So the good news is, things didn't go down in the bathroom exactly as Jake reported them. And half of what he said happened there, happened in his classroom with a little girl. And it was probably more consentual than he made it out to be. Consentual sounds like a sex term. There was no sex business. But most likely a little bit of puppy-level flirting.
Yes there were some seventh graders in the bathroom at lunchtime. And yes they made him nervous. And yes they probably said something to him and near him that they really shouldn't have. And yes there was a push, but we aren't sure how intentional it was. And yes I take issue with the seventh graders eating lunch with first graders, and sharing a restroom. And yes the school got involved, quickly and effectively and willingly and wholly.
The bad news is, Jake lied. Right to our faces. And we believed him. Everyone believed him. Because it was a good solid detailed lie that he stuck to until he broke down in the middle of the night on Wednesday after realizing it had gone too far. Then he crumbled and cried and begged and apologized and cried more and crumbled more and now he's on The Punishment.
The Punishment that he has been threatened with before. The Punishment that was kept in mind every time we told him "if this keeps up, there is going to be a real punishment". Now he knows what real punishment is.
Lying is normal behavior for kids his age. It's starts with the story telling and exaggerating and imagination building at age four or so and builds to something bigger until something like this happens. It's normal. But still punishable. And that child picked the wrong lie. And the wrong people to tell it to. Like teachers. But more importantly, like Dave and I who take a very strong and active stance on things like this. I'm particularly sensitive about shared bathrooms. Dave is particularly sensitive about big kids who pick on little kids. We are particularly sensitive about those things because of things we've lived through. Jacob had no way of knowing that, but he really struck some major nerves.
Dave and I don't have that "boys will be boys" attitude that seems to be prevalent among so many peers.
I use the word "peers" loosely, but still. So many people shake their heads and tsk-tsk things like this, but aren't willing to call it bullying, but rather "rites of passage" and "manning up" and whatever.
The Punishment is something we teach in parenting classes. They say it's the best thing to do in just about every situation for just about every kid.
There is no spanking. No shaming. No (okay, little) yelling. There are discussions about reasons for the behavior and development of teachable moments instead of lecturing or hollering or ignoring. The discussions can happen at meal times when the entire family is present or privately at bedtime if the other kids or household members shouldn't be involved.
The Punishment is what is called a TEASPOT in the business. You can google it by clicking here. You may have heard of it before, it's not new. I've been calling it The Punishment. Kids don't like the word "punishment". It sounds scary. TEASPOT sounds classy. British. It stands for Taking Everything Away for A Short Period Of Time. Time-out on steroids. The bedroom is stripped of everything and the kid is put in there. No toys, no electronics, no music. No pictures on the walls, clocks, and if it applies, no extra clothing or make up or anything else the kids might use to bide the time. All privileges are revoked. No treats, food or otherwise. Some sort of chore should be implemented, one that isn't normally done by the child. With teenagers this is great, because you can make them do grunt work like cleaning out the garage or something. Jacob will be putting on some rubber gloves and cleaning up our block on Sunday afternoon. Ideally this all happens on a full weekend, but I don't believe in delaying punishment. I have two degrees in Criminal Justice. I don't remember much, but I do remember that delaying punishment is bad for like, society and stuff. So Thursday and Friday during non-school hours and all day Saturday please don't knock to see if Jacob can come out to play.
He is in his room with a few books that he doesn't particularly love and he'll probably get a pencil and notebook on Saturday for something else constructive to do.
It's important to be careful that you don't make the kid do anything that you don't want to be seen as punishment. Some parents don't agree with putting a kid in trouble in the bedroom because bedrooms are for sleeping and solace and such. I'm okay with the bedroom banishments. I'm not keen on forcing reading or writing or extra workbook pages or whatever on the kid, because I don't want kids to think that academics are a form of punishment. I don't want his regular chores seen as being part of the restitution, nor do I want him thinking that community service is penance so I won't make him donate toys or work in a soup kitchen or anything like that. Cleaning the street is borderline, but it's the only thing I can come up with that is both age-appropriate and out of the ordinary. Sometimes we do that together and have fun with it. This time he'll be doing it alone, and I'll just be there to supervise.
On Saturday evening he will be allowed out of his room and he can play with his toys. We are thinking screen time might still be extremely limited, since that has gotten a bit out of hand due to parental laziness.
So yeah. This was quite a week. As it closes, I'm really just so glad that what Jake said happened didn't really happen. We will be addressing the cause of this lie, but it doesn't take a mental health professional to see that over the past year and a half there has been an awful lot of shake up in his life, and he might have just reached the end of his rope. I'm really glad he came clean about things before it all got really huge. I'm really glad that I can have last night, tonight, and tomorrow morning and afternoon to myself.
That probably sounds bad, doesn't it? Sometimes it's a nice break to have your kid holed up in his room. I'm not afraid to say it out loud. I need some time out too.