Friday, February 6, 2015

The Irony of Punishment

Last night I was thinking about Jacob's whole suspension thing, and I thought back to high school.  Back then I realized that any sort of suspension (out-of-school or in-school) seemed so stupid.  You're taking (in most cases) kids that most need to be in school and you're either sending them home or sending them to a room where they don't have to go to class and have a cool teacher (and from what I remember hearing, other little perks).  It seemed so counterproductive.  If they're misbehaving so badly in school, chances are they don't want to be there.  So they do what they're not supposed to and you give them what they want?!  Even as a teenager that setup seemed so dumb to me.

Last year Jacob had an afterschool suspension, too, and I thought that, too, was dumb, because...hello?  His goal in life is to be picked up at dismissal time.  He begs to be a car rider.  Heck, he's already been asking if he can be a car rider the day before his birthday--in JUNE.  He usually says he doesn't like the afterschool program, but I know he has fun sometimes and likes most of the teachers, too.  I do think he has issues with the kids sometimes, which I think is partly because he's such a different-thinking kid and he doesn't always fit in.  But like I said yesterday, he's not a dangerous kid.  He can lose his temper and act out physically a bit (hence his attempted air punch), but I don't really feel like anything he would do is more than kids just do.  Not that it's right--I get that--but I know Jacob's been on the receiving end of some roughhousing, too, and I can't help but wonder if there was punishment then.  It seems like he gets caught retaliating a lot, based on what he tells us. Anyway...the point of all of this is that the suspension helps him avoid the afterschool program, which isn't necessarily a punishment for him.  Again, it's a little counterproductive.

Last night I'll admit I wasn't really in a warm fuzzy mood.  Both kids were making me crazy and the last thing I wanted to do was spend quality time with them.  It felt like giving them that time immediately after their difficult behavior would be validation or a reward.  That's not really the precedent I wanted to set, since the last correlation I want is that "bad behavior = fun time with mom".  But the more I thought about it, the guiltier I felt.  I should never withhold the best of me from my kids, and quite frankly, quality time with me is probably one way to fix some of the behavior issues.  I mean, in theory, the more loved and secure they feel, the less they should feel the need to act out to get attention.  But still, in my anger and exhaustion it didn't happen.

Anyway, it just struck me funny that the suspension and my reaction had sort of a strange parallel.  Both of the "punishments" were well-intentioned but not the most constructive given the circumstances.  Even though the punishment tactics differed (the school one would probably be considered desirable in Jacob's eyes, while my exclusion probably wouldn't be), neither instance really set the stage for any sort of improvement.  How easy it was for me to criticize their technique, when I was doing my own version at home.

But just as Jacob said last night, today was a new day.  We had a pretty easy morning getting Jacob off to the bus, Carter and I built with Duplos, and he had an early lunch and nap so he'd get enough sleep in before we had to pick Jacob up from school.  We had a relatively low-stress trip to Wegmans, a dinner I knew they'd both eat, and a pleasant evening where the boys nearly played Duplos together (believe me, "nearly" is noteworthy in this house).  Carter played nice, I finally found a couple missing toys in the last place I could think to look, and I snuggled with Jacob on the couch while we watched all of the Valentine-themed Charlie Brown specials on DVD.  Both boys went down pretty easily and my solo time involved listening to Craig broadcast the Knighthawks game, watching My 600-lb. Life on the DVR (it has become my TV obsession during this time off), and paging through one of the magazines in the foot-high stack I've collected over the years that I need to eliminate while I have the time.  It was a much better day and I'm relieved.  Once in a while you just need an easy one.

On to tomorrow...

No comments: