Dealing With Your Suspended Child at Home

Angry teen

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No one ever wants to hear that their child received disciplinary action at school. But one of the most cringe-worthy calls is when the school administrators tell you that your child is being suspended for fighting.

If you receive a call like that, don't panic. Instead, take swift action to ensure your child's suspension becomes a valuable life lesson that discourages them from ever getting suspended again.

Get the Whole Story

Hearing your child got into a fight or that they were suspended from school may leave you too overwhelmed to listen. But it's important to take a deep breath and try to really understand what happened.

If you can, meet with the school administrators in person with your child present. Together, you can sort out the play-by-play activities that led to the suspension.

Most schools have a zero-tolerance policy for any act of aggression, so you might learn your child was just goofing around with a friend when he shouldn't have been. While that behavior still deserves a consequence, the consequence for goofing around will be less severe than the consequence for purposely punching another child in the face.

Once you know the story, you'll be able to determine what type of discipline will be most appropriate, as well as any skill deficits your child may have.

Don’t Make It a Vacation

Keep in mind that a suspension outside of school is often the school’s last resort. For a serious ​offense like fighting, 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's up to the parents to find appropriate discipline.

But a few days off from school may seem like a vacation to your child. Sitting at home watching TV or sleeping half the day isn't likely to deter them from getting into another fight in the future, so it's important to make sure your child doesn't enjoy the "time off."

Here are some ways to make sure your child's suspension doesn't turn into a vacation:

  • Take away privileges like electronics and seeing friends during the suspension. 
  • Consider assigning unpleasant chores, such as yard work, cleaning, or other odd jobs. Remember, the goal is to make his day much less pleasant than the average school day so they won’t want to be suspended again in the future.
  • If you're not able to be home, make sure you find someone to keep an eye on your child, even if you have an older teenager. Ask a neighbor, grandparent, or friend to keep an eye on your teen and enforce your rules for the suspension. Make sure you don't let a sympathetic grandparent or conspiring friend let them watch TV all day.
  • If you have to leave an older teen home alone, take electronics or power cords with you to prevent them from watching TV or playing on the computer. Give them a detailed list of chores and make your expectations clear. For instance, "You can earn your phone and your laptop back on Friday if the yard is raked and the garage is clean when I got home tonight."
  • If the school is willing to give your child assignments from school, make sure they get them 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 work ahead of time, set aside time for them to read a book or do a learning activity. You can even give them some assignments of your own to complete.

Teach Your Child New Skills

In addition to giving your child clear consequences for their behavior, it's also important to teach them how to do better next time. Consider what skills they may need to sharpen.

For example, did they get into a fight because they lost their temper? If so, your child may need help developing​ their anger management skills.

Or, did they get into a fight because they couldn't resolve a conflict with another peer? If that's the case, they may need help learning problem-solving skills.

Make it clear to your child that there are many ways to address problems, but violence is never the answer.

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