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Worrying about your child getting in trouble at school

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How is a parent to react when their child gets in trouble at school? How much should you worry? Is it just a part of growing up? Should you be more concerned if your child goes through their school career without getting in trouble at all?

Being judged for getting in trouble at school.
Being judged for getting in trouble at school. Should you be concerned about your child getting in trouble at school or is it simply a part of growing up?

I was having a chat with a dad friend of mine the other day. We were discussing this very issue and his response took me by surprise.

He said his child had never been in trouble after several years at secondary school. He explained that getting in a tiny bit of trouble was maybe no bad thing and felt his kid could be more of a risk taker.

He wasn’t suggesting he wanted his offspring to go wild, just, you know, break a minor rule here and there so lessons could be learned. It was an interesting point of view. It certainly made me sit up and listen and ponder over whether there is something to be learned from getting in trouble at school when you are in your teens. Is it nothing more than a part of growing up?

I recently got speaking to a teacher who expressed a similar opinion. I’ll paraphrase, but he said youngsters have choices to make and they have to learn which are the right ones. Conversely, he added that youngsters have to learn there are consequences when they make the wrong judgement call.

As a parent, I fully expect to go through highs and lows with my kids. That may (has) involve(d) getting in trouble from time to time. The thought of getting in trouble at school, however, well that just crosses a line. Or does it?

Speaking from my own experience, I think my background explains a lot. The mentality at home when I was growing up was that you simply did not get in trouble at school.

Throughout my entire time at secondary school, I got the one after school detention. This punishment involved staying behind for 90 minutes and completing a mundane task.

I got the detention in the most ridiculous circumstances. To cut a long story short, I was overheard being rude about a teacher. It maybe didn’t help that it was the teacher I was being rude about who overheard me.

My mother was incredibly disappointed when she was informed of my misdemeanour. To her, this was a massive deal. Even so, she was the easier parent to deal with. It was my stepdad’s reaction I was terrified of.

The day I came back home with the letter informing my parents of my detention, my mum said my stepdad would “have to be told” about it. That evening, in a bid to gauge what mood my stepdad was in when he returned from work, she met him at the end of the garden and walked back to the house with him.

I clearly remember watching this farcical charade from an upstairs window. My mother never met my stepdad at the end of the garden. Would he not realise something was afoot?

Anyway, the fear I felt at getting in trouble stayed with me. I think I am possibly guilty of projecting my own fears on to my kids. Experiences like that have left me feeling more concerned about my kids getting in trouble than they do!

That said, it was the one and only time I got in serious trouble at school. It wasn’t pleasant, but I learned from it.

Graphic highlighting quote about getting in trouble at school.

I guess the other fear is judgement from parents. If a kid gets in trouble every now and again, will other parents judge your child or maybe even judge you as a parent?

We all know this happens, but the parent who judges other kids’ behaviour and puts their own children on a pedestal is foolish. At some point their kid will get in trouble or rebel and then their world will come tumbling down.

We’ve all been teenagers. I am sure we all did stupid things during that period of our lives. I have heard a few parents with older kids say their children sailed through the early teenage years, only for the wheels to come off the behavioural bus in the late teens and early twenties.

Maybe it’s best to accept some turbulence when kids are younger in the hope lessons are learned and bigger issues avoided when they’re older? If some of those lessons have to be learned at school, so be it.

Bringing the focus back to school, the impression I have is that school discipline has changed a lot over the years. Teachers are no longer the shouty, bullying creatures they once were. It is no longer acceptable for teachers to throw things at you, shout at you uncontrollably or humiliate you in front of your class.

Whereas that was the starting point for discipline, discipline today seems to be more structured. The starting point in this day and age seems to be the after school detention.

When I was at school, an after school detention was a big deal. After receiving three you were automatically suspended (“externally excluded” to use modern terminology). Speaking to other parents, it strikes me after school detentions are issued much more readily in this day and age as it’s the first stage in the school discipline process.

I think it’s no bad thing that discipline has moved on. When I was at secondary school, I once saw a teacher grab hold of a pupil’s hair before forcing him to walk around in circles.

Surprisingly, the worst excesses I saw were in primary school. A particular teacher I had was notoriously bad tempered. He shouted at pupils in the most appalling way and once locked a pupil in the stationery cupboard. This isn’t the stuff of playground legend, this guy was my class teacher and the school’s headteacher. I witnessed this incident myself (I’m not sure what his story was, but he only lasted at the school for a term).

Getting back to whether you should worry about your child getting in trouble at school, yes, you should. It is nothing more than a sign you care.

That said, I think you have to reflect on what a child gets in trouble for and how often. If a kid repeatedly gets in trouble for bullying, arson or physically assaulting students or staff, there’s probably a serious underlying issue to deal with.

If a kid gets hauled before their Headteacher once or twice during their time at school because they’ve been rowdy in class or been caught using their phone during assembly, well maybe it isn’t the end of the world. They’re simply pushing boundaries and learning their limits. I’m not saying such behaviour should be tolerated or celebrated, but maybe mums and dads need to accept some of this as simply part of growing up.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering what happened when my stepdad was told about my after school detention. For some reason my mother had a change of heart. She never explained her thinking and we never spoke of it again, but my stepdad was never told about my after school detention. As far as I am aware, he doesn’t know about it to this day!

6 thoughts on “Worrying about your child getting in trouble at school”

  1. Great post and a very interesting question. As my daughter is nearly 5, perhaps it is something I need to think of sooner rather than later. My initial thought is some trouble is good. It means they are testing the status quo, asking questions which perhaps need answering, at least to them.

    As you said,

    “Maybe it’s best to accept some turbulence when kids are younger in the hope lessons are learned and bigger issues avoided when they’re older?”

    Trouble often comes from mistakes and failure, and we all know mistakes and failure are an extremely prominent part of life and the mindset we all want for our kids. That is better learnt early.

    Ah, it’s such a tough question. No trouble and unthoughtful parents who don’t listen is no doubt worse than (some) trouble with caring, understanding parents who do listen.

    I want to know what other dads think.

    1. Yeah, it’s a vexing question. I think you’d be daft as a parent not to expect some trouble, but it’s a case of how much trouble, when and what trouble. Of course your child is five so is learning boundaries at primary school. My eldest started secondary which ups the ante a bit. I’m inclined to say some, limited trouble is no bad thing (but not to be encouraged and don’t ever do it again, okay?).

  2. It’s an interesting one. I also had 1 detention at school, for forgetting my science book. Once. I’d probably not have had a detention if someone else before me had also forgotten theirs for about the 5th time. We didn’t have after school detentions because most kids were bussed into school so there was no way of getting home. My lunchtime detention writing I must not forget my science book for 2 A4 pages was scrapped when the teacher realised I was missing netball practice. But I was a goody two shoes. The only other time I got into trouble about school stuff was lying (by omission) to my mum about going to wind band which was dull and as I had lessons outside of school I wasn’t obliged to attend. She marched me in in front of the music teacher and I was made to apologise, ended up having to go back to windband but then missed out on going ice skating with our year group’s evening trip.

    N is like me, he would hate to get into trouble, he doesn’t know why people would want to muck about, and he’s a people pleaser, but (so far) hasn’t been led by others. He knows he’ll get a telling off at home if he does something wrong, and he would be mortified being sent to the head teacher (except she’s his class teacher now anyway). He’s been caught up in 2 punishments by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, along with a couple of others, and was in tears about it, and the unfairness. The first time they actually had to stay in at break, the second the teacher forgot about it. But he hates unfairness and people not following rules, so I’d be quite surprised if he did totally go off the rails intentionally. He’ll have to accept that sometimes you get caught up in things that aren’t your fault, and you have to stand up for others who similarly are being caught up but weren’t involved.

    Mind you, our school head is quite strict so there’s v little really bad behaviour. We did have 2 recently from N’s year, who decided to do a runner, climbed the fence at lunchtime, teachers spotted them, jumped over following them and they didn’t get anywhere. They had disappointment from the school and the class were lectured about trust, the police had to be called, they had to get a supply teacher in to cover the teaching while the head was dealing with it from a safety perspective, I expect one of them was in major trouble with his dad when he found out. But tbh, yes it was stupid, and whatever possessed them to think they could get away with it (N was most put out that they’d had to cross into another bubble’s area to get to the fence), we just can’t stop laughing at the escapade!

    1. Wow, scaling the fence and doing a runner. That’s hardcore actually. It’s a really interesting subject though. I wonder if N will get more relaxed about rule breaking as he gets older? I know my eldest has taken a while to adjust to secondary school and was a bit surprised at what older kids get up to, the kind of thing us adults would simply roll our eyes at.

  3. Interesting topic, this. I never got in trouble at school. Ever. I turned up to a whole-class detention once only to be told by the teacher in question that I hadn’t behaved badly like everyone else had, so was free to go. But, you know what? I kind of wish I hadn’t been excused as it really didn’t do much for my reputation with my classmates! I was probably too much of a goody two shoes and was already getting bullied, so a little bit of rebellious behaviour may have helped me a lot. So I won’t be disappointed if my kids do a bit of boundary-pushing.

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