Move Away from Imposed Punishments

A parent contacted me about her 6-year old son. She was extremely frustrated because the youth does not pay attention at school and is distracting in class. She revealed that at home everything is fine.

The boy’s teacher is also frustrated, so she gave him a behavior book, in which the teacher records the child’s behavior for the day. The boy brings that book home each day, and if any negative behavior is noted, he is punished accordingly. The imposed discipline ranges from early bedtime to no toys/cartoons to no computer or video game time. Each day the boy promises to behave, but he never does. The parent asked me what to do because she disliked doling out imposed punishments every day.

Here is what I advised:

Take the boy for a walk and have a conversation with him. (Boys will not open up like girls. Boys will open up more if they are doing something—playing checkers, walking, or involved in some activity.)

After starting the conversation on a light subject, ask him if he finds the work at school very difficult. If he does, get a commitment from him to show you an example. If you perceive he has some learning difficulty, inform the school that you would like him tested. Also, have his hearing and vision tested.

During your activity with him, also ask him how he FEELS about his teacher. If he does not feel he has a good relationship with his teacher, there is a problem. Have him relate his feelings to you and determine (a) how he can choose to respond to his feelings and (b) develop some procedure he can use to redirect negative thoughts so his impulses will not overcome him. Finally, share your observations with his teacher.

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