I Need A Sticker.

Nathan was already waiting outside when I got there, the school nurse by his side. He has never looked sadder in his life. As soon as he saw me, he began sobbing all over again, heaving and struggling to breathe.  I knelt down and he hugged me hard, his head on my shoulder. I looked to the nurse for explanation.

“He’s OK,” she said, “but he had an altercation with another student.  She is OK, too.”

No adult saw the preceding events, but my son and a girl in his class were both caught with their hands around each other’s necks.  They were sent to the nurse, then to the principal.  Punishment would be one day of detention, which meant staying inside doing worksheets during recess.

On the walk home, Nathan pleaded with me to believe that he didn’t touch the girl.  I offered to go back and correct his teacher, suggesting perhaps she had lied to the nurse and principal.  He begged me not to do that.

When we got home, I sat Nathan down.  I tried to explain that lying would only make things harder.  He should tell me the truth about what happened, even if he was embarrassed or angry or afraid.

It wasn’t until dinner time that he confessed.  The girl grabbed him in a playful way and he got mad and choked her back.  Knowing my child, I truly believe he didn’t start it, that he overreacted, and that he quite possibly escalated the issue.  And I also know he lied about it to anyone who asked, as much as it shames me to admit it.

Our district has a very strict anti-bullying policy, which is most certainly a good thing.  Any act of violence towards another student is taken very seriously.  I’m so grateful that the administration knows Nathan’s personality and only gave both students detention.

Still, visions of me researching military schools for troubled boys danced in my head that evening.

I spoke to the teacher and the principal.  I assured them that this is not the kind of behavior we condone in our house, neither the lying nor the aggression.  Both told me they are working with all of the kindergarten students on accepting responsibility for their actions and that all of them are getting a bit handsy.  They were kind and reassured me that children go through these phases and that he would be alright.  I wanted to believe them, but it was easier said than done.

When I arrived to pick Nathan up from school the following day, he came bouncing out, all smiles.  I asked how his day was and I received the standard reply, “Good.”

“How did detention go?”

“Good!” he said enthusiastically.

“Good?  Detention was good?” I thought the boy might be missing the point.

“Well, I did my worksheets really fast because they were easy, then I helped Nancy* with hers because she had trouble, then I got a sticker for being good,” he explained, all in one breath.

“You mean you got a sticker for being good in the classroom, not for being good in detention, right?”

Please tell me they don’t reward good behavior during a punishment.

They do.

It’s done now.  The sticker proved it.  Everyone is over it.

Everyone except me, though.

*not her real name.


linking up with yeah write again this week, where no one will hate me because my lying kid can’t keep his hands to himself (you all won’t hate me, right?)

41 Responses to “I Need A Sticker.”

  1. I really like the way it worked out – that he ended up helping & even got positively reinforced. (I’ve found even in things as simple as workouts, that I begin to see negative reinforcement as instruction to achieve my own goals better when there’s a good deal of positive reinforcement mixed in.) Let’s face it, we’re all a bunch of sticker-seekers! lol Way to deal with the problem head-on, Michelle. As a mom of 3 boys, oy!, I remember the days of detention!

  2. Oh I don’t know. I think rewarding with a sticker for behaving during detention is fine. In Kindergarten. Later, like Junior High, not so much. Although the reward can be a (totally non-creepy!) pat on the back or a thanks for being mature or whatever. It should not be so that they WANT to be back in detention – but it’s about learning positive behaviors for future days, not JUST punitive measures.

    That said, I think that clapping erasers or picking up trash or cleaning gum off of desks should be allowed. I think it’s considered corporal punishment, but I think it’s totally acceptable!

    • The reward thing goes a little deeper than this post. I feel like there are rewards for everything. It’s possible I just don’t remember what it’s like to be in kindergarten. In the grand scheme it probably is fine. I just wish the whole issue of punishments/rewards didn’t need to come up at all. The whole thing makes me feel icky.

    • Kristin says:

      Totally agree. There are far too many rewards in general. But if you think of it as positive reinforcement…then maybe it’s slightly less icky.

  3. Mamarific says:

    I like the way you told this story, and you know what? I fully believe your son will turn out just fine. Lying, and occasional aggressive behavior is completely normal for young children, even Kindergarteners. But I know I would be worrying the same as you, because that’s what we do as responsible mothers.

  4. Well, from one whose child has done his share of worksheets in the Time Out Room, he doesn’t seem phased by it. Thankfully he seems to be growing out of it. Kids will be kids. I’m sure with your son it was just a bad day. (Or even just a bad moment of a good day.)

    • It was pretty out of character for School Nathan to react that way. Home Nathan has a terrible temper. I hope it was just a bad moment/day. I didn’t think of it in that context.

  5. Oh good lord, parenting is so hard. I love how you dealt with Nathan– that scene once you got home. This line is perfection: Still, visions of me researching military schools for troubled boys danced in my head that evening..

    Oh hell yes.

  6. i think he knows he made a mistake, and that’s the point. being brought in to the principal, getting detention, talking with you… i agree detention shouldn’t be fun, but still, he’s young…

  7. Gah, that’s frustrating! Not being able to control how the school metes out punishment…so hard!

    • I don’t want to be a helicopter mom (though I probably totally am) nor do I want to undermine the school administration, but I think that being in detention should be enough to make a kid want to be good. I guess that’s not how kids are though.

  8. “then I helped Nancy* with hers because she had trouble”

    I think this line just proves that Nathan is going to be absolutely, positively fine.

  9. Jester Queen says:

    Wait though. If Nancy was the girl he was fighting with, then his helping her would be seriously sticker-worthy, because it would show something really cool about his personality. Other than that? Yeah. They give out rewards for doing a good job at being punished. Lovely.

    • Yes, I guess that wasn’t clear. Nancy was the girl he fought with and then they were friends again the next day.

      I feel like when I was a kid, if you were good in detention you got a “I better not see you here again” and that was your reward. Misbehave in detention and you’d get more detention. Let’s hope it’s just because it’s kindergarten.

  10. Kristin says:

    I love all of the pictures you paint of you and your son. The relationship you two share comes across as simply precious.

  11. Zoe Byrd says:

    Your reply to one of the comments makes me think of my boy. BOY? Hes 24 now. But he too had a school and home personality (as most of us do) …he was more tempermental and short fused at home. BUt believe me he did his share of detentions for ridiculous behaviors. He turned out great (as your will) and Im not even biased :)Its all part of testing the limits and learning what is socially appropriate.

    • 24? I can’t even fathom 24. 6 is hard enough! Thank you for your comment – I guess the way to know what you can’t do is to push a little too far. When you say it like that it seems like a more innocent mistake. Thank you.

  12. John says:

    Wow, rewards for punishment. As much as it hurts to say so, I think you may had a tough road with that school if that is how they discipline!

  13. Robbie K says:

    I like that he mended fences with Nancy but I think detention is a bit extreme for kindy kids.

  14. I hereby award you the Good Mama sticker!

  15. tuhina tomar says:

    I think he knows what he did wrong and what exceptionally great is that you yourself feel too responsible for this. You are taking in an extra attempt to prevent something like this from happening ever again.It’s amazing Nathan was happy after he came back from the detention even if it was a sticker that did it. You are a very good mom! :)

  16. Peach says:

    I want to be like you when I’m a mom. xox

  17. Joe says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reinforcing good behavior during detention, especially at such a young age. And relax, your son will be fine.

  18. Now I’m not over it, either! He got a sticker for good behavior during detention? I guess a sticker isn’t such a reward, but some kind words acknowledging his good behavior is enough. When I taught middle school, a Principal insisted that every child receive recognition at an Awards Ceremony at the end of the year. It was awful. The kids knew they didn’t deserve it, and it humiliated and embarrassed many of them.

    You, however, deserve a sticker for handling that situation so well.

  19. Larks says:

    I love that Nathan ended up cheerfully helping the girl he fought with with her worksheets. Kids are so resilient.

    I agree with Kristin about the sticker. In kindergarten acknowledging / rewarding positive behavior in most situations strikes me as fine. Their outlooks are so targeted, you know? He probably saw it as getting a pat on the back for being helpful.

  20. BacktoAllen says:

    Totally with you on rewarding behavior during detention. As my kids got older, one actually asked me if it would be ok if he started getting in trouble; turns out the kids who got sent to the ‘resource room’ got to play games and have a good time. Definitely a mixed message.

    I have no doubt Nathan will be good…so sweet that he helped the girl with her worksheets. He sounds like a sweetie!

  21. Oh my mom heart. When kids misbehave it feels like a reflection on you, and then, like you said, it starts the worrying about the future crud. Totally understand how you feel.

  22. Esther says:

    I don’t have children, but I can imagine the self-consciousness you must feel in a situation like this! Glad it worked out okay for your son at least :)

  23. Don’t hate you! Totally get this and have had small issues hat remind me of this, and how you might have felt. Oh, man. The things you have to go through as a parent watching your kid figure out life. I’m glad that he helped people, even though the rewarding stuff in detention is a little…uh…interesting as a choice.

  24. Stacie says:

    You and Nathan are both awesome! The fact that he later helped Nancy after wanting to choke her is admirable! I think the sticker’s ok too. I have lots of stickers. I’ll bring you one next time I see you 😉

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  26. No adult saw the preceding events, but my son and a girl in his class were both caught with their hands around each other’s necks. They were sent to the nurse, then to the principal. Punishment would be one day of detention, which meant staying inside doing worksheets during recess.
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