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Parent and school staff disagree on mode of discipline


My 7-year-old son is beginning to hate school. He is impulsive and as a result, often has to sit apart from his classmates. This consequence only intensifies his behavior. I have provided suggestions on how to handle his impulsiveness, but the school’s staff will only administer the school’s policy of separation. He is not trying to be defiant, and he is now feeling like he is being punished for who he is, not for what he is doing. He feels singled out. What are my options?



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This ​situation, if allowed to continue, will hamper his education. So you must act now to stop it from continuing. Did your son go to preschool? How was his kindergarten experience? Preschool and kindergarten are when impulsive behaviors are dealt with through redirection, teaching and practicing more appropriate responses.  

Impulsive behavior is normal; we all have impulses. As we grow and develop, we learn to curb our impulses through social interaction. How other people respond to our behavior helps clue us in to whether or not that behavior is acceptable.  We adjust our behavior in order to get positive reactions from those around us.

In school, the social reaction to a student’s impulsive behavior is separation from the group in the “safe seat” or “buddy room.” While there, he is missing out on classroom fun and educational instruction. 

Some children do not connect their behaviors and the consequences of their behaviors very quickly. It takes administering consistent and repeated responses before a child learns that his behavior is linked to the consequences.  

Your son has not made the connection yet. Perhaps he is strong-willed or stubborn, and thus it may take more time. Don’t be surprised if the behavior worsens at first. This is common but not long-lasting.  

There are steps you can take to help your son with this developmental lesson.  First, you must support the school’s staff and their policy on how to handle impulsive behavior. Second, find out what is occurring at school directly prior to the inappropriate behavior. Work with your son each day after school by teaching and then practicing a more acceptable behavior to use in place of his unacceptable behavior.  

The goal is to teach him the necessary social skills to succeed in the classroom and wherever else life takes him. You can work on this by using a three-step approach that we call Preventive Teaching:

  1. Describe the positive behavior. Be very clear and demonstrate it if necessary.
  2. Give him a reason to do it this way. Make this reason a “kid” reason that shows him how he will benefit from doing it this way.  
  3. Have him practice what you just taught him. Keep it brief and make it fun.  

The comment about being “punished for who he is” is not likely his words, but something he heard an adult say. Kids will say whatever they need to in order for their parents to take their side and defend them, whether they are truly the victims of the situation or not. 

You are not trying to change his personality. Neither is the school’s staff. The goal is to help your son succeed and be happier in an environment that he will be in for many years to come.