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When to Intervene in School Issues

Question

My almost 10-year-old son came home in hysterical tears yesterday. His side of the story is that at school he saw someone’s school ID on the floor, picked it up, and asked, “Whose ID is this?” and then the teacher put him in time out and took away his recess for the next day. He kept saying he thought he was doing something good but then got punished. This kid has had a total of two behavior marks his entire school career and on the same day came home with a thank you note from the vice principal thanking him for coaching other kids in math. Something didn’t seem right so I emailed his homeroom teacher asking if there was more to the story. But… should I have interfered? Should this have been a lesson in “sometimes life isn’t fair”?

Answer

Hi Elizabeth! I appreciate your situation, especially since I have been involved as a school professional for over thirty years. To answer your first question: No, you should have not interfered. In addition, I usually recommend an employment of a 72-hour Waiting Principle. Wait 72 hours. After that time, is this issue still a "thing?" It's been over three days since this episode. Is your son still in an emotional frenzy over the situation, or has he moved on? Simply waiting can be the best method.Things do have a way of working out if given time. Understand that to some degree, all children live for the short-term, possess weak emotional self-control, and in general, are "drama factories." On the other hand, if this kind of episode becomes a pattern, I see no problem with a parent scheduling a sit-down session with a teacher. But the parent needs to go in to that session with the school teacher with the mindset that a 40-year old teacher with a Master's Degree and two children at home, will have a side of the story much more accurate and believable than any ten-year old's. And in the grand scheme of things, this is just one of many molehills in your son's life. It is important not to make a mountain out of it. This is a great opportunity to train your son on how to emotionally handle all the vicissitudes of life. Maybe suggest to your son that since he is growing up, that he-by himself- ask the teacher for some clarification. We want our children to grow up to be completely emancipated and fully independent from us, don't we? Our running interference for our children during their time with us, may delay or even stunt their growth in that regard.

Mike Smart, CLPC
smartmike59@gmail.com

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