Last week I was called in the headmaster’s office, again.

I got to the school to pick up my son Ben, and instead of finding him sitting on the carpet with all the other children, I was asked to go into the office as Mrs Smith wanted to talk to me. Ben was sitting there, in a corner of the office, on a chair that made him looks small and helpless despite being a big and tall boy.

Mrs Smith started talking, “Ben hit a child twice today while sitting on the carpet and waiting for the pick-up time”. I went down on my knees and look at my son. He looked uncomfortable and embarrassed.

Mrs Smith carried on, “He bossed everyone around, as if he was in charge of grown-ups and children”. I sweetly asked him if that was true, and he burst into tears. He hugged me and said he was sorry. He didn’t want to let go of my neck. I could feel his tears running down my cheek.

Mrs Smith didn’t quite finish yet, “When we told him off and explained he didn’t behave kindly, he didn’t show any remorse so we had to take him in timeout in my office”.

It felt wrong taking a child away and isolate him from everyone else. What does that teach him? He wasn’t a danger to anyone, and they could have just sat him next to one of the teachers. But their choice was to remove him from the room.

I‘ve been called to talk to the teachers more times that I can remember. Ben started preschool just after his second birthday and no long after that, my visits to the school office started. And with it my frustration.

I know my son. I know how strong-headed he can be at times. I know how he likes to be always first, how he thinks he knows better than anyone else, how he’s sure he can decide not only for himself, but for us as well. But I also know he has a big and generous heart, and his teachers seem to be blind to it.

He’s three and a half years old. He’s learning to control his emotions. At that age, everything is so intense, so permanent. Anger quickly becomes rage, and I’m proud of Ben when he punches the floor instead of a person! Love becomes obsession, and sometimes his hugs and kisses resemble more a headbutt or a strangling than a demonstration of affection. All the emotions at this age come powerfully like a crashing wave and staying afloat becomes almost impossible.

My son has been labelled as the troublemaker kid, the one who is tricky to handle, the one who will look at you straight in the eyes as to dare you. And I’m angry about the way the teacher handled the situation and upset to realise how the school is failing him at such a key stage of his emotional and social development.

It’s not a matter of adoption, or trauma, or previous experiences. It’s a matter of parenting styles. I don’t believe in seclusion, and I don’t believe in reproaching a child for not feeling remorseful. I wonder if they gave him the chance to tame his emotions, calm down and reflect on his actions before demanding a remorseful apology.

My son woke up in the middle of the night crying and saying, “I’m sorry I’ve been bad at school yesterday” and, when I picked him up from school the following day, the first thing he told me was, “I didn’t beat up anyone today”. It was hard to hear, he must have felt anxious about it! The previous day experience didn’t teach him resentment, but surely made him feel guilty and left him feeling like a bad child.

I never really wondered much about what a school should offer, it never really was any of my concern. In a way, I just gave for granted that schools would be exactly what I thought they should be.

The school should co-parenting our children, but as parents, we don’t have much saying on how they do it. And although I recognised the school as being run by professionals, I’m not sure I agree with their methods, when their ways differ so greatly from mine. When his teacher reports about Ben has had a good day, there is always a tinge of surprise in her voice, as if his good behaviour is the exception.

This week my son came home with a long red scratch on his cheek. When I asked him about it, he explained that a friend hurt him so that he could take away the train he was playing with. I asked the teachers the same question. They told me they didn’t know what had happened and when Ben gave his side of the story, they decided not to believe him.

I suppose that children labelled as troublemakers never get the benefit of being right, and never run the risk of being hurt by someone else.

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