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Punishment for School Misbehavior?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My grandson is a bright first-grader. His teachers say he is a discipline problem because he blurts out answers to questions without raising his hand and stands up in class when he gets excited about knowing an answer. They have a colored paper demerit system and he usually brings home the color that represents 2 or 3 infractions per day. His parents are supposed to discipline him for misbehaving. I think the teachers should handle the behavior in the classroom and not expect his parents to dish out punishment several hours after the event. Am I wrong to be concerned?

A: There are several issues of concern here. Teachers shouldn't ask parents to punish children for school misbehavior anymore than they should ask them to reward their kids for classroom successes. Healthy child raising, both at home and in school, involves a child's experiencing the natural and logical consequences of his actions. It's part of the teacher's role, not the parents', to administer any discipline needed for classroom misbehavior. Parents, of course, should be notified by the teacher about any ongoing disciplinary problems with their children.

Punishing kids with these colored demerit cards is shameful and ineffective. Systems of rewards and punishments have no place in a healthy learning environment. Please do not allow your grandson to lose his excitement about learning because he thinks that he'll be punished again and again. A creative, educationally-oriented therapist might help his teacher learn some positive ways of dealing with his impulsivity.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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