What to Do When Your Child Gets Suspended for Fighting

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 him from ever getting suspended again.

Find out the Whole Story

Hearing your child got into a fight or that he was 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. Then 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. And while that still deserves a consequence, the behavior will likely warrant a lesser offense than if he purposely punched 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, 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'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 him from getting into another fight in the future, so it's important to make sure your child doesn't enjoy her time off.

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

  • Take away privileges like electronics. and don't let your child visit with friends during a 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 he 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. Just make sure you don't let a sympathetic grandparent or conspiring friend let your teen watch TV all day.
  • If you have to leave an older teen home alone, take electronics or power cords with you to prevent her from watching TV or playing on the computer. Also, give her 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 her assignments from school, make sure she gets 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 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 Your Child New Skills

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

    For example, did she get into a fight because she lost her temper? If so, she may need help developing​ her anger management skills.

    Or, did he get into a fight because he couldn't resolve a conflict with another peer? If that's the case, he 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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