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Just spank him

Posted by lofgray on April 25, 2008

Five years ago a working mom moved to a new town and placed her only son in what appeared to be the best daycare in her area. By best we would like to point out the murals on the walls, video surveillance, and electronic sign-in sign-out with pass codes. The mom didn’t know this would be the worst decision in her or her son’s life. The child attended the child care program for two successful years with occasional ‘normal’ disruptive behavior. When the child joined the VPK program everything suddenly seemed to change.

Mom would drop her son off in the morning around 7:30 and would pick up her son up in the evening around 5:30. He wouldn’t complain more than normal when it was bath time. He wouldn’t throw a fit when it was time to eat. Bedtime was even relatively easy compared to other kids that would toss a tantrum. The son would whine and stomp his feet but nothing more than that. Mom was never embarrassed in public with a screaming child. Most people thought he was well behaved except for the school.

“…he is going to be a murderer when he grows up.”

Friday, Mom got a report that Son was bad on Tuesday. At 6 pm Mom was told Son was bad at 8 pm. Son bit so’n’so and mom wasn’t told until tomorrow afternoon. As parents of young children we’re told to punish our children when the inappropriate behavior is taking place. Children 5 and younger have difficulty remembering yesterday. Most often they forget what happened this morning. Poor Son couldn’t understand why he was being ‘grounded.’ He remembered biting and kicking but the important ‘why’ was always missing. Poor Son thought he was just a bad kid, not because he was told so, he simply felt so.

Mom fought with the school to try and get up to date information on her son’s behavior. Although the school was complaining he was still an angel at home. The Son wouldn’t dare bite his mommy or daddy. The Son never considered kicking mommy in the shins when it was time to clean up. The parents just couldn’t understand why the child was behaving so poorly at school yet wouldn’t show such behavior at home. The parents were struck with the difficulty of punishing their child for something he hardly remembered from days before. Even though the school advertised daily progress reports they were rarely used. The daytime teacher left before Mom picked her son up, most often the afternoon teacher wouldn’t know if the son had been good. The Poor Son’s behavior got worse and the school to parent communication didn’t improve despite the mom telling them to call her no matter what time. “Please” she begged, “I know you are not allowed to discipline him more than a talk, call me and I will come here myself and teach him right from wrong.”

“…he’s a brat just spank him.”

The Son’s behavior got even worse at school if you can believe it yet stayed the same at home. The school thought he should be on drugs, they thought he was crazy, they thought the mom wasn’t trying hard enough. They told the mother how to run her house hold. They told the mother the father needed to be more prominent. They told the mother it was her fault. They filmed the son throwing his daily fit. They showed the son the film without the parent’s permission, and then they showed the mom the film when she came to pick him up from school. Poor son was throwing chairs, tossing over tables hitting children, adults, and himself. Poor son was caught on film defying the attempts of three adults to hold him down and take him out of the class. ‘He is crazy’ they told the mom, ‘Get a doctor’ they said. After that they wouldn’t try to teach the boy, they would simply wait for his fit then call mom and send him home.

The psychologist said “He is really smart, most likely bored, and needs ADHD drugs.” The Behavior Specialist said, “These are learned behaviors, he’s a brat just spank him.” So who do you believe? Is this a story of the parent at fault or a story of the school at fault? Is the child insane or has he learned to be bad? Did the son’s behavior not improve because the school was not permitted by law to discipline the unruly behavior? He’d throw a chair and get “quiet time.” He’d hit the teacher and get a “safe place.” He’d scream and yell and then go home early. Was grounding a five year old too much? Was it wrong to take away all his toys, all his luxuries, all his fun continuously for a whole year?

I can honestly tell you I blamed the school. I blamed the teacher and the owner. I blamed the system of misguided rules. I can tell you this is a true story because it is about me and my son. I am that mother who regrets that year. I am the mother that cried for months because I didn’t know what to do. I am that mother shaking in a doctor’s office trying to find out if my son was unbalanced. I can also tell you that my son isn’t crazy, he didn’t need drugs. The behavior specialist was right, the school had created a brat for themselves out of limp discipline and shaky communication efforts and they were unable to stop it. It took them several years, several changes of teachers and several events of letting him get away with disruptive behavior. He was conditioned to believe his behavior would get him what he wanted. If he wanted only blue blocks he could throw a fit to get them. Small fits uncontrolled let to bigger fits unmanaged to finally violent rage. If they would have just raised their voice from the start or whack him one on the hand or bum none of this would have started. A five year old learned that with just a little tantrum he could control, manage, and manipulate adults into whatever he wanted because they were not permitted to fight back with anything more than soft meaningless words.

The story doesn’t end; my son was suspended eight times from his kindergarten class at a Charter Academy. His teacher and both principles were trying desperately to help me. We were having meetings almost twice a week to manage my son’s problems. I stopped working and vowed not to get another job until my son’s behavior had improved. Nothing was working he still threw chairs, hit his teachers, spit on the vice-principle, ran through the halls screaming at the top of his lungs. One day I walked into the school to pick him up early for an appointment with his therapist. I sat in the chairs by the guidance office to wait for him. I had the unfortunate experience of over hearing the teachers in the office down the hall. “There goes the mom of That Kid,” “Oh you mean that violent crazy one?” “Yeah, he is going to be a murderer when he grows up.” “He should be expelled.”

‘He is crazy’

I pulled my son from the school that week and signed up for home school. The environment at the Charter Academy was no longer hospitable to my child. I felt that he would have no chance for improvement because even strangers felt he couldn’t. They had already placed him in a category, and wouldn’t give him a chance to be anything else. I knew my son was better than that, I knew he could change without medicating him. It took six months of home school focused on behavior modification instead of reading and math and moving back home to live with my mother just for the better school to help my son. Although I wasn’t fond of her as a person I’d have to thank Mrs. Robinson for her hard work and strong discipline in helping me put my son on the right track. Today my son is in first grade, and hardly ever gets notes sent home from the teacher. He listens to other adults and rarely complains. I have to admit that because of these events I expect more from my son and may be hard on him but neither of us are crying to sleep at night.

Just another example of how your rules and regulations (although pretty ideas) can screw up another person’s life.

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9 Responses to “Just spank him”

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    I feel like I could have written some of this myself. Kudos to you for doing what was best for your child. I would love to know more about the behavior modification that worked with your son!

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