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Is Spanking Appropriate Punishment?

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My husband and I disagree on how to discipline our seventh-grader. His grades are very low this year, although it looks like he will pass. My husband has just told him that he will spank him if he doesn't bring up the grades by the end of the school year. I say he is too old for spankings and know there are more effective ways to help him. To me, spanking is out of the question for a boy going on 13. Any advice?

A: It's important to define the problem here and who owns it. The problem is that your son is not achieving what you and your husband believe he should. The first question is, why? Does he turn in his homework? Is he capable of the work? Have you talked with his teachers and/or his counselor? All of these take time and should definitely be on your agenda even at this late date, so that all of you can begin the next school year prepared so that the problem doesn't develop again.

As for this school year, it's too late to bring up his grades, but your son needs to know that he must put forth the effort with your support and encouragement. It is what he learns, not the grades, that are important. He should be complimented for even slight improvements.

As for other consequences, spanking is not a natural and logical one. Instead, you might insist that he attend summer-school classes (even if he passes) in areas in which his grades are low. Other consequences might be that in the fall he can't play sports for a semester until his grades come up. I'm sure you can think of many consequences (which can also be positive rewards) for succeeding or failing to bring up his grades. In the end, this is your son's problem. He has to solve it with your advice and mentoring.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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