Discipline and Punishment in the Second Grade


I thought I knew what discipline meant. The Latin root is disciplina which encompasses education, training and order. Tufts says that disciplina is instruction, tuition, teaching, training, and education and I’d always known discipline to be a benign word, positive even as it relates to children and education. Unfortunately I was wrong. You see, when I look it up at Webster’s the first definition is that discipline and punishment are synonymous and that “instruction” as a synonym to discipline is now obsolete.

definition of discipline

Academia needs to either reclaim the obsolete use of the word discipline or jettison it altogether in the lower grades. I cannot see a scenario where second grade teachers would need to punish children for academic infractions in order to have them learn.

Second grade is a tricky year and it’s an important year (as they all can be) to have a skilled teacher. Developmentally 7 year olds are wiggly creatures who are only just beginning to really organize their thoughts. They are boastful and self centered and if you criticize them they have a tendency to shut down. Seven year old children need to be gifted with opportunities to succeed in the classroom so that they may continue to love school and learning.

On my Facebook timeline I see two mothers with second grade children who are constantly missing recess due to missing homework or being made to run laps. I can’t even address the inappropriateness of homework before the third grade. Entire books have been written on the subject and we would be wise to pay attention to academics like Afie Kohn who remind us that there is no evidence that homework has any academic benefit in elementary or middle school.

Let’s ignore all of the research, sigh deeply and recognize the fact that we are in America and American education equates more work with more learning regardless of research to the contrary. This means homework will be piled on as early as Pre-K. My son had Pre-K homework and absolutely loved it. My son is the child that American schools were designed for, he is a lucky boy. Most children don’t enjoy homework. Homework robs children of valuable daylight hours where they can play and learn from experience rather than from books. Again, that’s a soapbox for another day.

Here we are in a situation where a seven year old child has homework. In addition to bringing home and then completing said homework the child is then supposed to get it into their backpack, bring it to school and deliver it to the teacher. My 15 year old sometimes has difficulty with that. When a seven year old child forgets to bring home, do their homework, put their homework in their folder, put their folder in their backpack or take the homework out of the folder and give it to their teacher what’s a teacher to do? Some teachers withhold recess. Other teachers make the children run laps.

If you are a principal, head of school, headmaster or on a board of directors I’d like to ask you to fire all your teachers who take away recess from children or punish children with running. I’m not saying this to be inflammatory or provocative, I am saying this because I love children, I love education and I love getting good teachers in classrooms.

If you are a parent who has a child who is being punished with exercise, punishment can include being forced to exercise or the witholding of exercise, there is an important document you should print out and present to your head of school or board of education. The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) released a position statement in 2009 that should be required reading for all. It includes statements such as:

Administering or withholding physical activity as a form of punishment and/or behavior
management is an inappropriate practice.


Examples of the inappropriate use of physical activity include:
• Withholding physical education class or recess time for students to complete unfinished
school work or as a consequence for misbehavior.
• Forcing students to run laps or perform push-ups because of behavioral infractions (e.g.,
showing up late, talking, and disruptive behavior).
• Threatening students with physical activity or no physical activity (e.g., no recess, no
game time), and then removing the threat because of good behavior.
• Making students run for losing


Exercise used as punishment is considered a form of corporal punishment in many states (e.g.,
California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii). Corporal punishment in schools is illegal in 29 states
(Dupper & Dingus, 2008) and is defined as “physical pain inflicted on the body of a child as a
penalty for disapproved behavior” (National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in School,
2006). Furthermore, many national professional organizations, including the American
Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association for State Boards of Education, the National
Education Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Dupper & Dingus,
2008) have advocated for bans on corporal punishment. State boards of education in Hawaii
and California prohibit withholding physical activity or using it as punishment.


Some of this is easier if you live in Hawaii or California because our states mandate that our children are given time to move their bodies. Here is a database maintained by the National Association of State Boards of Education which may help you find information about your home state. Even without regulation we have to ask ourselves if we can look at a child that’s this age:

seven year old boy

ask them to complete complicated, multi-step tasks and then when they fail to meet expectations punish them either with exercise or with confinement. You don’t need an advanced degree to know that’s wrong.

 Photo credit MamaSick.com

UPDATE: I need to add that the only reason I feel free to post about this particular issue is because it isn’t an issue at my child’s school. And yes, I love that place, and no, you cannot know where it is. Yes, after Alexander leaves in two years I’ll update this again so y’all can send your kids somewhere in LA where kids are educated and respected.

Tough Love With More Love Than I’ve Ever Given


6th grade is hard. There are lockers and multiple classrooms and teachers who expect you to take care of yourself.

Alexander didn’t turn in three pieces of homework this week and he’d completed all of them. He’d simply lost them somewhere in the locker or in transition. When I dug into his binders with him I noticed graded homework assignments that were less than stellar not because he didn’t understand but because he didn’t take his time and do good work.

My kids are smart, they were just sort of born that way. There are a lot of smart kids and a lot of smart adults.

What I’ve learned in my lifetime of gifted kids and self esteem pandering is that folks who learn to work hard have the most success. B students who work hard learn more in school than A students who sail through could ever hope to. They learn discipline, they learn study skills, organizational skills and they learn to persevere. My son hadn’t been challenged yet in school. Well, not until Tuesday night.

Tuesday night I saw the mess that was his binder and decided to double check his english homework.


There were tears (I held mine in) and recriminations. He reminded me that he was only in 6th grade and I was getting confused with Jane’s 8th grade work. I told him I didn’t give a shit (quite possibly using exactly that word) and ninety minutes later he’d rewritten his 8 question homework assignment in a satisfactory manner.

To be clear I don’t really care about Tuesday night’s homework. I don’t care if he gets an A, B or even a C. What I do care about is my son learning to work hard and I told him so. At 9:30 in the evening he headed upstairs tired physically and emotionally and I stood in the living room watching him with a heavy heart.

I told him that I push him because he’s worth pushing and that when I ask him to work harder it’s because I want to ensure a successful life for him, one where he can be in control because he has a sturdy foundation. I told him I loved him and that all I want is to be a good mother.

And the most surprising thing happened.

My son looked down at me from the stairwell and said, “I know Mom. Thank you.”

Girl Power


I’ve spent the last two days connecting with amazing women. Every bone in my body aches, I’m tired of smiling and even more tired of talking. I just want to listen. I’m off to a party hosted by DECA, I’m pretty sure everyone there will just want to talk about themselves. Today that is a good thing, I don’t have any words left so it’s best that I’m surrounded by people who need to talk.

The kids are done with the work part of school, there is no more homework and Jane takes her last test tomorrow. Relief is an understatement. There are two a half weeks left to the soccer season and then we’re free and clear.

Junior can’t eat dry food yet, but he is bringing me squeeze toys and he doesn’t whimper anymore. He is healing nicely but still looks like a pirate. Perhaps I should get him a proper poodle haircut next time?

Mr G continues to delight me. This weekend we were talking about kids and porn. I said to him, “You’re going to have to talk to your son about this soon.”

Smirking, he asked me, “What conversation do you expect me to have?”

And I began with, “This isn’t what women really look like, and it’s not what they would do. This isn’t how we treat women, porn objectifies everyone…”

And I could almost hear myself talking over his gales of laughter.


Motherhood and Sinking Feelings


Jane has too much on her plate. This morning she had no skirts, they’re all in her locker at school. She’s forgotten to bring them home. I know that she has four. I’ve bought four for her within the last month.

Math was full of tears, and science brought on sobbing.

I can’t help her with this. She just has to work harder, and probably get rid of the weekday sports. I also have to shut off all telephones and computers and make the evenings 100% about the kids and homework so that there are no distractions. iChat is gone, cell phones are gone, and playdates are a thing of the past.

The problem is that Jane sees this as a punishment where I just see it as a logical consequence.

That’s not true, the real problem is that I hate the thought of Jane losing her freedom, and I hate the thought of being tyrannical, but I don’t see any other option.

Just One Of the 738 Reasons I Love My Kids’ School


It’s back to school night tonight and K-3 doesn’t have homework. Alexander is thrilled, and I don’t blame him.

Jane was telling me she loves her fifth Grade teacher because she, “deals in reality”. Reality means that you can check your math with a calculator (they exist in the real world), many tests will be open book (resources exist in the real world), and the fifth grade has homework tonight, because the reality of it is that kids don’t attend back to school night.

Yeah baby. We’ve got a teacher who gives kids work and has them understanding why they’ve got to do it. Jane’s happy, I’m happy, still Alexander is happiest.

Quiet time is almost over, I’ve got kids to play with.