A tough moment in parenting this week. Colin and Caleb were grounded for the first time.
We got a note home from Colin's teacher that there had been an incident on the morning bus ride. The boys were forthcoming in all the details, and the story amounted to this:
An older 10 year old boy was teasing Caleb and the other younger kids. Mean teasing. And Caleb, being the emotional volcano he is, eventually lost it. At first he just kicked and punched in the air in the boy's general direction, but the other boy responded in kind, and eventually they found themselves fighting in the aisle. Colin joined the group of kids around them yelling "fight! fight! fight!" Upon arrival to school, the teachers were notified and the boys threatened with a pink slip, although they eventually let it go.
After talking through the incident with both boys, James and I conferenced and decided on the consequence. A two-day grounding. When not at school, the boys had to be in their room. They had to cancel on a much anticipated play date with a friend at our home, and they missed both movie night and the next hockey playoff game.
It wasn't complete torture, since they had each other and whatever items were already in their room (a few lego cars and a shelf of books.) Thursday went quickly enough because they had their last ball hockey game, which was exempted from the punishment. Friday was really tough for them, since it was almost 5 hours in their room.
Friday afternoon I went in to chat with them. We talked about how they felt regarding the situation, how they felt leading up to and in the fight. We talked about sticking together as brothers, and how Colin can distract Caleb when he starts to boil over. I read them a passage from the book of Matthew in the New Testament that talked about "turning the other cheek" as opposed to "an eye for an eye," and about trying to love your enemies and those who hurt you. We talked about how these aren't random rules by mom and dad, but advice for living from God, who knows what it takes in life to have joy. Then they wrote some apology notes as they considered how their actions affected others.
The fighting is foreign to both James and I, who were compliant children and didn't battle high running emotions. I know that this will probably not be the last time we have to deal with this kind of thing. Caleb is only six, and it will take years before he learns how to control his temper. I know that many adults, who have never actively worked on it, still can't control their tempers. And with today's zero-tolerance policy in school (any fighting, no matter the reason or cause, whether in defence or not, results in immediate suspension) there is a good chance we will even have to deal with suspension in the future.
Let me tell you, it completely changes your view on things when you are on the battlefield. Before now I would have been horrified that any child of mine would be suspended. But now, as I realize the raw material of Caleb, I see that he has a wonderful quality in that he feels things so deeply. It is just that it will take time for him to learn to use it properly. And these consequences will serve to mould and shape his little soul toward a good end.
I received some more details yesterday about the fight. It turns out that the other boy wasn't teasing Caleb, but his own right year old sister. Caleb jumped in to defend this girl, who is in Colin's class. Because of how small the school is, the friendships and relationships span across grade liness. Caleb knew this sweet girl well and stood up for her. While the fist fighting on the bus is still inappropriate and needed discipline, I am proud of my son for defending this girl.