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Kindergarten Discipline Woes

Lately, things have not been going well with my precocious six-year-old son. He went from hating his kindergarten class—to loving it and making new friends—to sowing his rambunctious oats and becoming a class clown. Can any of you relate? Where did my thoughtful little boy go?

So it became apparently clear last week during his class violin performance that he lacks respect for authority. First, he carelessly broke his violin bridge and had to borrow someone else’s violin. (He thought it would get him out of the performance, so I suspect he did it on purpose.) Then he chatted during the entire performance with his best friend. His teacher asked them four times to stop—but he happily carried on. He did this seeing both his parents in the audience who kept giving him “the stern look.” Apparently, that has little effect these days.

When it was his turn to perform, he did so very well—he has no stage fright and of course, picked the easiest piece to do. The next day he got in trouble for chatting during circle time. At a birthday party that afternoon, he kept wrestling and laughing loudly with all the other boys causing the magician to constantly stop and address the trouble makers in the back. Yesterday I learned that William and about five of his friends started a mock sword fight in group string class with their bows and wouldn’t stop when the teacher addressed them. It got so out of control that one child stepped on the bow of another child’s cello and broke it. (Bows cost around £25 pounds, or $50 each.) All the boys missed lunch and were sent to the principal’s office where they had to write down what they did wrong.

I agree with that strategy, as I made William write an apology note to his teacher for chatting during the class performance. But, it isn’t stopping his behavior. Yes, I know he is just six years old and boys will be boys, but when I was his age, I was terrified of getting in trouble. My son laughs it off and sails through his day with the confidence of a cocky teenager.

So, clearly, I am struggling with how to best discipline him. Today he will go to the music store and purchase a new bridge for his violin with his Christmas money. I have taken away TV and computer privileges for a week. I’ve talked with the moms of the other boys in trouble and his teacher and they all say that at this stage, boys especially, begin to act out. They say it’s normal and for me to be patient and not overreact. Some think boys act out due to boredom in the class.

I read one article in the Wall Street Journal that says kindergartners are acting out due to the pressure to read and write too early. (Our school doesn’t apply that pressure, so it doesn’t apply to us.) The experts in this article did state that social skills are as critical for kindergartners to master as reading. They need to learn to cooperate with others and be respectful and use their words instead of fighting. In my case, my son is just silly. He doesn’t fight or bully—he just plays and talks all the time. Even though he has two recesses daily and lots of unstructured play, he feels compelled to goof off during the few times he’s expected to sit still and listen. He also seems to think this whole affair is a bit funny. I just don’t know how we are related! If I was sent to the principal’s office, I’d have been terrified. I’m quite sure I’d have gotten a spanking and have been grounded for a week by my southern parents. It’s a BIG deal to disrespect adults in the South where I was raised.

Most other moms think I’m overreacting by punishing my son for a week. But really, isn’t that the least I can do? Some say that if the punishment isn’t directly related to the act, they won’t retain why they are being punished. That may be true at three, but at six?  If I follow that course of action, the only thing my son would have to do is buy another violin bridge with his Christmas money and then write yet another sorry note to a teacher. But I don’t think that will be enough. So, I’m going with my gut and grounding him for a week. Hopefully that will remind him about what he did wrong.

We’ve also discussed why his star chart is woefully small. He receives stars each day for good behavior and doing his chores. I’m going to try to reinforce this chart with the prospect of rewards for a month of stars. We’ll see if it works. Have any of you experienced this sort of thing with your boys? I’m certainly happy that my son apparently has a good sense of humor and plenty of friends, but not listening to teachers and disrupting class has got to stop. I’d love to hear your suggestions if you have gone through something similar!

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