6 yr old- Discipline for bad school behavior - FamilyEducation
6 yr old- Discipline for bad school behavior
01/04/2008 at 13:05 PM

I have a 6 yr old stepson who lives with his mom the majority of the time.  We are having issues knowing how to discipline him if he does something wrong at school.  Mom takes the approach that the school does the disciplining, and he does not suffer any consequences when he gets home.  Dad on the other hand thinks he should also be disciplined when he gets home and will discipline him the next time he has custody- which could be a day or two after the bad behavior occured.   

My question is:  At age 6, is it beneficial to have him answer to consequences that long after the bad behavior?  Is he old enough to understand?  Dad always explains why he is being punished and talks to him about his previous behavior.  Are we doing more harm than good?

Why is Dad not at the school? Why is Dad not being called by the school when these things happen? Dad needs to become involved.My kids teachers all know me by first name. I volunteer when I can, and attend every confrence. Teachers need to know that if Mom cannot, will not, help Dad is always available. I wouldnt punish after the fact, but I would talk with him about it and let him know that it is not acceptable behaviour. Dad needs to document this and look at school records. I would also communicate with the mother and address these issues. This will be a record for future use. Yes, Dad can only stand by for so long and allow lazy parenting to harm his child. I would say nothing to the mother about any plans, but I would use this in court. This young man deserves better parenting.


Could you describe some of the misbehaviors?  If they are just developmental, then punishing for something the child is unable to do as yet is like punishing a puppy because it can't fly.


 Puppies will never fly. To expect a puppy to fly is being unrealistic. Schools are very aware of a childs abilities. If he is getting in trouble, and the school is contacting the mother, obviously it is something the school believes he is able to control. Dad needs to be a regular fixture at the school.


It is not beneficial to a 6 year old to punish him so long after a misdemeanour. That will only confuse him more. Action needs to be taken at the time and that is why Mum and or Dad should be at that school and discussing the problems. If the problem is school based then the discipline should also be school based with imput from the parents. If a child misbehaves at home, you would not expect the school to do the disciplining for you. 


I'm sure you are in an odd situation as it not being your child and all but it sounds like you're concerned.  It would depend on WHAT my child did at school as to whether or not he got punished at home in addition to any school punishment.  I still think you are right to have dad do the discipline, even if it is after the fact.  6 year olds will get it, 2 or 3 days after.  It would be better if it weren't that long after the fact but I know that's not always possible.    


The types of responses I've gotten are very interesting.  I did not post the question to "bash" any parties parenting abilities or punishment styles.  It was more to try and understand the way a 6 yr old mind works (through others experiences) and to maybe learn different or creative ways of letting him know his behavior is unacceptable.  At age 5 I'd say that he didn't understand getting in trouble after the fact, but I feel that age 6 is the tricky year.   We are trying to figure out the most effective way to help him understand why certain behaviors are wrong and help him change his behavior.  Behaviors range from talking out of turn, making noise during quiet time, not sitting still, an occasional hitting another kid(which we're told was playing-hmmm), staying on the playground when he should be in class.  I know a lot of these are typical, but when it gets to the point a teacher calls, or writes a note home or he has marks every day- it needs to be stopped.  We've tried timeout, taking away cartoons- video games-dessert -playing with friends.  We've also tried rewarding good behavior. 

Please, no more comments about how he needs better parents, or anything negative for that matter.  He is very much loved by all.  We are just trying to learn different ways to help him learn to control his behavior now so it doesn't get worse later on.


So you've done the sticker chart thing?  With an erratic reward schedule?  One thing I've heard of is the teacher sends a behavior report home every day, and if it has a positive comment, you just read that part out loud, and then maybe maybenot ask him if he is proud of that.



Your question was "Are we doing more harm than good?". You ask this question, and then want to dictate the responses you receive? Don't ask the question to which you do not want the answer to.
I stand by what I said. Dad needs to be more involved at the school. If that sounds like criticism, so be it. Punishing a child after the fact, rather than being proactive and attempting to prevent this continued behavior is lazy parenting.


I want helpful answers to my question.  The problem is you don't give any.  You just immediately attack and assume lazy parenting.  Your posts have very angry undertones and I will no longer read or respond to the thread.



mommaM - you must be new to boards:)  I think the same people that have road rage are the same ones that come on these boards and bash people....If someone is critical, so be it, but just be prepared for it next time.   To answer your question: it is fine for your husband to discipline a day or two after the fact as long as it is warranted and especially if a note is given.  Yes, it is best if both parents are at the school to talk to the teacher, but that's not always possible.  Perhaps the father could schedule a meeting w/ the teacher and the child during lunch or after school.  Any good teacher would be willing to do that and I'm sure the father can fit that in somehow.  Plus, the behavior problems you described are very normal for 6 yrs.  My 6 yr old had the same issues and I had a conference w/ her teacher and my child and came up w/ a plan that if my child behaves well all week, I'll eat lunch w/ her on Friday - it worked like a charm.  If she had days where she misbehaved, not only did she not earn a lunch w/ me, but she had computer time, etc taken away that day.


I did not give any helpful answers? I was the first person to respond. If you read what I wrote I addressed every issue you asked. Being a father who has gone through a divorce, and a long custody battle, I may have some insight here that you may not understand. If you perceive my posts as having “angry undertones” I make no apologies. I gave you the truth the way I see it. My mistake is actually thinking you wanted the truth. I think the best thing would be for the father of the child, an actual parent, to post their questions and concerns.

 Dont mistake truth for road rage.


In response to singledad, I think that maybe your are responding on yor own personal experiences that you are dealing with and not the actual question asked by the poster.  Also, to suggest that the father is the "better" parent because she found your post responding from your personal feelings was not at all helpful and just wrong.  I think maybe you should let others who have a more non-biased view help her.





In response to MOM2JJ. You are right I was responding using what I had gained from my own personal experience. I always feel more comfortable taking advice from someone who has been through what I am seeking advice about.


I never suggested that the father was the “better parent”. I did say that he was “an actual parent”. The stepmother who is asking the questions, and is so easily offended, is not the parent of this child. She may perform duties which a biological parent would do, but under the law she is not a parent to this child. That’s why I suggested the actual parent come here to ask the question.

I guess I offer a biased view based on actual and practical experience, rather than a non-biased view based on ideas of what should be.

The real world is not always a nice place. I was giving advice based on the idea that this father was angry about the lack of care and attention his child is getting concerning his education. The advice I gave is the same advice I have given to two other fathers who I work with both of who now have full custody of their children. I guess nice advice is better than truth with "angry overtones".


Oh my!  Before responding, I made a point of reading the entire thread this morning. I will do my best to give you as objective a viewpoint as possible.

First let me say that:

1)  I have a degree in psychology with a minor in education and that my educational studies concentrated on Guidance and Counseling,

2)  I have many years of experience in education and training as well as a professional background as a Social Worker,

3) I divorced my son's father after 13 years of marriage when my son was two years old due to mental & physical abuse toward me and, at the very least, negligence of our child.  I did not even try to deny my ex- visitation rights as I did not want our son to eventually read all of the sordid details.  This was, in hindsight, probably a mistake on my part as my son, when he was 11, was critically injured due to his father's negligence during summer visitation; after over 20 surgical procedures, he eventually recuperated but has some permanent injuries that limit his mobility and will soon require more surgical intervention,       

4) Even though my employer moved me 600 miles away when my son was in the 4th grade, My ex- and I had an advasarial relationship until we no longer had to deal with each other - the day after our son graduated with a BS in Computer Engineering from a well-known Technical Institute with a 3.3 GPA, 

5) I obviously had my own self-esteem issues if, as a social worker, I stayed in an abusive relationship until I perceived my child's life was in danger.

    No child matures according to any professional's age-based chart; girls DO tend to mature faster than boys.  The only ones to determine whether or not discipline delayed by a couple of days is effective, counter-productive, or damaging are the parents and, in this case, step-parents.  I WOULD recommend using positive reinforcement as previously suggested WHENEVER it is appropriate.  Exclamations like, "You are wonderful!" are not what I'm talking about.  "I'm proud of the way you played gently with baby Anthony" is specific and positively impactful.  "Negative" discipline needs to be centered around learning how to better deal with life.  For instance, an immediate "time-out" when a child clearly needs to get control of his/her emotions needs to be "until you think you are ready to ...." (whatever the desired behavior) rather than some arbitrary time frame. 

     My son is extremely gifted intellectually.  This is often exhibited by some of the behaviors you describe, things that might be symptoms of being bored.   Actual "Acting Out" such as hitting (there's no such thing as "playful hitting" or hurtful words that are "just kidding" -- every child learns to try to justify his/her unacceptable actions when he/she ascertains that the most important people in his/her life dissaprove of such actions -- are often warning signs that the child has not found or been given an outlet for frustration and anger that is building up.   

     That outlet may be something as simple as being given permission to verbalize, in acceptable "I feel ..." statements their confusion, frustration, etc. when something upsets them.  In my personal experience with my son, he actually hated loosing control and desperately wanted someone to help.

     Maybe your stepson is not even ready for that level of communication.  Maybe the "most important people in his life" need to first practice some more simple communications with him.  (You are the Supreme Being(s) until around (again, nothing is concrete) age 7.  Other authority figures are important, but YOU are God(s).  Even if you practice and teach him/her your religious beliefs, the concept of an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent being i.e. GOD  is beyond a young child's ability to fully comprehend.  Remember that it was only a few years ago that the child thought that a person out of sight was gone forever. 

     Think about what happens when you angrily ask a young child "Did YOU spill the milk?"  The immature answer is "NO" because it's obvious that "YES" is not going to please you.  It is much better to teach a child to take responsibility for his/her actions by saying something like "Oh!  It looks to me like you spilled the milk.  Let me get you a rag so you can (or, and I will help you) wipe it up."  Once a "critical parent" can loose that title, the child can feel safe enough to actually TELL the parent when he/she has made a mistake or done something "wrong,"  thus creating the opportunity to discuss the situation.

     Since your step son spends most of the time with his mother, take a look at the arrangements for visitation with his father and you.  Is there a schedule?  Is there a calendar that the child, who is at least  starting to read, can look at to know where he will be when?  Children LIKE routine.  It gives them a sense of security. Is your step son's schedule, over which he probably has little or no control, too flexible?  Does either Dad or Mom suddenly need to "switch weekends" or make similar scheduling changes.  That's OK on a very infrequent basis.  There are, of course, times when one famly has an opportunity to go somewhere special and would like to share the experience with this child.  Most of the time, however, those types of things can be planned a couple of weeks or more in advance. Frequently getting "jerked around" and finding that, for instance,  his dreams of riding bikes at Dad's neighbor's house just got messed up without any thought as to how the schedule change might affect him makes him feel powerless, more like a thing or possession than a person, and, eventually, really ANGRY. Note that he may be too young to figure out for himself where that anger came from. 

     Sometimes hitting or saying hurtful words are echoes of how one or more adults treat or act around the child.  Does someone in his extended family "just smack" him when he misbehaves or even just when they are emotionally exhausted and he sas something in a way they don't like?  Does someone "smack" a younger sibling so that seems to be the way to control him or her when the children are without adult supervision?

     Since Mom and Dad clearly disagree about one important issue, discipline regarding school, are there other important things about which they disagree?  Do they communicate well-enough for the benefit of their child to determine exactly what disagreements they have about correct parenting and try to find a win-win compromise to any major issues?  Did your question grow out of  Dad realizing that, by being the disciplinarian during his limited time with his child,  Mom starts to seem like the "Good Cop?"  Yes, if the child is arriving at Dad's house straight from school or so soon after school that  Dad is the one who needs to review today's note, notices, etc.  from school and supervise homework, then Dad needs to deal with whatever that particular day brings.  Unless today's note from the teacher reiterates problems from earlier in the week that have not been resolved, dealing with old issues during Dad's and son's limited time together cannot be much fun for either of  them and does not seem like "Quality Time."  If Mom simply left the old notes in the backpack as an FYI for Dad, then Dad needs to know that she's already discussed their son's actions with him and determined that whatever the teacher did for discipline was sufficient.  This means that Dad may have to call Mom and ask something like, "Did you already talk with Johnny about the teacher's note from Wednesday that he did not come back to the classroom with the rest of the children after recess?" After a few of these, either Dad learns that Mom DOES regularly discuss school discipline or Mom should get the hint.  Dad, PLEASE remember that children do hear things we say when we think they are out of earshot; any negative words about Mom will hurt him and come back to haunt  you in the future. 

     If Dad does find he has to pick up the slack, he could try asking him what happened in a calm and non-judgemental way?  When confronted, especially in a critical manner, isn't the answer almost always, "I don't know."?    

     Needless to say, the key word throughout this is "Communication." If one or both  parents are not successfully communicating with the other parent, teacher, etc. , how can they expect the child to learn to communicate?       

     If you and Dad have tried everything you know and still feel that the adults in your step-son's life need to better work together in order to help him become the person he CAN be, please do consider family counseling.  As with marriage counseling, if the other party refuses to attend, the three of  you can participate in order to learn better ways of dealing with situations that are of concern to you.

     Being a step-mom is a hard task.  I commend you for taking on this role and for not passively wanting the best for your step-son but for actively seeking insight.

     In this forum, some of my ramblings may  be way off base and not at all applicable.  I hope that something will click with your particular situation and help steer your family in what you will find to be a positive direction.

     May God Bless You, 



I firmly believe that behavior is to be dealt with at the time of the offense. Punishment should be something that is related to the behavior. There is a student at my daughters school who is a bully and always in trouble. They have tried a lot. What is working now for this kid is when she behaves for the week the whole class gets a reward. This helps the other kids encourage her to behave (peer pressure works). They are 6 and 7 year olds. My son is 5 and has a lot of boys in his preschool class. They are always wrestling and always getting in trouble. 4 boys were playing together and hitting each other in the face. They all thought it was fun (they thought it was wrestling) We had a talk with the kids and told them that punching another kid in the face was never ok. But they still love to wrestle with each other. My concern is that this kid might behave worse if he is overly punished. Coming from a child of divorce. I didn't spend a lot of time with my Dad and if I was getting punished will I was with him, I think it would definatley cause a rift. Or because he is a child of divorce maybe he is acting out to get his Dads attention. Lots of kids behave bad to get attention. I would let the school punish the bad behavior at the time it happens. It does no harm to talk to him about what he did. But I would try and find more ways to praise him and he might adjust his behavior to get positive interaction. If there is bad behavior while he is with you definatley punish that. Punishment should be done immediatley not a couple days later. There are a lot of good info on the internet about rules and consequences. Making sure he knows what is going to happen for bad behavior before it happens is key, and of course follow through and consistency

I can't imagine learning that my stepson was disruptive, and /or physical at school and assume that whatever punishment the teacher gave him, didn't need to be reinforced at home. If my stepson has a bad day at school, he knows there are consequences for bad behavior. But the rules and expectations need to be explained to the child and both parties must follow thru. It almost sounds like Dad has to reinforce the rules because Mom is taking the easy way out by not creating structure. At 6, the child understands that if he misbehaves at school, his dad will punish him and his mom will not. Parents must be consistent!

I was wondering how " The total transformation" technique works. Has anyone tried it? How effective is it?

Too often my child has gotten in trouble whre no adult witnesses..only the bullies and their freinds as witnesess..so no..my child does not get in trouble at home because of the ignorance of an administrator..I also follow this even when we speak and he is in the wrong with another child..he was already discliplinced at school..he is human and instances do happen between kids..it also ensures I am getting the true story between children..we dsicuss making different choices the next time..he is disclipened at home if he disrepects authority..too often our children are bullied and than punished when they defend theirselves because of ignorant administrators..whom I have flat out caught lying..I don't disclipline because my child is discrimated against unless he disrepects the authorities..wrong...which they often are..or right..they are the authority in the school..he comes home ad allows me to handle any issues with teachers, principals, etc