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8 year old boy getting into trouble at school

by Karen

Hi Annie,

My son is 8 and in 2nd grade. Last year was pretty good for him, but so far this year I have received several notes and emails home from the teacher, plus a call from the principal and a call from the vice principal.

The incidents that he has been in trouble for are taking a toy out of another girls backpack, kicking over a kids book box, kicking a girl, unplugging the computers (while the kids were working on them), and he has been acting up in fitness club, swinging on the jump ropes, throwing the fitness pieces, etc.

My husband and I really don't know how to deal with these issues. We know that yelling is not the answer, and he can be a very sweet kid and he is pretty bright.

He also has a 5 year old sister and a 2 year old brother, so we also sometimes struggle with feeling like we give each child enough attention, in between working and housework/cooking/cleaning/laundry, etc.

We have tried taking away his electronic devices, but it really doesn't teach him anything. And, secretly, I like that he has the curiosity about him, that he doesn't just take someone's word for something and he tests things.

I know it's difficult now, but I think it will serve him well later in life. (maybe). I don't want to squash his spirit and he tends to be very hard on himself at times, so we don't like to come down hard.

Can you possibly help? Sorry for the long email. It's complicated. I am reading through your website and trying to learn as much as I can as we go through this. I want to have a good relationship base as he gets older and enters into the pre-teen/teen years, otherwise I feel like we will be in big trouble!

Comments for 8 year old boy getting into trouble at school

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Double Punishing?
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Karen,
I am so pleased to hear you like his spirit of testing and challenging! We place far too much emphasis on training kids to conform so it makes it easier to manage a class of 20 - 30 kids. My husband is a teacher, and I am in no way putting down the great work teachers do, but schools are not designed to foster individualism.

The first thing I would say is the issues at school are for them to deal with. You should not be punishing him at home for things that have happened at school. If they are not finding constructive ways to deal with his behavior then that is a separate issue. I would expect they are simply informing you and hoping you will encourage him to be more cooperative - I would doubt they are expecting you to do the discipline around those issues. That is totally wrong!

From your son's point of view, you had NOTHING to do with the issues at school. And yet you are taking the side of the bosses at school and double punishing him. I would expect they have already given him consequences at school, like time out, or withdrawing privileges, which are common ways for schools to deal with misbehavior.

I would tend to put more emphasis on hearing his side. Is he unhappy at school? Maybe this behavior is a cry for attention and kids will act up to get negative attention than none. What has changed since last year that might have contributed to his change of behavior? Can he tell you what is going on, how does he feel when he does these things? Is he bored? Is he frustrated?

At home I would try to focus as much as possible on looking for his positive aspects. Help to build a great vision of himself - it sounds like at school he is getting a vision of himself as the naughty disruptive kid. Really make an effort
to look for the ways he is helpful and kind, and do try to find time to have one on one with him. Life gets very busy, and kids start acting up when they are not getting what they need. Unfortunately they then start getting heaps of negative attention which starts to build a belief that they are not a nice kid, or they are naughty. All that does is reinforce him behaving in ways that are not very socially acceptable, and getting more negative attention. A vicious circle.

Schools simply don't have the adults to give kids much one on one attention. When you think about it, a teacher with a class of 30 children can only give each child 2 minutes per hour. With no teaching, no disruptions, no other requirements on the teacher. Just not possible. So the kids that do get one to one attention are the ones that act up. Sad.

Part Two Follows . . .

Double Punishments? - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

So your job is to really have as much quality time with your kids as possible.

Since he is the eldest, he might like to be the assistant chef, and spend time with you chopping veges while you chat. Or maybe you can make sure he stays up 30 minutes later than the other kids and gets to choose what you do in that time - and who he does it with, Mom or Dad - or maybe he will want both!

The more you put positive energy into him, the less he is likely to need to act up at school to get negative attention. Unless there is something else going on at school that needs to be sorted out.

Hopefully he will turn the corner with more positive input, but certainly don't add to the disapproval he is getting from school. You can be supportive of them, without increasing his punishment or negative input.

Good luck with it all,
Annie Desantis

Thank you for the good advice
by: Karen

Hi Annie,
Thanks so much for responding. I never thought about the idea of "double punishment" until you mentioned it. We do notice with him that the more we yell or get angry, the worse his behavior. I am sure he needs more attention, positive attention from us and we will make more of an effort to do that. I like the idea of letting him stay up a bit later than the other kids for some Liam time. He really is a great kid, and smart, and honestly I think that is part of his problem, he gets a bit bored in school because he is not really challenged. (we are working on that issue).

Now to focus on the positive - and hope for the best!

Thanks again!

8 year old boy getting into trouble at school
by: Anonymous

I really like that you had pointed out that "the issue at school is for them to deal with."

It seems to me now that whenever kids get trouble in school it is always the parents fault.

8 year old boy getting into trouble at school
by: Joe in West Chester

He is bored! Schools don't deal with that at all, schools "teach" to what they consider the "average" which through the help of our politicians has been moved towards the least common denominator - sad! We have too much of "how will Bobby feel is he answers a question incorrectly" and far less of "Bobby you need to study harder, the answer you gave is incorrect" - my apologies to all the Bobby's out there who get it right!

Our children suffer from the decisions of the past decades to not grade, based on objective standards and realize that some children will just fail! Have you noticed the fad of "gifted" children? Globally we rank as a country very poorly - but how can that be with so many "gifted" children. Our best universities host more foreign students that US students - why is that?

Well look at this poor 8 year old that just happens to be not following the norms, already getting the repetitive drill and not wanting to be a drone! We label him as a "problem" and now we have a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am glad I came across this article.
by: Anonymous

I am so thankful I came across this article.

I never thought or considered my 8 year old's feelings.

I now know it is important to ask questions and listen.

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