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Teacher Asks If He Was Wrong To Let A Parent Give A Humiliating Punishment To A Disruptive Student

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Everyone raises their kids differently, and one of the most glaring differences between parenting styles is their approach to punishment.

Teachers fall into this framework, too, as they must decide exactly how strict to be in the classroom and how they will collaborate with a parent to raise and teach their child.

In one teacher’s case, when one of his students did something silly in the classroom, he allowed the child’s parent to give him a humiliating punishment in front of his classmates.

After giving it some thought, however, the OP (Original Poster) “Admirable_Horse8784” shared the situation on the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit, wondering if he was wrong for not stepping in.

The OP asked the thread:

“AITA (Am I the A**hole) for allowing a dad to humiliate his son in my class?”

The OP has had a student recently who was particularly disruptive. 

“I teach fifth-grade which is usually a hit or miss in terms of behavior.”

“I have one student, Calvin, who is quite disruptive. He’s the class clown except it’s not cute. The other day, he climbed on top of the tables in the library and started dancing when he thought I was not looking.”

“I’ve tried different ways to work around it, including but I feel like I can no longer be Mr. Nice Guy.”

The OP assumed the parents wouldn’t be of any help. But come to find out, the father was ready to handle the situation. 

“I assumed that his parents spoil him so I was hesitant to talk to them because that seemed like a lost cause. The kid had his own driver.”

“Boy, was I wrong.”

“I did speak to his dad who was furious. He brought him to me and apologized. He said he if he ever got a bad report like he did with the library, then he would sit with him in class like he was a baby.”

“That threat seemed to get Calvin’s attention, but seemed…empty. I mean, the dude doesn’t even have time to drop his kid off at school.”

“Things were fine for awhile, then he started up with purposely giving stupid answers when I called on him.”

“I pulled him to the side and asked him if he wanted his dad to babysit him in school and he said no because his dad wouldn’t do it because it would embarrass him.”

After approaching the student, the OP decided to get the father involved. 

“So I emailed his dad and he asked if he could sit with with him in class. Calvin didn’t know it was going to happen and kept telling his dad to go.”

“His dad stayed with him all day and Calvin hated it. He micromanaged, bossed and snapped at him all day. I think the worst part was having his friends laugh at him.”

“Calvin did cry a few times. His dad was like the boss from Hell.”

“Ever since then, his behavior has improved.”

“And I know people will ask why I wasn’t more ‘hands-on’ with discipline…this is a 25-35K a year private school. A lot of the parents are famous entertainers and there is a long wait-list to get in. Things are very different than a public school.”

The OP later added a few more details after the comments started to come in. 

“For people saying I don’t understand Calvin or he needs a male role model or whatever. I get boys like him because I was a 10yo boy myself. It is not difficult at all for me to relate to the boys in my class because I remember what my interests/problems were at that age.”

“I take an interest in them and they take an interest in me (especially my tattoos when I wear a polo). There are things that I know about these kids that their parents don’t.”

“However, I am not their psychologist and Calvin doesn’t need a psychologist. He’s 10 and hitting puberty and his brain is going haywire.”

“And you d**n right, I was thrilled that dad stepped in. I came out looking like the good guy and did less work.”

Fellow Redditors wrote in on the classroom situation, using the following scale:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some Redditors gave the OP and the father both a “YTA” status for how they approached the situation.

“YTA and the father is too. I don’t think that humiliation is an effective teaching tool. It is concerning that this is the first strategy the father suggested. I can’t help but wonder what discipline is like in the home.”

“There are many other ways that you could have worked with the parents to help this child understand why his behaviour was inappropriate. Two full grown adults making a 10 year cry should not have been one of them”momofboyss24

“Thank you for saying this, I thought I was losing my mind reading the other comments about how this was acceptable.”

“A child was humiliated in front of his teacher and classmates by his parent. How is that okay? OP and the father have completely failed that kid.”

“OP, YTA.”JabbaInBlueJeans

“This has happened with someone in a class I was in (very similar class clown behavior) and his dad sat in for a few days! Dad was totally silent unless something majorly disruptive was happening. No humiliation, just monitoring.”ListeningToday

“At that age though, having a parent in class with you is humiliating in and of itself.”

“OP and the father stepped into straight up bullying in this case, though.”waste_away_

“He’s probably acting like that because he is absolutely desparate for any type of attention since he receives none at home. And if he does, it’s probably negative since his dad did this.”

“Like to me the dad seems like an absolute psycho. He didn’t do this for one class, he did it ALL DAY. Making his child cry multiple times, in public, in front of all his friends.”

“That’s really, really f**ked up. Wouldn’t be surprised if OP just caused some real trauma to a ten year old.”Hudre

Others agreed and thought the OP should have tried other disciplinary actions first, or at least talked to the father about his behavior in the classroom. 

“How is it that rich dad and rich school couldn’t come up with a better plan considering the resources that they have at their disposal? All OP did was tell that kid and the other kids and their parents that they can’t handle challenging behaviour. OP did not teach the kid any new behaviours. YTA”Purple-Paper

“I would be listed if I was the parent of the other kids in the room. How much learning was done that day? Has the dad had clearances (in my state all adults in classrooms need fingerprinting and clearances completed) to keep the other students safe?”

“On the topic of other students, this is a huge violation of their privacy. These students (and their parents) didn’t consent to another parent being in the room.”

“Lastly this is s**tty and lazy classroom management. Signed a teacher who works to find out why a student is acting out instead of humiliating them.”sraydenk

“Firstly, this is not just about this singular kid. Imagine trying to learn while a parent is accompanying an able-bodied child to class and constantly belittling them. What if this becomes a regular thing? What kind of precedent does this set? That parents can just willy-nilly waltz into your classroom and interfere in your teaching?”

“This is teaching 101 – Don’t let a single parent dictate how to handle a class.”

“Also, this was the WORST possible way to adress his behavior. The child learned to distrust adults and that whenever he fucks up, he can expect to be shamed publicly. Great way to teach a kid to never tell you anything.”Henchperson

“I’m torn because I’m a teacher and definitely appreciate parents being active in their kids’ educations and disciplining them, but I think it would have been more than enough for him just to be there, rather than also being a jerk all day.”jarrorz61

Most Redditors were super worried about how this punishment would impact Calvin in the future. 

“It sounds like Calvin’s father generally doesn’t have time for him, but when things get out of hand, resorts to swooping in and making grand gestures of discipline.”

“Which, honestly, is the worst way to do it.”kplatinum777

“Humiliation is never a good strategy – you’re making the kid feel terrible without actually explaining why what he did was wrong.”

“I also don’t like OPs resentful tone when talking about a freaking 10 yr old – complaining he’s spoiled, not funny and giving stupid answers – I get you’re frustrated but be careful not to cross the line between punishing bad behaviour and punishing because you don’t like the kid.”

“I don’t want to play armchair psychologist here, but has anyone considered Calvin’s probably just doing this for attention from his parents? He’s a ‘class clown’ who is ‘disruptive’ but I can’t see anything about him acting maliciously, rather it seems more as if he just wants everyone to be paying attention to him.”

“Usually his parents are too busy to do much as drop him at school, it wouldn’t be a wild leap to assume they’re just as busy outside of school hours, especially if they’re famous entertainers like OP mentioned.”

“Kids are smart – he knows that when he acts up his Dad suddenly pays extra attention to him and even ‘threatens’ to spend an entire day with him in school. He may have just been running with the idea that any attention is good attention, up until he was publicly shamed and cried multiple times in front of his friends.”

“Congrats OP and Calvin’s Dad – if I’m right you just taught a child to a) not trust adults and b) lost a chance to teach him how to voice his feelings rather than acting out because of them.”bluebird302

“I’ll play armchair psychologist! I’m a mental health counselor and there are many reasons why a CHILD may be acting out. No matter your personal feelings toward this child, you have taken away an opportunity to learn how to ask for help when there’s obviously a need.”

“When I’m frustrated with a client (or in this case, a student) I try to take my frustration/anger to a sad place. Try to see things from his point of view. What might be going on at home, in school, in the community that makes him adamant about receiving any sort of attention?”

“There are many red flags in this situation, and frankly if it’s not being handled appropriately at home, most red flags are caught at a child’s school. It sounds like you experienced the frustration first hand but failed to follow through on giving him the positive attention he needs.”

“It’s a shame because this child has now learned that yet another adult doesn’t ‘see’ or understand his needs. Now he may have done a 180 not because he’s ‘behaving’ but because he may feel defeated or scared.”

“YTA”viennathedruid

When we see a child misbehaving, or even question what may be going on in the home, it’s hard to decide how far we can go with our investigations.

Still, if we’re able to uncover anything, it inevitably will make the situation better for all involved: the student, the teacher, parents, and other students in the class.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.