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How do I Discipline a Child Who Received a School Suspension for Fighting?

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Question: How do I Discipline a Child Who Received a School Suspension for Fighting?
My 13-year-old son has been suspended from school. He got into a fight with another boy and they both received three day suspensions. I’m not sure that the suspension alone is going to be enough of a consequence for him. Should I give him another punishment?
Answer:

Great question. You’re right to be considering whether or not a suspension is going to be a big enough of a negative consequence to deter him from getting suspended again. For most kids, getting a few days off from school isn’t a punishment at all.

A suspension outside of school is often the school’s last resort. For a serious offense like fighting, an hour long detention isn’t enough. An out of school suspension is the school’s way of saying that they can’t offer a serious enough consequence in the school setting and it is up to the parents to find appropriate discipline.

Don’t Make it a Vacation

The most important thing is to make sure that he doesn’t treat his three days away from school as a vacation. Take away his privileges, such as his electronics and his ability to visit with friends. You don’t want his time at home to be enjoyable.

Then, decide how you want him to spend his time. A great consequence for teenagers can be extra chores. Assign him a list of unpleasant chores to complete each day, such as yard work, cleaning and manual labor. Remember, the goal is to make his day much less pleasant than the average school day so he won’t want to be suspended again in the future.

One problem many parents I work with run into is that there isn’t anyone home during the day to keep an eye on their teen. If you’re not able to be home, it’s best if you can find someone to watch your teen during his suspension. If you can’t be there to provide eyes-on supervision, get help from a neighbor, grandparent or friend to watch your teen while he’s suspended to make sure he’s not having fun.

You can even hire him out to do their chores but make sure it’s someone who is going to be able to follow through with the limits you’ve set. If Grandma is likely to be sympathetic to him and allow him to watch TV all day, that won’t work.

If you must leave him home alone, take any electronics or power cords with you to prevent him from watching TV or playing on the computer. Also, give him a detailed list of chores and make your expectations clear. For example, if you want the yard raked, make it clear what you expect it to look like when he’s done. Don’t allow him to begin earning his privileges back until he’s completed all of the chores you assigned during his suspension.

If the school is willing to give him his homework assignments, make sure that he gets his work done. Some schools won’t allow work to be sent home but instead, have kids make it up when they return. If you can’t get his work ahead of time, set aside time for him to read a book or do a learning activity. You can even give him some assignments of your own to complete.

Teach Him Alternative Ways to Handle Peer Issues

Establish clear rules about fighting and school behavior. He’s only got a few more years until he enters adulthood. He needs to know that physical fights can have serious consequences and he needs to learn how to resolve problems in other ways before he enters into the work force.

Spend some time talking with your son about the incident. Investigate what led up to the fight and talk about how he can handle the situation better next time. Teach him problem-solving skills and impulse control so he’ll have the tools he needs to deal with conflict.

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