Q: My 10 year old son is out of control at school, exhibiting behaviors that he would never try with me at home. His latest is verbal disrespect towards his teachers by cursing at them and calling them horrible names. I removed his privileges at home, but the behavior continues. What do you suggest that I do to eliminate his verbal assaults?
A: This is a common problem. He's basically taking advantage of their limited ability to hold him accountable for his behavior. Schools don't have a huge repertoire of consequences that they can levy. So, you need to empower them by sharing some of your power with them.
I suggest that you try the following:
Tell your son that you are now going to give him 15 minutes of what I call "mute status" or "no talk" for each negative statement or insult that he expresses at school. During his mute time, his only form of communication needs to be in the form of written expression. But, you all are by no means required to read his little requests or statements; but rather, this is at your discretion depending upon your mood and time for such accommodations. If you're busy, then send him and his little note pad away until you're ready to read his communication. Explain to your son that he has abused the GIFT of speech; therefore, he needs to spend some time in silence.
Tell the teachers to also quote him exactly and email or text you his comments so that you may decide how many times he must copy each statement, based upon the severity of the statement. Obviously, he needs some help remembering what not to say to adults. Some negative statements may only require 25 copies while others may require as many as 100. You can even further empower the teachers by telling him that you will allow them to decide how many copies he must make. And of course, he loses all privileges to electronics (TV, video games, etc) as well as family outings (skating, bowling, movie theaters, etc.) until his copies are complete.
Hopefully, these interventions will help him to better appreciate the gift of verbal expression and will result in him being more responsible with that gift in the future. This is a life lesson. Explain to him that, although our constitution allows for freedom of speech, we also have laws governing that speech. Teach him about libel and slander, as well as about criminal threats. Inform him that Psychological Abuse is now included as an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which means that it will definitely be tossed around in the nation's courtrooms. Address cyber bullying while you're at it so that you may prevent that negative communication as well. Kids are absolutely cruel and ridiculous with the things that they say to each other on the Internet, for the whole world to see. It is due to negative behavior on social networks that Homeland Security now requires the social network sites to retain records of users’ activity on said sites.
Explain that we are not allowed to use our words to harm or intimidate others; so, learning this lesson now will prevent him, and his victims, a lot of heartache in the future.
Thank you for your question and do take care.