I have an 11-year-old son. He has always been a quiet boy but is a responsible brother to his siblings. I send him for tuition and it has worksheets that he needs to do everyday. Two weeks ago my husband, myself and my 5-yr-old daughter were admitted to the hospital due to high fever. We were there for 6-7 days. When we came back, it was New Year holidays and there was no tuition classes but my son still had worksheets to do. His classes are on Mondays and Thursdays. So, on Monday he told my husband he forgot to pack the worksheets to be sent for corrections (they had to send the worksheets before 3 pm on the day of their classes). I went to his room looking for the worksheets but couldn’t find them, so when I picked him up from school that afternoon I asked him about it.
To my shock, he didn’t do any of the worksheets for the last two weeks since we were admitted to the hospital. What bothered me was when I asked him about his worksheets, he would say that he has done it. So he lied to us. When we went back home he took out all the worksheets and he didn’t do any of them!
I was so angry with him that I used the cane to spank his butt and legs. Mainly because he lied to us. And when I asked him, he said he did’t have time to do it which was a lame excuse because it was the the New Year holidays and no school. And also, I expected him to be responsible enough to handle his own work. He has been going to tuition for almost a year already and the worksheets are a repeat level, so no excuse that he doesn’t understand the problems.
I had him finish up the worksheets there and then without giving him lunch and I asked him to explain to the teacher why he didn’t send in his worksheets earlier.
I didn’t expect him to be like this. What do you think I should do? My husband had a chat with him about trust. But now, it’s hard for us (me especially) to trust him.
1) It’s true that in this case, trust is broken. From now on, you need to focus on creating new opportunities to encourage your son to regain your trust. He has already been punished for his misdeed. Don’t linger about it. MOVE ON. Don’t make him feel rejected, e.g. by not talking to him. It’s extremely difficult for kids to deal with rejection especially from parents. Besides, adolescence is a critical period when kids form habits and search for their identity. Above all, teens need parental acceptance. If they don’t feel welcome at home for who they are, they may seek acceptance outside of home.
2) A note on spanking – It is possible to raise good kids without spanking at all. But there may be a time when a parent feels that it’s the only way to discipline a child. Be sure it doesn’t become a routine. Spanking, if at all used, should be done with a high degree of restraint and absolute discretion. Remember also, that harsh parenting may encourage your child to lie again in future, simply because he’s too frightened to tell the truth, and he may lie out of fear of punishment. Also, when you spanked your son, did you make it clear what it was for? Did you actually say it’s because he lied and did not do his worksheets when he said he did? This is important because if you didn’t explain, kids make their own assumptions. Don’t assume that he understood what the punishment was for.
3) Kids misbehave for one and only one reason – when they have unmet needs. I’m not talking about food, shelter etc. One of their basic needs is attention, even for an 11-year-old. Studies have shown that kids would rather have negative attention than no attention at all. Even if it means getting spanked. Make sure your son gets the right kind of positive attention he deserves from both you and your husband BEFORE you consider to punish him for future misdeeds.
4) You said that your son is a responsible brother to his siblings. Have you ever said so to him? Kids build their self-image based on what they hear their parents say about them (either to them or to someone else within earshot). If he sees himself as a responsible person, it’s against his conscience to lie again in future.
5) Our brain can only think of one thing at a time. That’s why the more you catch kids doing something right, the less wrong they do. They are more motivated to do the right things. If you have several things you want your son to improve, focus on one thing at a time. Say what he is doing right more (a few times a day) e.g. “Thank you for looking after yourself when I was away” or “It’s good that you have prepared yourself for the trip tomorrow”. Be specific.
6) We normally have high expectations for the eldest child because we want to set the trend for the rest. This is good as high expectations are proven to produce results. However, be sure that you balance this with “soft love”. By this I mean, look for opportunities to convey to him that you love him no matter what (unconditional), regardless of school performance etc. You love him simply because he is your son. Also, make him feel valued for other things as well, not just as a responsible “big brother”. Otherwise, he may see himself as a failure each time his younger siblings get into trouble in future. Even when he’s a perfectly fine man himself!
7) Eleven is still a very young age. At the same time, he is now a tween. When a boy is about six or seven, the father becomes a main fixture in his life. It’s not that the mother becomes less important, but it’s just that he starts learning on how to be male. It’s best that his dad is aware of this and plays a prominent role in his life. One of the best ways to do this is to have private father-son time. Make it fun and personal, like playing a game together or bringing him out for a meal. Without you or his siblings.
8) It’s good if you have the opportunity to speak to his teachers and find out how he’s doing at school, just to be sure there are no underlying problems. No need to mention about him lying or being spanked at home to his teachers, though. Your son will respect you for it.