HIM to get hurt either, because you love him. Make sure he gets that message about love. Let him know that when you were so upset, you made a mistake by saying he couldn't go to school anymore. Talk about school is important because he learns, he plays with his friends, etc. Let him know that you are going to keep sending him to school, but you expect him not to hit anymore. If you want to reveal a consequence in advance, try doing it when you are not livid, so you can think about what is really reasonable. Perhaps you could say if he hits again, you will take him to that child's house so that he can apologize. Or, maybe he could write them a card or something to apologize.


But seriously, it's okay to admit you made a mistake. You don't want to miss out on something so important for your child just because you want to save face.

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#3 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 07:55 AM
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If there is a problem at school that the teacher has disciplined him for, I would try to let that be the extent of the punishment as much as you can.  Hitting is serious, that's true, but if he had privileges taken away at school, and a note sent home, and you talked to him about it, leave it at that for a bit. I would try not to overdo the punishments and disappointed lectures, nor overdo the rewards for a good day. Perhaps ask HIM what system he'd like to use for keeping the behavior on track - a sticker chart? A special snack after school?  If he continues hitting other kids, the school probably has their protocol for how to escalate their discipline - maybe eventually with kicking a kid out of school for it, if there is no other remedy.  I agree with your instinct that you went a bit far to threaten to take him out of school for the rest of the year.  You could shift that to the real, actual threat of the school opting to do that if he can't turn this around, and explain that to him.  I would find out what exactly their plan of action is at this point, and try to figure out what's going on. 


My ds1 started K when he was almost 6, due to the cut-off dates, and in the year before he still had some trouble with hitting every once in a while.  He was overwhelmed after a half-day of preschool and would act out against other kids if I brought him to the playground right after school.  I kept thinking, he really needs this year before K after all, so I'm glad he didn't start K early. He grew up a lot in that next year.  Maybe there is something bothering him at school, or maybe he truly shouldn't be in school yet (if that's what your instinct is telling you). But just threatening to take him out of school is not really a solution in itself.  

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#4 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 07:57 AM
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I don't have much experience because my son is only 2, but I just wanted to say that I remember when I was a child, my parents would threaten things, then after me crying in my room for a while they would come talk to me and say "now we're not going to take that away, or ground you for that long because we've had time to calm down, and really think about it and we know that you can be better behaved"

I remember thinking wow! I'm soo lucky. I don't want to disappoint them again. And that just worked for me when I was a child. I guess all kids are different. But there's something special in trusting your child and telling them you trust them. From my experience.

I don't want to tell you what to do, cause I don't have the parenting side experience, but I thought I would just add this in because it immediately crossed my mind when I read this.

Hope it turns out well. God bless smile.gif

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#5 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 08:03 AM
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I agree with the others that you can back down from the consequence without reducing your authority in this case.


I also wanted to point out that your son is having a problem with impulse control. I'm afraid I don't know the proper solution for it but perhaps someone else can chime in. But I do know that consequences like not being able to go back to school are not going to figure in his head in the moment - he's not weighing it and saying "hmm, I could hit him, but mom said I wouldn't be able to come here anymore... well, I guess it's worth it, here goes!" I mean, I know you know that, but just pointing out that replacing this consequence with another one is still not going to help the impulse problem. Surely someone has figured out a way to work with an impulse control problem - maybe visualization, I dunno...

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#6 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 09:23 AM
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You look at him and say "You know what? I screwed up when I said that you couldn't ever go back to school. I was really angry and said something I didn't mean. We're going to work with your teachers and the counselors to find another solution to this hitting problem."


We all get overly worked up (kids and adults), and it's really really good to model what you can do when you've screwed up. "I'm sorry, I lost my temper," will go a long way to creating someone who can apologize later as an adult. (Just leave out the "but...." part!) This is a skill that all parents need to learn because we do lose our tempers and threaten things we don't really mean. Or we make consequences that we realize are unenforceable (or would take far too much energy to enforce). You don't want to be the parent, when your child is 16, trying to ground him for life. Because at 16, he's going to simply defy you and there's not much you can do.


I would definitely schedule a meeting with the school counselor to see if you can work with them to come up with a plan. You also need to figure out what's at the bottom of the hitting. The problem I have with the kind of swift and harsh punishment you've been dishing out is that it still doesn't get at why he's doing it and it doesn't teach him another acceptable response. Yes, I know you've talked about an acceptable response, but that's not helping right now, and he needs another strategy. I wonder too if he's overwhelmed by something (too much noise? jostling?), hungry, too tired, whatever. He's not the first kindergarten kid to be lacking in impulse control, so the counselor has got to have experience dealing with this kind of behavior. As someone else noted, he's being punished at school and at home. While I agree that hitting is completely unacceptable, it might be piling on a bit too much.


Another thought that I had is that instead of taking things away when he hits, you can help him make amends or do something nice to help his community. Right now ,he's been label as a "bad kid" who hits by you and the school. Having him do something positive might help him see himself as a kid who can fix things if he makes a mistake. Is there something he can do around the school to help? Weed the garden? Recycle papers? Clean up the classroom? Maybe at home you could come up with some similar 'community service' projects. Maybe he can pick up litter at the park, or write a letter to a soldier in Afghanistan, or go to an animal shelter and help clean up. Whatever fits with your family values and your time.


Is there any chance that he really doesn't want to go to school? Or is he simply locked in a power struggle with you? I agree that it sounds like he's having impulse control issues. You need to find a way to treat those.


It's OK to retreat from a too strong position. I've done it numerous times with my kids and it hasn't lessened my authority. In fact, just last night I told my daughter that I was going to call her piano teacher and quit lessons because dd was refusing to practice. (Dd loves piano, by the way, so it's not that.) I didn't mean it, and I knew I didn't mean it as soon as it left my mouth. It was the consequence of my being hungry and tired, and dd being overtired because she'd stayed up too late reading the night before.



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#7 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 02:25 PM
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Aww... ((hugs)) that would be so hard to know my child was being a bully, and I'd probably over-threaten too.   


I don't really know what you should do, but I guess you have to tell him the truth.  "I was wrong, you have to go back to school".  But, then come up with an appropriate consequence that you both discuss in advance.  That way, he realizes that if he still chooses to hit, he is also choosing (whatever consequence) that comes with it.  He will have to own what he's done. 


(no clue what would be a good consequence) 


Good luck, and I'm sorry you have to deal with this.  


Make sure he always knows how awesome he is though.  Don't let these incidents define who he really is.

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#8 of 12 Old 02-17-2012, 09:47 PM
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I think you should tell him you made a mistake because you were so shocked he is acting this way but that he does have to ho to school daily. He is not going to learn to control his temper at school by staying home. I would also ask the teacher what she is doing when he hits. Hitting four times isn't that much for a child this age so whatever it is you should give it time to be effective. I have found my DD responds best when I tell her how dissapointed I am then make her come up with a plan to make sure the behavior doesn't repeat itself. Anger, long lectures, and isolation make her angry and she escalates. Usually there is already a punishment St school when a child gets a note sent home so adding more is really not necessary. If the teacher isn't addressing this at school I suggest asking her to start doing so. The immediate feedback is very helpful for young kids. By the time he goes home he may have already forgotten he got mad and hit someone at recess because he did so many other good things that were more important to him.

If keeping him out for bad behavior is going to be your solution to things in the future then I think you should consider homeschooling. He is missing out on the work they are doing I'm class right now by being out but it is probably easy to catch up on at this point. In first grade the work load doubles and they work much faster so it might not be that easy. You will probably also be subject to truancy laws and consequences next year so you really do need to decide on whether you want to punish him by not letting him learn at school. If he is not doing.g school type work at home the punishing him by not letting him learn may have some unintended negative effects on his willingness to do something that can be used against him as punishment.
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#9 of 12 Old 02-18-2012, 03:28 PM
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I agree with you that a very important part of parenting is saying what you mean and meaning what you say.  I find that children respond much better to boundaries drawn where they need to be and not where they don't need to be.  If a child assumes that the parent's undesirable decision is flexible, that is grounds for a lot of arguing.  If a parent is clear about which decisions are up for discussion and which are not, that allows children to respectfully discuss issues that are up for discussion and move on more quickly from issues that are not up for discussion.  That said, none of us are perfect parents, and none of us say what we mean every time or follow through on everything we say.  Backtracking is something that we should avoid as much as possible, but not at all costs.  There are things that we say that are worth taking back.  In fact, we're better parents if we take them back, and our children can learn that this is not something that happens often, not something that they should expect out of us.


Secondly, people tend behave inappropriately in an attempt to meet a real or imagined need.  Think about this in terms of the stupid things you have done in your own life (we all have them!), and dig deeper to understand what is going on with your son.  Why does he feel a need to hit and push other children?  What does it gain him?  Honor?  Resolution to the argument?  Attention from the teacher or other children?  Friends?  A release in tension?  At 5, he probably can't articulate it to you (most adults couldn't, and his reasoning is different than yours would be), and you're not there, so it's a lot harder to observe what is going on, but keep talking to the teacher and working with her, and do some detective work.  I just really think that there's more to the story.

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#10 of 12 Old 02-19-2012, 11:36 PM
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I know that when I put my daughter into school she was not doing very good either. She would kick, hit, and throw dirt at other kids. I figured that she did not like how the preschool kept changing teachers on her, and the way she was being corrected. She was constantly hearing no, no, no, or do not do this or do that. She wanted to be able to control something. So, I figured out that it would be better to acknowledge everything she did that was good. Needless to say, it worked after a little while of her getting used to it. She got to see how good she was doing by keeping a chart on her progress.


I do agree with taking back the harsh consequence. There also could be something going on with the child at school like peer pressure. You just have to sit down and talk to your son. When talking to your son, let him know you made a mistake and that it is okay to make mistakes. As long as he does not continue to make the mistake because the school will make him stay home, or make him go to another school where he does not know anyone.


Another thing is that this could be a phase he is going through. Maybe something happened at school or at home and he is lashing out in this type of way. Maybe his regular schedule was changed and he does not like it. Did any of his friends end up leaving school? Too many teachers involved in teaching his class? All of this can cause a young child to lash out because of aggravation of not being able to control what goes on in his/her life.

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#11 of 12 Old 02-20-2012, 05:13 AM
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Originally Posted by JMJ View Post

 people tend behave inappropriately in an attempt to meet a real or imagined need.  Think about this in terms of the stupid things you have done in your own life (we all have them!), and dig deeper to understand what is going on with your son.  Why does he feel a need to hit and push other children?  What does it gain him?  Honor?  Resolution to the argument?  Attention from the teacher or other children?  Friends?  A release in tension?  At 5, he probably can't articulate it to you (most adults couldn't, and his reasoning is different than yours would be), and you're not there, so it's a lot harder to observe what is going on, but keep talking to the teacher and working with her, and do some detective work.  I just really think that there's more to the story.

I agree.  I have a five year-old.  If she, out of the blue, began hitting at school, my biggest interest would not be how to set proper consequences.  I would first want to understand why she was doing it and get at the root source of the problem.  Does she need to feel powerful and is feeling weak?  Is she angry about something at home or school that she can't express?  


To me it is significant that your son walked across the hall for something overheard that upset him ~  it's less that he has an impulse issue and more of an anger issue.  

Also, I wouldn't freak about this behavior too much at this point.  He's still very young and has a limited way of expressing his feelings and conflicts.  I feel that if you can eventually discover what it is at root -- it will right itself.


For what it is worth, I have a good friend whose boy was doing a lot of hitting and fighting at home and school.  Lovely little guy, but this was significant.  She brought him to a play therapist once a week so he could have his time to express himself and help him get out the feelings that led him to this behavior.  I think he was 4.  I can't say I ever pried too much into the details, but my sense from my friend was that he, a middle boy of three boys, had a need to feel powerful and heard -- and wasn't getting it.  My sense is that it resolved fairly quickly with the outlet of therapy with someone outside of the family.


When my daughter who is 7 was being super cruel (verbally) to her little sister, I finally brought her to a therapist (play based) for two sessions, after asking her if she wanted to talk to someone outside of the family about how much her little sister was bothering her and how hard it was to lose being the only child with mom and dad ... seriously, two sessions with a good therapist ... just being heard, really made her feel much kinder to her sister.


BTW, I totally think it is OK to change the consequence, explaining that you have reconsidered.  And I would not be doing home consequences for school mistakes -- the school is already giving him some serious consequences (taking away favorite activities).  I think very briefly expressing your belief in "not hitting" and explaining why you have it is more than adequate.  Other than that, just keep reiterating you are there to listen to what might be bothering him.  And love him up, he's clearly a little under some kind of stress.




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#12 of 12 Old 02-22-2012, 08:05 PM
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Yeah, i only have a 3 y/o but i would definitely think that there is something else under all of this that is making it worse. Also, my MIL is a principal and she has seen a lot of time that when a parent obsesses over a bad behavior or a bad incident it only gets worse because the child is mildly obsessed with it. It seems counter-intuitive. Is there a chance that he is struggling with the whole french immersion thing more than you expected? I know that a change like that can cause children to be over stimulated and tired.


I wouldn't worry about letting him go back to school. I would try to set up a different consequence (like no dessert or something, but nothing more) and let him go back. I am sorry! Sometimes parenting is SOOOOO hard and i have still only experienced such a limited set of time! Good luck! hug2.gif

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