Don’t Pass Disciplinary Buck to Teacher

My son’s religion teacher does not have control of her class. My son, age 10, along with several other boys, acts up for her. She has asked me to discipline him. I think it’s her responsibility to maintain order, not mine. Who’s right?

If your son’s teacher maintained better class discipline, your son most likely would behave better. And you most likely would not be called in. Everybody would win.

However, it seems her class structure is lacking, so you are being asked to provide discipline backup. You believe you shouldn’t have to, and wouldn’t have to, if only she were better at her job. Further, you’re not at the scene of the trouble; she is. So she’s better positioned to correct it. All of which you can legitimately argue — until you run headlong into an overriding truth: It is her class, but he is your son.

A friend told me of a situation similar to yours, except that the teacher made a more pointed demand. My friend’s son would not be permitted back into class unless mom came, too, and sat with him. My friend felt this was grossly unreasonable and asked my opinion. I answered with a question.

“Susan, do you want your son to behave for and respect only those people who can control him?”

She answered, “Of course not.”

“Then you will have to teach him to respect all people, including those who aren’t strong enough to teach him themselves.”

Throughout a child’s life, he will encounter all types of discipline styles. Some will be powerful. Some will be pitiful. Grandparents, teachers, babysitters, neighbors, coaches, tutors — all will interact with Junior for better or for worse, discipline-wise.

Those who seldom have trouble with a child make a parent’s discipline role that much easier. Those who can’t or won’t discipline well force the parent to carry their load. There is no way around this reality for the parent who wishes to raise a child who treats all people well — the tough and the soft.

Behaving even for weak disciplinarians is one sign of a well-developing character (or perhaps a mild or cooperative temperament.) Almost all humans — good character or not — will behave for those with the unassailable power to control them: police officers, drill sergeants, judges.

Most will cooperate with competent disciplinarians — a savvy teacher, demanding coach, confident sitter. Only those on their way to exemplary character will act well toward the pushovers. They have learned from their parents’ discipline over the years to treat others well, no matter how strong or weak those others are.

So my opinion is that you need to inform your son in no uncertain terms that you will act immediately and decisively if you get even a whiff that he was disruptive for his religion teacher. You don’t care if every other kid in the class is obnoxious. You will ensure that he will be cooperative for her no matter how weakly she metes out discipline.

Dr. Ray Guarendi is a father of 10,

a psychologist and an author. He’s on

the Internet at