My (Son’s) First Detention

My son got his first detention but it felt like it was mine. Nevertheless I wasn’t impressed.

Since he started secondary school this year, there have been lots of little changes to his life. Aside from the obvious there’s been a new morning routine to school, more expectations of him academically and therefore more homework. I have lengthened the leash on managing his homework, preferring to simply make sure he has some protected time to get it done. I’d check with him that he was on top of it but ultimately gave him the trust to prioritise and complete the homework.

My intention behind this approach has been not to install my way of time managing, but to give him the freedom to organically find what feels good for him. And I don’t believe I was wrong.

He has the chance now to improve his approach. To refine it, learn from it, adapt and test it.

Putting this in context, this is the only detention he’s had and he’s never late with homework.Therefore I take some comfort in that he has found the end range of his approach to homework. For the last 8 weeks he’s only learnt what has worked. His system hasn’t been tested or challenged. He has the chance now to improve his approach. To refine it, learn from it, adapt and test it.

It’s my belief that if I were to step in and take control, tell him how it should be done and discard his method, it would leave him feeling that he’d failed. When in fact he’s doing exactly what we send our children to school to do which is learn.

You win or you fail. But in truth it’s worse that that. You don’t just fail. You stop.

What place would I be coming from? What would be informing my responses? Fear. I’d be worried he’ll get another detention or forget another homework. I would be clamping down on him based on an event in the future that hasn’t even happened yet.

What would I teach my son if I did that? You win or you fail. But in truth it’s worse that that. You don’t just fail. You stop. Allowing someone or something else to take over. What effect does that have on his self-esteem, his confidence?

All I can do is ask him what he thinks he needs to do differently, and give him the chance to see what works for him. It’s my hope that this will continue to develop his confidence and grow his self esteem even further.

So often we leap in not to protect our children but ourselves. It ain’t easy, but if we can muster up the self awareness to notice when it is us we’re trying to save, we will be in a position to nurture resilience that will serve our children well into the future.


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About the Author

Ben Jackson is the founder of The Parent and Pupil Coach delivering behavioural change programmes for 10–16 year olds. He coaches for leadership and transition for career parents and is regularly contributing to webinars and articles. You can connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

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