Before the holidays, Rylie was bringing home not-so-good notes from school every other night or so. She was not doing a good job of keeping her hands to herself. It boiled down to the fact that she was having issues with her personal space being invaded, and she was lashing out. While I totally understood how frustrating that was for her, her retaliation was obviously not acceptable.
At first, we didn’t punish her at home. The teachers at school dealt with the incidents when they happened, and we didn’t want to punish her twice for the same behavior. We had conversations and explained to her that she had to keep her hands to herself, and then moved on. When the notes became more frequent, though, I felt like we had to punish her in some way at home to reinforce the punishment at school and make her realize that it was unacceptable to be bringing these reports home so frequently. Most nights we took her TV time away, which is something she looks forward to every night.
The kids were out of school for the week between Christmas and New Years, and while they were out, I had several discussions with Rylie about keeping her hands to herself when she went back to school. I guess I got through to her, because she has been back at school for two months now and has not had any reports about that type of behavior. During the first few weeks, I would check her daily report as she was getting in the car, and I would praise her for her good behavior.
On the way home one evening I was telling Rylie that I was proud of her for being so good at school and Bryce said “I was good too!” Not only did this happen once, but he said the same thing the next night also. I had been so concerned about Rylie’s behavior that I totally took Bryce’s good behavior for granted. I felt so bad for my little buddy, so of course then I told him how proud I was of him. It was too late, though.
That next night when I picked the kids up from school, guess who had a not-so-good note? Bryce!!! It was pretty far over the not-so-good line, too. He had been pushing his friends, and when his teachers asked him to apologize he said “No!” When I saw the note, I told the daycare owner about what had happened the past two nights and asked her if she thought he was misbehaving on purpose to get attention. She said “well, I suppose…” and right then he looked up at me, smiled this huge smile, and said “I got a bad note today!” The owner and I looked at each other and both of our jaws almost hit the floor. Sure enough, that smart little boy knew just what he was doing.
The same thing happened over the next few days, and it was hard for me to figure out how to handle the situation. On one hand, he needed consequences for his behavior, but on the other hand, he wanted attention, which is what was causing the behavior, so to make a big deal about it would just fuel his fire. I decided to ignore it. When we got in the car, I praised Rylie for her good behavior and when Bryce would say “I got a bad note!” I responded with a quick “I know you did, and that doesn’t make mommy happy”, and then I moved on. I took a risk by handling the situation that way, but it worked. Bryce is now coming home with his usual “Good Day!” notes, and he is praised every day for them!
This situation brought back memories from middle school. I remember that there was this special class for the “bad kids”. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was for the REALLY bad kids who were constantly getting in trouble. I do remember, though, that they got to go on field trips every so often and I remember wondering why the bad kids always got to go bowling and other fun outings like that. I also remember some of the “good kids” doing bad things so that they could be a part of that class. Of course for me the bowling wouldn’t have been enough of a reward to outweigh the punishment my dad would have imposed on me if I tried to be part of that class, so I never considered it, but it certainly wasn’t fair. Why were the bad kids getting rewarded? Of course now I realize that the administrators were rewarding them for their good behavior and trying to keep them on the right track, but when you are a kid, you just don’t see it that way.
I do realize that I didn’t necessarily “reward” Rylie for her bad behavior, but she got all kinds of attention because of it, and for little kids, attention from your parents can be just as much of a reward as a trip to the bowling alley. My kids have both been bringing home good notes almost every evening, and they both get praised for them. Bryce gets an extra high-five for not having any potty accidents, which makes him happy. On the rare occasion that they do bring home a not-so-good note, I don’t make a big deal about it since the punishment already happened at school. We have a quick discussion and they are told not to repeat the behavior, and we move on with our evening.
When we do have to punish the kids for something that happened at home, we still use time-out. They are told to get on the couch for a certain number of minutes, and we do our best to ignore the offender while they are sitting there. Bryce, especially, doesn’t like being ignored, so within seconds, he apologizes for what he did and says “I’m done.”
All children are different and I realize that my methods may not work for your particular child, but if you do have multiple children, just keep in mind that good kids need attention too. Make sure to spread the praise around evenly so that no one feels the need to get your attention by other means.
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